International law firm Cohen & Gresser’s newest partner, Miriam González Durántez, doesn’t formally start at the firm until next week. And it’s been nearly three months since word broke that she was leaving Dechert, where she co-chaired the international trade practice, as part of her family’s move from London to California.
The Spanish-born attorney happens to have a high-profile spouse: the relocation came after husband Nick Clegg, the former leader of the United Kingdom’s Liberal Democrats party and U.K. deputy prime minister, took a job as the vice-president of global affairs and communications at Facebook. But since the Brexit process—an area of specialization for González Durántez, thanks to her time as a top European Union trade negotiator for the World Trade Organization—has been roiled with uncertainty during that interval, she’s had plenty to focus on during the transition.
“Even here, I’m receiving some of the [EU's] people right now today,” she said Tuesday from her new home in California.
After five years at Dechert, González Durántez said the transcontinental move provided an opportunity to think about what was the best fit from her practice. That ultimately meant a small shop with a core focus on investigations, litigation and regulatory issues.
“My own professional trajectory has involved going to smaller and smaller firms that really work cohesively with the kind of expertise that I practice on,” she said, referring to her moves from global giant DLA Piper to Dechert and finally 80-attorney Cohen & Gresser.
She will work out of the Washington and recently launched London offices of the firm, which has its largest office in New York and also has locations in Paris and Seoul, South Korea. Unlike Dechert, Cohen & Gresser does not have a location in Silicon Valley.
“I still don’t know exactly where the division of time will work out,” González Durántez said. “I’ve always worked in lots of different places: a lot in Brussels, a lot in London, and also in the Middle East and other European countries.”
And she’s also looking forward to the opportunity to work with Silicon Valley tech companies, for whom European regulation is a serious concern.
“It’s a good feeling when prospective clients are already contacting you before you join,” she said.
González Durántez does not share the same optimism with regard to the Jan. 15 U.K. parliamentary vote over the fate of Prime Minister Teresa May’s agreement with the E.U. over the terms of Brexit. A no vote would likely lead to a “no-deal” Brexit, which business and finance leaders have warned would be terribly disruptive to the nation’s economy.
González Durántez believes the EU will aim to provide enough reassurances, in the form of draft protocols, to persuade legislators, but she is uncertain whether it will be enough.
“The vote has very little do to with Brexit and more with internal calculations and political divisions within the two parties,” she said.
But in the end she expects that Brexit will proceed, with a transition period yielding to a bilateral agreement. It will be a “deep but standard trade agreement that will lead to tremendous regulatory complexity for companies going forward,” she predicted.
González Durántez will be part of her new firm’s white-collar defense practice, which in the last year added John Gibson from the U.K. Serious Fraud Office, Jason Brown from the New York State Attorney General’s Office and Loïc Henriot in Paris.
“We have worked on matters together over many years so I am especially thrilled to have Miriam join me at Cohen & Gresser,” said Jeffrey Bronheim, managing partner of the London office, who joined the firm from London’s Cheyne Capital Management in 2018.
Meanwhile, González Durántez’s former firm announced Monday that it had added two partners in Europe to its global funds practice. Carol Widger, who comes from Cayman Island-based Maples and Calder, will serve as the new managing partner of Dechert’s Dublin office. Marianna Tothova, formerly of Ashurst, will work out of Luxembourg and London.
“We are delighted to welcome Carol and Marianna, who each add significant further strength to our European funds platform,” Gus Black, global co-chair of Dechert’s financial services group, said in a statement. “Many of our clients have business spanning Ireland and Luxembourg, and these appointments signal our commitment to both of these important fund centers as well as our ‘jurisdiction neutral’ advice model.”