Jennifer Scullion.
Jennifer Scullion. (Courtesy photo)

With the recent hire of former Proskauer partner Jennifer Scullion in New York, Seeger Weiss was on the receiving end of a relatively rare defection from Big Law to a smaller plaintiffs firm. But the move followed a path that goes back to Seeger Weiss’ founding—tapping lawyers with defense experience who are looking for a change.

Scullion, a litigator with experience in antitrust, consumer fraud, communications and bondholder disputes, became Seeger Weiss’ ninth partner on Dec. 1. She joins a group of plaintiffs lawyers with a broad background at large defense firms, including founding partners Christopher Seeger, who once worked at Shearman & Sterling, and Stephen Weiss, who was at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson.

Scullion had nothing but praise for her colleagues, clients and legal work on the defense side, but she said she was eager for the change.

“I very much wanted to get back to a more grassroots form of practice,” she said. “It wasn’t that there was anything particularly negative about working in a larger firm environment—Proskauer is an incredible firm and I had great colleagues.”

Weiss said Scullion would fit right in with her new partners. After its founding in 1999, Seeger Weiss brought on David Buchanan from Fried Frank, later hiring Jeffrey Grand, who had spent time at Jones Day, and Moshe Horn, who had once worked at Kaye Scholer.

“We understood then that there were very important characteristics of the institutional disciplines at a big firm that we wanted to import to our own firm,” Weiss said. But he said he and co-founder Seeger wanted to avoid inefficiencies and bureaucracy that often accompany a big-firm environment.

“We sought out individuals who would be comfortable with that mandate,” he said. “Jennifer Scullion is just the latest in that tradition.”

Scullion spent 13 years at Proskauer, the final seven as partner, after it absorbed her prior firm Solomon, Zauderer, Ellenhorn, Frischer & Sharp. She’s also had an active pro bono practice, helping coordinate Proskauer’s participation in the Election Protection program coordinated by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law.

Scullion said she felt an “ideological alignment” with plaintiffs work.

“The fact is, I’m hardwired to prefer the David over the Goliath,” Scullion said. “It’s what gets me motivated.”

She acknowledged that there can be a stark divide between defense and plaintiffs lawyers, who generally aren’t shy about trading criticisms. But she said she hasn’t caught any flak from former colleagues, nor has she had to endure any jokes about joining the “dark side.”

“The best lawyers understand that it’s counterproductive to demonize or underestimate your opponent,” Scullion said. “As I let more people know—from all corners of my life—the consistent message has been, ‘Wow that is a great move.’”

As for the book of business she might leave behind, Scullion said she’s hopeful that she can maintain relationships with at least some of her corporate clients. She declined to say which ones, but in the past her clients have included Major League Baseball, a group of bondholders of Argentina’s debt and independent cable TV distributor Armstrong Utilities Inc.

“Frankly, more and more businesses are winding up on the plaintiffs side,” she said.

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