Liisa Thomas

Liisa Thomas, the former chair of Winston & Strawn’s global privacy and data security practice, has joined Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton’s Chicago office, treading a path familiar to four colleagues that have made a similar move in the Windy City.

In April, Sheppard Mullin hired the former chair of Winston & Strawn’s tax practice, Amit Kalra. Prior to that, the firm brought over a four-lawyer energy team from Winston & Strawn in Chicago in March that included partners Katherine Gillespie, Laurette Petersen, Andrew Ratts and special counsel Katarzyna Levecke. That group also included San Francisco-based partner Christine Hourcade-Hoefliger.

Thomas said her move was not driven by those previous additions, but instead by Sheppard Mullin’s focus on growing a privacy and cybersecurity practice that she will now co-chair alongside Craig Cardon, a partner and member of the firm’s executive committee who works out of San Francisco and Century City, California.

“It was a happy opportunity and one that I couldn’t pass up,” Thomas said about her move. “I care deeply about privacy, and this was an opportunity to grow something and to work alongside a team that is really interested in growing. I couldn’t say no.”

Thomas, a cybersecurity expert who was named to the Minority Corporate Counsel Association’s 2014 list of top 15 rainmakers, counsels clients across the globe on data privacy issues. In such an increasingly important practice, where large companies like Deloitte LLP and Equifax Inc. are turning to Big Law to assist in the aftermath of massive data breaches, Thomas said she has most recently focused her efforts on advising clients dealing with third-party data breaches and training employees to avoid unwittingly allowing hackers access to their company’s information systems.

“Liisa represents another important step forward in our strategic plan to expand our capabilities in key areas that our clients need,” Sheppard Mullin chairman Guy Halgren said in a statement. “She adds to the depth and breadth of our existing privacy and cybersecurity practice. As these issues become increasingly important to our clients we continue to offer best in class service throughout the full cycle of privacy and cybersecurity needs.”

Sheppard Mullin’s Chicago office, which opened in late 2012 and is led by former K&L Gates partner and Potbelly Sandwich Works general counsel Lawrence Eppley, has grown to more than 30 lawyers. In February, the firm added commercial litigation partner William Kane from Baker & Hostetler.

In moving to Sheppard Mullin, Thomas joins a slightly smaller and less profitable firm that has a larger West Coast presence than the Chicago-founded Winston & Strawn, which last year reported $823 million in gross revenue and $1.825 million in profits per equity partner. As a matter of comparison, Sheppard Mullin took in $607 million in gross revenue in 29016, with partner profits of $1.495 million.

Last week Sheppard Mullin hired Manatt, Phelps & Phillips corporate and financial services partner David Gershon in San Francisco. In August, Sheppard Mullin snagged DLA Piper securities litigation partner Robert Weber in Century City, Pepper Hamilton corporate partner Valérie Demont in New York and Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton corporate and IP partner Kandace Watson in San Diego.

For its part, Winston & Strawn has been among the most active Am Law 100 firms adding lateral partners this year, according to ALM Intelligence. The firm has added more partners than any firm apart from DLA Piper, whose head count is about four times the size of Winston & Strawn.

On Monday, The American Lawyer reported that a recently departed Winston & Strawn partner, Constance Ramos, had sued the firm for gender discrimination in a state court in San Francisco. Winston & Strawn has retained high-profile Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe labor and employment litigation partner Lynne Hermle to defend against the allegations.

Sheppard Mullin’s Thomas said she was unaware of Ramos’ suit and had no comment on it.