Sidley Austin has made five lateral hires in the U.S. and the U.K. as the firm looks to grow key practice areas in the run-up to 2018.
The Am Law 100 firm’s London office brought on Wim De Vlieger and Till Lefranc from Simpson Thacher & Bartlett as partners this week to help build out its private equity offerings in Europe. In Boston, where Sidley opened an office in 2013, the firm landed Latham & Watkins private equity partners William Schwab and Alexander Temel.
Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., Sidley welcomed aboard Christopher Fonzone, a former deputy assistant and counsel to President Barack Obama—himself a former Sidley summer associate—and legal adviser to the National Security Council (NSC). Fonzone joins Sidley as a partner in its global privacy and cybersecurity practice.
“I’m just excited to start, it’s a new challenge,” said Fonzone, whose first official day at Sidley was Tuesday. “I think this is a great place to join the private sector with a great group of lawyers here that are excited to tackle this really challenging set of issues that companies may be facing, not just in the immediate future, but in the medium and long terms as well.”
Fonzone’s federal government career began in 2007 when he took a clerkship for Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Charlottesville, Virginia. A year later, he became an attorney with the appellate staff in the civil division of the U.S. Department of Justice before departing in 2009 for a clerkship with U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Breyer.
In 2010, Fonzone joined the U.S. Department of Defense as special counsel in the Office of the General Counsel, where he advised then-general counsel Jeh Johnson, a former U.S. Department of Homeland Security chief who for the fourth time in three decades re-joined Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison as a partner in January.
Fonzone left the Defense Department in 2012, taking a job as an attorney-adviser in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, where he spent less than a year before becoming a special assistant and associate counsel to the president and deputy adviser to the NSC in 2013.
During his time at the White House, Fonzone helped develop the Obama administration’s executive orders on cybersecurity and worked with other federal government officials on legal matters pertaining to cybersecurity, intelligence, international disputes, foreign investment issues and trade sanctions, as well as military and counter-terrorism operations.
After leaving public service earlier this year, Fonzone took some time off to travel, teach and write—he has contributed to websites such as Just Security and Lawfare—and evaluate his future job prospects. Fonzone said that he made the decision to join Sidley because of the firm’s established privacy and cybersecurity group and its desire to expand the practice.
“They’re looking to grow and they’re looking to expand their services to clients and I thought that it’d be a great place to join the private sector,” Fonzone said. “I think [Sidley] is well-positioned to advise companies on this very dynamic area going forward.”
As national security issues become increasingly important to companies and conversely the actions of many of those companies having important ramifications for national security, Fonzone said his switch to Sidley will help him advise clients on many of the same issues he worked on in government.
Fonzone, who declined to name the legal recruiter he used in moving to Sidley, said he hopes to marry his government knowledge and skills with that of his new firm’s lawyers in an effort to best serve client needs. Sidley announced Wednesday its hires of Temel and Schwab in Boston, where both have worked at Latham since the latter headed to the city in 2011. On Tuesday, Sidley sought to expand its expertise in another region by announcing its additions of De Vlieger and Lefranc in London.
De Vlieger and Lefranc, who were counsel and associate at Simpson Thacher, respectively, advise clients across Europe on a wide array of transactions, including private equity, M&A, corporate and capital markets transactions. In their new roles at Sidley, a firm spokesman said its new London hires will focus on cross-border M&A work, high-yield debt offerings, growth capital investments, shareholder and management equity arrangements, as well as initial and secondary public offerings.
Their additions in London, where Sidley has recently been in the market for new space, are just the latest in a series of hires that Sidley has made in the U.K. and continental Europe this year in a bid to capture more private equity and investment funds work.
Sidley started off 2017 by landing Linklaters managing associate Jennifer Brennan as a restructuring partner in London and picking up DLA Piper private equity partner Jan Schinköth in Munich. In February, the firm raided Kirkland & Ellis for seven partners, including Sidley’s current private equity practice co-lead Erik Dahl, in Munich.
In October, Sidley added Ashurst corporate partner James Woods in London, while also hiring five capital markets and M&A lawyers from Andrews Kurth Kenyon in Houston. Like most large firms, Sidley has also seen some lateral partner defections.
Baker McKenzie added commercial litigation partner Michelle Hartmann last month in Dallas, while Pircher, Nichols & Meeks picked up real estate partner Erin Natter in Los Angeles. John Gallo, a former litigation co-chief at Sidley’s Windy City headquarters, recently left the firm to become executive director of the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago.
And in September, Hogan Lovells hired Sidley employee benefits partner Michael Frank in Silicon Valley. Frank, an executive compensation expert, joined Sidley last year from Morrison & Foerster, where he headed his former firm’s ERISA and benefits group.
UPDATE: 11/29/17, 1:39 p.m. EST. Information on two more lateral hires by Sidley has been added to the second and 12th paragraphs of this story.