Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati.
Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati. (Photo: Jason Doiy/ALM)

Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati has welcomed aboard Elizabeth George, a former deputy general counsel for legislation at the U.S. Department of Defense, as of counsel in the firm’s data protection and privacy practice in San Francisco.

George’s position at the Defense Department, which lasted about a year, ended in January with the Obama administration. Before that, she held several roles in the national security division at the U.S. Department of Justice. Her work as a programmer in college led her in the direction of cybersecurity law when she joined the federal government in 2011, she said.

When the Office of Personnel Management discovered in 2015 that it had fallen victim to one of the largest data breaches in U.S. government history, George, on detail from the Justice Department, led the Office of White House Counsel’s response to the hack. She also advised the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in its review of intelligence collection activities after leaks by former national security contractor Edward Snowden.

George (pictured right) is currently teaching a class on surveillance law and technology at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, and she moved to the Golden State from Washington, D.C., soon after her job at the Defense Department ended earlier this year.

Though she considered a variety of in-house roles—former Defense Department general counsel Jennifer O’Connor joined Northrop Grumman Corp. in April—and Washington, D.C.-based law firms that pitched her on expanding their cybersecurity practices in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, George said she approached Wilson Sonsini after deciding that it made the most sense to join a firm with strong roots in the region.

“I knew I wanted to do cybersecurity, and I knew I wanted to do it in the Bay Area,” she said. “I thought that Wilson Sonsini was working with really interesting clients who obviously would be exposed to the potential liabilities of cyber breaches.”

Wilson Sonsini managing partner Douglas Clark said in a statement prepared by the firm that George’s experience within various branches of the federal government will make her an asset to clients.

“Beth’s in-depth understanding of data security and privacy matters is inherently valuable to companies confronting data breaches and privacy-related threats,” Clark said. “She also has the fortitude and focus needed to assist clients involved in sensitive government and internal investigations. We’re elated that she’s joined our firm.”

Wilson Sonsini, which saw its gross revenue rise last year despite a decline in partner profits, has watched a number of partners leave its ranks in recent months.

The firm’s former co-managing partner, John “Jack” Sheridan, joined Latham & Watkins earlier this year, while Morrison & Foerster welcomed at least seven intellectual property lawyers in May from Wilson Sonsini in San Francisco. Sullivan & Cromwell opened a Brussels office in June after recruiting Wilson Sonsini antitrust partners Michael Rosenthal and Götz Drauz.

In July, national security expert Donald Vieira, a leader of Wilson Sonsini’s national security and Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. practice, headed to Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. That same month, Cooley picked up four Wilson Sonsini partners in New York and Washington, D.C. Lydia Beebe, a senior of counsel who joined Wilson Sonsini’s San Francisco office two summers ago from Chevron Corp., also recently left the firm, as did corporate of counsel Hans Kim in Palo Alto, California. (Earlier this month Kim joined legal services startup Atrium, according to his profile on LinkedIn.)

Despite those departures, Wilson Sonsini has also made a few additions, including bringing on partners Rezwan Pavri in Silicon Valley and Katherine Ku in Los Angeles in February, King & Spalding antitrust partner Wendy Waszmer in New York in April and retired Delaware Supreme Court Justice Randy Holland the following month as senior of counsel in Wilmington.