Veteran white-collar defender Eric Bruce, a former counselor to the U.S. attorney general, has joined Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer as a partner in Washington, D.C., after spending nine years at Kobre & Kim.
Bruce had led the white-collar practice at Kobre & Kim and held a top role in the firm’s Washington office before being approached by Freshfields to expand its white-collar practice.
Earlier in his career, Bruce worked as a federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York, and he was contacted by a recruiter on behalf of two former SDNY colleagues now at Freshfields: Adam Siegel, who heads Freshfields’ U.S. dispute resolution practice, and Daniel Braun, who joined the firm in 2016.
“I wasn’t looking, to be candid. I was very happy at Kobre & Kim,” Bruce said. “Of course, if a friend calls you, you’re going to hear them out.”
After a series of discussions, he was pulled in by Freshfields’ expanding ambitions for its global disputes practice. In recent years, in addition to Braun, the firm has also added DOJ antitrust official Eric Mahr, Ben Morgan from the Serious Fraud Office in London, and Simone Kämpfer, a prominent white-collar lawyer in continental Europe.
“Just the opportunity to join this team that Freshfields has assembled and continues to assemble to handle international litigation and investigations with a stellar client list and the reputation of the firm combined to seem like a great opportunity for me,” Bruce said.
Before his time at Kobre & Kim, Bruce spent over a decade in the Department of Justice, spending seven years at the SDNY, most of them in the national security unit, before being temporarily detailed to Main Justice in Washington. There, he served as counsel to the assistant attorney general for the Criminal Division, Alice Fisher, advising her on cases ranging from securities fraud to terrorism and espionage matters.
He then became counselor to Attorney General Michael Mukasey, upon a recommendation from the latter’s advisers. Bruce had crossed paths with the former SDNY chief judge in the courtroom in the closely watched case over alleged “dirty bomb” plotter Jose Padilla, but other than that, they didn’t know each other. He advised Mukasey on a portfolio of international criminal matters until the change of administrators in January 2009, and then returned to the SDNY for an eight-month swan song that included trying one more major terrorism case.
“Companies face increased scrutiny in light of the global trend toward criminalizing types of corporate conduct. Major investigations are increasingly triggered by investigations of a regulatory or enforcement agency, a public prosecutor, a tax authority or by internal whistleblowing,” David Scott, Freshfields’ global head of dispute resolution, said in a statement. “The insights and experience that Eric brings as a former prosecutor and as a seasoned defense lawyer are exactly what clients need and are looking for.”
Bruce is not the only high-profile former prosecutor in recent months to leave Kobre & Kim, which recruits heavily from that pool. In June, London-based attorney Roger Burlingame, the former chief of the Public Integrity Section for the Eastern District of New York, left the firm after five years to join Dechert.
“Eric has been a good friend since we worked together in the Southern District over 15 years ago, and has been an important member of our firm for the past nine years,” Kobre & Kim co-founder Steven Kobre said in an email. “We are delighted that he has the opportunity to help lead Freshfields’ corporate investigation business. We look forward to continuing to work with Eric in his new role at Freshfields.”