Sidley Austin offices in Washington, D.C.
(Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM)

Sidley Austin, which entered the Los Angeles legal market in 1980 after acquiring local firm Shutan & Trost, has hired a former federal prosecutor to bolster its office in the city.

The move by Sidley marks its latest lateral hire in Los Angeles, where the firm opened a second outpost in Century City in 2015. In a city teeming with talent of all kinds—former action film star Jean-Claude Van Damme may be in his mid-fifties, but the so-called Muscles from Brussels still struts around town—keeping up with old competitors and new market entrants is of paramount importance.

Before joining Sidley this week, Jean-Claude “J.C.” André served as an assistant U.S. attorney and chief of the criminal appeals section at the U.S. attorney’s office for the Central District of California, which he joined in 2007. For the past four years, he led the office’s criminal appeals section in Los Angeles. He will now be a partner in Sidley’s vaunted U.S. Supreme Court and appellate practice.

The native Southern Californian realized during law school at the University of Virginia that he wanted to be an appellate lawyer, and Sidley’s veteran Supreme Court litigator Carter Phillips, now chairman of the firm’s executive committee, stood out to André as one of the best lawyers on the appellate bench.

“I’m in my early twenties thinking I’ll never be able to work at Sidley, let alone as an appellate lawyer there,” said André (pictured right).

But the firm stayed in the back of his mind as he graduated law school, completed clerkships with federal district court judges in Los Angeles and at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and took a job at Kaye Scholer (now called Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer), where he stayed for three years.

André then moved on to the patent prosecution shop Ivey, Smith & Ramirez, where he ran the boutique’s appellate practice and became one of the youngest lawyers ever to argue before the Supreme Court twice in one term, before deciding to try his hand as a federal prosecutor.

“I’m homegrown in L.A., raising my kids here, and my wife, God bless her, was willing to come here from Chicago,” he said. “There’s an appeal to doing things that help keep your hometown safer.”

But after a decade of working for the federal government, André realized he would have to relocate to Washington, D.C., if he ever wanted to continue climbing the ranks at the U.S. Department of Justice. When the legal recruiter Lyndon Parker, a managing director at JD Search Advisors LLC, approached André about a position at Sidley, he jumped at it.

“I think if I’d stayed much longer at the Department of Justice, someone would have pushed me out the window,” André joked. “They all wanted to move up.”

Daniel Clivner, Sidley’s Los Angeles managing partner since joining the firm in a high-profile move two years ago from Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, said in a statement that André’s ability to handle “complex cases that involve intricate legal questions” would make him an asset to the firm.

“His extensive knowledge and experience will make him an excellent addition to our robust team of litigators here in L.A. and nationally, and add significant strength to our world-class appellate and trial litigation capabilities,” added Clivner.

Sidley, which saw two real estate lawyers leave its Los Angeles office earlier this year for Mayer Brown, added Paul Hastings corporate partner Robert Carlson over the summer in Palo Alto, California. Sidley also announced two other lateral additions this week, bringing on Hogan Lovells environmental partner Justin Savage in Washington, D.C., and Hunton & Williams privacy and cybersecurity partner Wim Nauwelaerts in Brussels.