Teena Ann Sankoorikal
Teena Ann Sankoorikal ()

In a rare loss for Cravath, Swaine & Moore, a litigation partner is leaving the firm to join a prominent litigation boutique, Levine Lee, founded six years ago by former Cravath attorneys.

Teena-Ann Sankoorikal, 42, will join 12-lawyer Levine Lee on Tuesday, after practicing the last 17 years at Cravath, the last 10 as a partner.

Sankoorikal has represented several technology and media companies, including IBM Corp., Warner Bros. Records Inc., Qualcomm Inc. and Alarm.com Inc., in intellectual property, antitrust and other litigation matters, and represented Frank Reginald Brown in a dispute over an ownership interest in the social media platform Snapchat.

Levine Lee was founded in April 2011 by Seth Levine, Scott Klugman and Kenneth Lee, focusing on white-collar and securities enforcement matters, complex litigation, investigations and bankruptcy litigation. Levine and Lee were once associates at Cravath.

Sankoorikal said she has known Lee since 1999, when both were associates at the firm, and have remained friends since, she said.

She said she was not “actively thinking about leaving Cravath” but learned of the opportunity at Levine Lee in the last few months.

“I think the world of Cravath, it’s a fine institution,” she said, but Levine Lee “presented a unique opportunity.”

As a smaller firm, the boutique represents individuals and small and large entities, she said, noting that “there’s lot more flexibility” at Levine Lee in terns of clients and types of matters.

She added that the boutique environment generally also presented fewer client conflicts. “It’s frankly the only firm I would have considered coming to,” she said.

While Sankoorikal will handle a variety of civil litigation at Levine Lee, she said that she will primarily focus at her new firm on IP disputes, including copyright, patent litigation and inter partes review, trade secrets and trademark work.

Levine Lee partners have previously handled IP litigation cases, but Sankoorikal will be the first partner at the growing boutique with a focus in that practice, Lee said. The boutique expects to be doing much more IP litigation with her arrival. “We’ll be able to field a team under Teena’s leadership that can handle any IP matter,” Lee said.

Some law firms experienced a slowdown in lucrative IP litigation after the implementation of the America Invents Act, as more disputes were being stayed in district court and handled before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board. But Sankoorikal said her own practice has not slowed down because clients care significantly about their IP.

Cravath, one of the remaining firms with a traditional lockstep compensation system and equity-only partnership, rarely sees partners depart. However, within the last year, M&A partner Scott Barshay joined Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison; M&A partner Jonathan Davis decamped to Kirkland & Ellis; and litigation partner Rowan Wilson was confirmed to serve on New York’s Court of Appeals.

Sankoorikal said those departures had no impact on her own exit. “I’m grateful and proud of the time I spent at Cravath,” she said.

Cravath spokeswoman Deborah Farone said the firm wished “Teena-Ann well in the next stage of her career.”

Levine Lee, which often works alongside or receives referrals from large firms, has built up a roster of large clients and individuals in civil and criminal litigation and regulatory matters. Upon the firm’s founding, it was retained by the trustee in the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., and the firm is representing the Chicago Stock Exchange in class action litigation over high-speed trading issues highlighted in the Michael Lewis book “Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt.”

Levine Lee currently represents in the Southern District a former Deutsche Bank AG trader, Gavin Black, accused of conspiring to manipulate the London interbank offered rate, or Libor; and Daniel Small, ex-managing director of the Platinum Partners hedge fund, over securities fraud allegations, in the Eastern District.