In an effort to expand its financial technology expertise, McDermott Will & Emery has recruited a three-person team in New York led by new partner Lee Schneider, the former head of Debevoise & Plimpton’s broker-dealer and fintech practices.
McDermott announced the hires in a statement on Monday, describing Schneider as a fintech “thought leader” who is well-versed in blockchain technology and digital currency. Schneider, previously a counsel at Debevoise, will serve as a partner in McDermott’s financial institutions advisory practice. He joins the firm alongside partner Lilya Tessler and associate Verity Van Tassel Richards, both of whom come to McDermott after serving as associates at Debevoise.
Welcoming Schneider and his team, members of McDermott’s leadership said the lawyers would help position the firm to advise financial services companies and other clients as innovation continues to change the fintech landscape. The hires come as a number of law firms are fielding inquiries from clients about digital currency, such as bitcoin, and the underlying blockchain technology.
“Lee, Lilya and the team will help position McDermott at the forefront of blockchain and other emerging areas of fintech, and we look forward to integrating their stellar capabilities across the firm’s global platform,” said a statement by David Taub, head of McDermott’s financial institutions advisory group. “They represent the future of what McDermott has to offer our clients in financial services and other arenas, and we are thrilled to welcome them.”
McDermott chairman Ira Coleman, who took over leadership of the firm late last year, said in his own statement that McDermott and its clients share a passion for innovation. He added that the firm looks forwarding to helping its new hires “capitalize on the opportunities that blockchain presents in fintech and beyond.”
Schneider’s past experience includes advising on token offerings related to blockchain projects, including for MetaX, a company that uses the technology in the realm of digital advertising to help marketers monitor their advertising campaigns and root out fraud.
Schneider and his team, who were not immediately available to discuss their decision to leave Debevoise for McDermott, also have experience in regulatory issues affecting broker-dealers, including inquiries by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the self-regulatory watchdog, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, according to McDermott.
In a statement, Schneider said he made the move to McDermott based on the firm’s commitment “to anticipating and responding to client needs in an increasingly complex market.”
Schneider, who has his own fintech-themed podcast called “Appetite for Disruption,” added that the fintech landscape is “diversifying quickly, and our team will help ensure that the firm is advising clients ahead of the curve.”
McDermott’s hire puts it among a growing group of law firms that have taken steps over the recent past to bolster their fintech and digital currency expertise. Just last week, K&L Gates announced plans to develop its own in-house blockchain capabilities.
In 2016, Cooley expanded its global fintech group by hiring Marco Santori and Patrick Murck, two lawyers with digital currency experience who left Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman. Earlier that year, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher picked up John Squires, a former head of Perkins Coie’s virtual currency and blockchain industry practice who previously served as a chief intellectual property counsel at The Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Polsinelli also beefed up its fintech and regulation team in 2016 by bringing aboard ex-Bryan Cave partner Richard Levin.