K. Luan Tran, a veteran litigator well-versed in disputes from Asia to California, has joined Boies Schiller Flexner as an international arbitration partner in Los Angeles and Silicon Valley.
The addition by Boies Schiller comes two weeks after the high-powered litigation firm recruited Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan partner Susan Estrich in Los Angeles. Tran, who worked at Quinn Emanuel from 1997 to 2003, spent the past two years as a Singapore-based partner at leading Vietnamese firm YKVN.
In moving to Boies Schiller, Tran will return to California, where he once headed the international arbitration practice at Lee Tran & Liang, a prominent boutique he co-founded after leaving Quinn Emanuel some 15 years ago. Tran, who has more than 20 years of arbitration experience with a recent emphasis on matters related to Southeast Asia, will split his time between Boies Schiller’s offices in Los Angeles and Palo Alto, California.
Tran called Southeast Asia an “exploding” market for arbitration work. Singapore and Hong Kong have become hubs for disputes lawyers, and Tran said Boies Schiller will provide him the ideal platform for advising new clients.
“I saw an increased demand for international arbitration [in Asia], especially representing U.S. companies,” Tran said. “Given my background and my experience, I could be very valuable for either U.S. clients or all clients doing businesses or facing disputes in the region.”
Of particular import to Tran, California has passed a new law clarifying that lawyers who are not members of the state bar may still appear in local arbitrations, a protocol that could contribute to more international disputes coming to the Golden State, Tran said.
“Giving its proximity to the Pacific Rim and the number of really good arbitration practitioners here, there is no reason why California should not be one of the main centers for international arbitration,” Tran added.
Tran, who is of Vietnamese descent, began his legal career at leading Canadian firm Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg in Montreal after earning his law degree from the University of Ottawa. Wanting to explore his career options in the U.S., Tran earned his LL.M. from Harvard Law School in 1997 and took a job as an associate in Los Angeles at Quinn Emanuel, which at the time was about a decade old.
After spending a half-dozen years at Quinn Emanuel, Tran started the first of several spinoffs from the John Quinn-led litigation powerhouse when he left with James Lee to launch Lee Tran & Liang, now known as LTL Attorneys. (Enoch Liang, another former Quinn Emanuel litigator, became a name partner at LTL in 2008 after leaving Hogan Lovells’ Beijing office.)
As head of the international arbitration group at LTL, Tran built a reputation as a “go-to lawyer” for ownership and partnership disputes between co-founders of technology companies. Some of the more notable cases in which Tran has been involved included representing a co-founder of social media sensation Snapchat and the founders of now-defunct smartphone app Yik Yak.
“With my experience [advising] co-founders in disputes on the plaintiff side, I think I can provide valuable insight and advantages when representing defendants,” said Tran, noting that he intends to continue using his experience and background in the co-founder space to represent Boies Schiller clients in the technology sector.
Tran left LTL in 2016. Shortly thereafter, he founded KLT Legal in Los Angeles, where he worked briefly before leaving for Asia. While overseas, Tran worked at YKVN in Singapore and Vietnam, handling complex international arbitration disputes related to investment, construction and real estate projects.
“After my return from Singapore, I was looking for a firm that would give me a good platform for my practice,” Tran said.
Tran noted that he was looking for three particular things from a new firm: A global litigation and arbitration powerhouse, a strategy to serve clients in Asia and a proven commitment to diversity and social justice.
“I think Boies Schiller checks all these boxes,” he said.
Boies Schiller, of course, and its co-founder David Boies have recently been the subject of scrutiny for their work on behalf of disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, embattled Theranos Inc. founder Elizabeth Holmes and prominent Republican Party donor Elliott Broidy. The firm has also received accolades for its work in other cases, including its litigation against white supremacist groups over the August 2017 civil unrest in Charlottesville, Virginia.
In recent months, Boies Schiller has watched several partners depart, with Cooley picking up sports litigation partner Philip Bowman in New York, where fellow former Boies Schiller partners Alanna Rutherford and Qian Gao decamped this summer for in-house roles at Visa Inc. and Meetup Inc., respectively.
In California, Boies Schiller saw former partner Linda Burrow leaves its ranks in September to become director of content litigation at Netflix Inc., while Alison Mackenzie left the firm’s partnership earlier this year to become a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge. Mackenzie and Burrow were both based in Los Angeles and previously worked at local litigation boutique Caldwell Leslie & Proctor, which Boies Schiller absorbed last year.
In Northern California, Boies Schiller hired partner Quyen Ta in January from top litigation boutique Keker, Van Nest & Peters, where she was also a partner. Ta, like Tran, grew up in a Vietnamese refugee family. Tran was born in Vietnam—and like many future lawyers—fled the country following the fall of Saigon in 1975. Tran said that his long-term friendship with Ta was another reason behind his decision to join Boies Schiller.
As someone who put in a lot of hard work to build his career, Tran said he’s grateful for the opportunities presented to him and is active in promoting law firm diversity and inclusion.
“I think there is no substitute for hard work,” said Tran, when asked what advice he has for young lawyers. “You obviously have to do good work, but I think it is equally important to be a good person. The legal profession is actually a very small circle, especially at the top level. It is always important to conduct yourself with integrity.”