Sometimes the frothiness of the lateral hiring market spills over in unintended ways.
Michael Lyle, the head of Weil, Gotshal & Manges’s office in Washington, D.C., and partner Eric Lyttle resigned from the firm this week in order to head to Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, making them the latest lawyers to defect from Weil for the global litigation shop.
News of the move was first reported Wednesday morning by legal blog Above the Law, which suggested that the departing Weil litigators could have some cold water thrown on their quest to join an increasingly hot Quinn Emanuel, which last year saw gross revenue soar to $853 million and profits per partner surge to more than $4.4 million, according to our previous reports.
Since opening an office in D.C. back in September 2011, the litigation powerhouse has been busy building up its presence in the nation’s capital. Most recently, Quinn Emanuel hired Sam Sheldon, the former head of the U.S. Department of Justice’s health care fraud unit, to lead the firm’s own health care fraud group focusing on False Claims Act litigation in D.C.
The Am Law Daily has learned that William Burck—a former Weil partner and deputy counsel to President George W. Bush who joined Quinn Emanuel’s D.C. office in January 2012—helped recruit Lyle and Lyttle to the firm, whose D.C. branch he now coheads. (Burck is also part of a D.C.–based Quinn Emanuel defense team hired last year to defend file-sharing website Megaupload and its millionaire founder Kim Schmitz, the subject of a recent Forbes story, on piracy and racketeering charges.)
“I’m very excited about Mike and Eric joining us at Quinn Emanuel,” Burck told The Am Law Daily on Wednesday. “They are outstanding lawyers and good friends.”
But Quinn Emanuel’s hire of Lyle and Lyttle has not been without fallout. The online profiles of both lawyers remained listed on Weil’s website as of late Wednesday, and Above the Law reports that the firm is trying to tether Lyle and Lyttle by holding them to the terms of its partnership agreement for an undetermined period of time.
Weil executive partner Barry Wolf, whom Above the Law reports traveled from New York to D.C. this week to announce a leadership transition plan for the office following Lyle’s departure, also serves as chair of the firm’s management committee. Wolf was on a plane to California and unavailable for comment Wednesday about the details of when Lyle and Lyttle will leave Weil to join Quinn Emanuel.
Lyle, whom sibling publication The National Law Journal named last year as one of its “Champions and Visionaries” as a result of his role representing building contractor Bovis Lend Lease in litigation related to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, did not respond to a request for comment on the move. Nor did Lyttle, who was promoted to partner at Weil in December 2011.
No legal recruiter was used to broker Quinn Emanuel’s hire of Lyle and Lyttle, and a source familiar with the move says that no Weil associates will join both partners at the firm in the immediate future.
Steven Tyrrell, who became the cochair of Weil’s white-collar defense and investigations group after joining the firm in January 2010, has been designated to replace Lyle. Tyrrell previously headed the Justice Department’s criminal fraud section from 2006 to 2009.
“During the last three years, Steve has led and substantially expanded the firm’s white-collar defense and investigations practice,” according to an internal Weil memo obtained by The Am Law Daily announcing Tyrell’s appointment to head the D.C. office. “He has extensive experience leading large teams from his time as [head of Main Justice’s fraud section], deputy chief of the counterterrorism section of the criminal division, and as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of Florida and Northern District of New York.”
Weil has been busy on the lateral hiring front itself in recent months. The 2013 edition of The American Lawyer‘s annual lateral report included Weil’s 2012 hires of former Dewey & LeBoeuf M&A rainmaker Richard Climan in Silicon Valley and Dechert litigation partner Diane Sullivan, a finalist for The American Lawyer‘s Litigator of the Year who now works out of Weil’s offices in New York and Princeton, as two of the year’s All-Star Laterals.
Dechert was involved in its own high-profile dispute with DLA Piper over its attempted hire in 2011 of London litigator Neil Gerrard. The firms initiated legal proceedings on opposite sides of the pond before finally settling the matter in January 2012, according to our previous reports. (Gerrard currently serves as deputy chair of Dechert’s global litigation practice.)
As we’ve previously reported on the lateral game, notice periods for departing partners vary from firm to firm but generally extend from between 30 to 90 days. Making partners sit out their notice period on paid leave—known as “gardening leave” in the United Kingdom, where the practice is more common—is relatively rare among large U.S. firms, although some have sought to invoke provisions in their respective partnership agreements when faced with a string of lateral departures abroad.
After seeking to hire former Allen & Overy arbitration partners Stephen Jagusch and Anthony Sinclair in London last year, Quinn Emanuel found itself involved in negotiations over their exit from the Magic Circle firm. News of the duo’s departure first emerged in May 2012, but Sinclair didn’t join Quinn Emanuel until that September. Jagusch eventually came aboard earlier this year.
Whenever Lyle and Lyttle do officially join Quinn Emanuel, they’ll count several former Weil alums in addition to Burck as their new colleagues.
David Radulescu, a patent litigation partner in New York, left Weil for Quinn Emanuel in October 2010. Sandra Bresnick, cochair of Quinn Emanuel’s global life sciences practice, joined the firm in 2010 from Sidley Austin. She was previously a partner at Weil from 2003 until 2006. Former Weil associate Michael Carlinsky, head of complex litigation at Quinn Emanuel, helped bring aboard fellow former Weil associate Sascha Rand in New York, where Rand is also now a complex litigation partner.