From The Am Law Litigation Daily


When Kathleen Sullivan began practicing law about 30 years ago at Cravath, Swaine & Moore, there were no female litigation partners practicing at big firms. On Thursday, capping a career that has included stints as a Harvard Law School professor and the dean of Stanford Law School, Sullivan became a name partner at Quinn Emanuel, marking the first time a woman’s name is on the door of an Am Law 100 firm. The firm’s new name is Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan.

Over breakfast Thursday morning, Sullivan credited firm founder John Quinn with cultivating a firm culture that doesn’t distinguish between men and women, noting that Susan Estrich in Los Angeles, Faith Gay in New York, and Sue Prevezer in London are also prominent partners at Quinn Emanuel. “We want the best lawyers,” Quinn told us.

Quinn said that Sullivan, who joined Quinn Emanuel five years ago and heads the firm’s appellate practice, has raised the firm’s profile in the appellate arena–but has also contributed to its trial practice. (Sullivan joked that one of her former students, now practicing at Quinn, gave her tips on taking a deposition.) At the U.S. Supreme Court this term, Sullivan is representing the shipping company Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha in a case that will determine whether land or sea shipping laws apply to ocean cargo containers being transported inland, and she is representing Pfizer in its Alien Tort Statute certiorari petition. At the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, Sullivan is overseeing the Refco bankruptcy trustee’s attempt to revive its claims against Refco’s legal and financial advisers. And her work securing the New York Court of Appeals’ approval of the appointment of Richard Ravitch as the state’s lieutenant governor (for which we gave her Litigator of the Week honors) seems all the more important in the increasingly embattled administration of Governor David Patterson.

For all of her accomplishments, Quinn told us, Sullivan is no diva. In fact, she hesitated to accept the name partner appointment until she was sure no other partners would be offended by it. (Former name partner George Hedges died in 2009; former name partner Dale Oliver is still a partner at the firm.)

But we did find out that Sullivan has yet to participate in the famed Quinn Emanuel summer hike (or death march, depending on your level of fitness). She was getting ready to represent Nokia at trial when the hike took place last summer, and, frankly, we got the feeling that she’s not exactly eager to make time for this summer’s trek either.

Somehow, we think she’ll get away with skipping it.