Former U.S. federal prosecutor Roger Burlingame is joining Dechert in London, leaving behind the fast-growing boutique that first lured him across the Atlantic.
Burlingame moved from New York more than five years ago to join Kobre & Kim, which has built a booming cross-border disputes practice in part by placing veterans of the U.S. Justice Department in jurisdictions overseas. (The firm recently announced a series of hires in London, Asia and Washington.)
He said that Dechert’s strength in the U.S. and the U.K. in white-collar matters and internal investigations made the firm a “perfect fit” for the next phase in his career. He started his role as a partner at the firm Tuesday.
“There are very few firms that have the same standing on both sides of the Atlantic, and when the opportunity came to be part of that team, it was an easy decision,” Burlingame said.
As an assistant U.S. attorney in Brooklyn, Burlingame served as chief of the Public Integrity Section and senior trial counsel in the Business and Securities Fraud Section. In private practice, he has focused on white-collar defense for high-level executives, and representing corporations in cross-border investigations and proceedings involving U.S. regulators and prosecutors.
After almost 10 years in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Burlingame did not initially expect to wind up in London when he elected to move into private practice.
But during a meeting at Kobre & Kim, he recalled being told, “there’s a lot of lawyers in New York City with similar backgrounds as you, but there is a city out there called London where there’s nobody that looks like you and lots of people in need of your services.”
Burlingame said he was initially skeptical. But after he went home and told his wife, she responded, “We get to live in London?”
“It became an exercise in deciding: Was this something we could do?” he said. “It turned out to be a very good idea.”
Burlingame arrived in the U.K. at the tail end of the Libor scandal, which involved banks’ manipulation of interest rates, and he said he quickly developed ties within the white-collar bar working on Libor matters there. “That got me embedded into the London market,” he said.
Burlingame knew he’d finally connected in October 2015 when he arrived at the 15th anniversary party of London firm Corker Binning, home to elite London white-collar lawyer Peter Binning.
“I remember walking into that room and seeing all these people I’d become friends with. It was the exact same feeling as walking in to a bar in Brooklyn for an assistant U.S. attorneys’ event,” he said. “I’ve become part of this legal community just like the one I grew up in.”
Burlingame departs Kobre & Kim just after the firm added a former U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission trial lawyer in London, along with former federal prosecutors in Seoul, Washington and New York.
Founder Michael Kim wished Burlingame and Dechert success.
“Roger was a productive member of our London-based team of former U.S. government lawyers. It makes sense that Dechert turned to Kobre & Kim to fill out its offering,” he said in an email. ”Dechert offers a full-service platform designed to compete with other similar firms. Kobre & Kim focuses on our niche areas and ‘staying in our lane’ as special counsel working alongside other law firms.”