Robert Cornish
Robert Cornish (Gittings Photography)

With Memorial Day just around the corner, most Americans are planning on breaking out their barbecues to cook up some savory treats for the holiday. But for Robert Cornish Jr., who recently joined Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker, barbeque is more than just a hobby.

Certified by the Memphis Barbecue Network, Cornish has been judging ribs in contests for the last 12 years from Arkansas to Mississippi and Tennessee. This weekend, Cornish will travel from the Washington, D.C., office of Wilson Elser, which recently announced his addition to the firm’s securities practice, to Memphis to judge the this year’s World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest.

“When you live in Memphis, you can’t help but smell it all over the place,” Cornish said. A northern New Jersey native, Cornish lived in Memphis for 10 years, working as in-house counsel for investment firms, including Pacific Income Advisers Inc., where he was chief legal and compliance officer, and became immersed in the city’s famous barbecue scene. (Memphis, dubbed by some to be the barbecue capital of the world, is home to one of the four main styles for slow-cooking meat.)

“The barbecue contest itself is kind of a scene in Memphis [and] lot of major companies have a lot of sponsored tents and teams,” Cornish said. “A great way to get yourself into a tent is to be a judge.”

Cornish left Memphis in 2009 to join Dilworth Paxson’s office in Washington, D.C., spending five years at the Philadelphia-based firm before launching an office in the nation’s capital in 2014 for Phillips Lytle when the Buffalo, New York-based firm absorbed the bulk of Dilworth’s local operations.

Over his 23 years of practice, Cornish has advised broker-dealers, investment advisers and hedge funds, among others, on arbitration, litigation and regulatory matters, while also focusing on broker-dealer and investment adviser compliance in the EB-5 space.

Wilson Elser’s commitment to marketing and staffing national and international financial and securities practices, particularly in his areas of specialization, was the impetus behind Cornish’s move to the Am Law 200 firm in April.

“I’m very excited about reviving my contacts with major insurance companies, who are at the forefront of risk management, and with large financial institutions,” Cornish said. “[And] I’m looking to continue to have more access to cutting edge work, especially in the EB-5 area.”

The EB-5 program, popular in the real estate sector and earlier this month given a brief extension by the Trump administration, provides an immigration path for those that make significant investments in the U.S.

Wilson Elser, which saw a large New York-based lobbying group leave the firm last year for Jackson Lewis, has been busy in 2017 rebuilding its ranks. The firm hired partner Aram Bloom and of counsel Gavin White last month in Miami, while also welcoming professional liability of counsel Patricia Noonan in Chicago. (Thomas Leghorn, a former senior managing partner at Wilson Elser, left the firm in April to head the professional liability defense group at New York’s London Fischer, taking with him partner A. Ernest Tonorezos and of counsel Sheryl Parker.)

In March, Wilson Elser opened an office in Atlanta after adding a six-lawyer insurance litigation team from Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani. The American Lawyer reported in January on Wilson Elser forming the Legalign global insurance network with firms in Australia, Germany and the U.K. An Australian legal publication suggested this week that the network could be a prelude to a potential merger between all four firms. In a statement, Wilson Elser denied such a plan.

“A merger among the firms was never contemplated,” said Wilson Elser chairman Daniel McMahon. “We think the approach we’ve taken is the right one.”

Cornish, asked about his approach to barbecue, provided some tips for making quality ribs for those adventurous enough to try doing some on their own this summer. He said that it all comes down to how you season the meat and how you smoke it.

“A lot of what people think makes a good rib generally doesn’t,” Cornish said. “A rib needs to be cooked at somewhere between 160 and 180 [degrees] for over four hours to be a really good competition-style rib.”

Quality wood and seasoning should complement the meat and, most importantly, the meat should never just fall off the bone, Cornish said. Those types of ribs, frequently requested of Cornish by friends and other barbecue amateurs, are not quite right.

“That means that they’re over-cooked or over-seasoned,” he said.