Reception area of Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky & Popeo..102809
Reception area of Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky & Popeo..102809 (Rick Kopstein)

Christopher Sullivan, a former co-chair of the litigation group and executive committee member at Herrick, Feinstein, has joined Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo as a partner in its national litigation practice in New York.

Christopher Sullivan

Sullivan, 60, spent the past 33 years at Herrick, a firm reportedly engaged in merger talks with Crowell & Moring. Sullivan said his decision to leave his longtime home had more to do with a personal desire for a career change.

“As a litigator, there’s always that struggle to reinvent yourself as cases are won and lost, and clients come and go,” Sullivan said. “I’ve moved into a lot of different areas, and Mintz Levin is a great firm that will allow me to do different things.”

At Mintz Levin, whose New York office opened in 2000, Sullivan said that for the first time in his career he will be part of a large firm with a national platform. While the roughly 130-lawyer Herrick has offices in New York, Newark, New Jersey and Istanbul, the 450-lawyer Mintz Levin is based in Boston with outposts in London, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Stamford, Connecticut, and Washington, D.C.

Mintz Levin has not yet divulged its financial performance in 2016, but the firm had a record year in 2015, one that saw gross revenue surge to $360 million and profits per partner hit $1.07 million. Herrick also saw its finances rebound in 2015 after two down years, thanks in part to a cost control plan that saw the firm sublet a floor of its New York office and shutter its presence in Princeton, New Jersey, according to the New York Law Journal.

Sullivan joined Herrick in the early 1980s from Reavis & McGrath, an old line New York firm that merged with Fulbright & Jaworski in 1988. (Fulbright & Jaworski combined with London-based Norton Rose in 2013 to become Norton Rose Fulbright.) At the time, getting trial experience was easier than it is today, Sullivan said, and he soon had his hands in all kinds of client engagements, be it antitrust work, commercial and real estate litigation, corporate investigations, counseling public companies or product and professional liability matters.

In the 1990s, Sullivan represented Irving Moskovitz, a co-founder and former managing partner of New York’s Graubard Mollen (now known as Graubard Miller), in a case that focused on the fiduciary duty of a lawyer leaving their firm. In leaving Graubard Mollen for Dewey & Leboeuf predecessor LeBoeuf, Lamb, Leiby & MacRae, Moskovitz sought to take with him one of his former firm’s largest clients, Swiss pharmaceutical company F. Hoffmann-La Roche AG. The dispute with Graubard Mollen was slated for trial—“It was a great jury,” Sullivan recalled about the panel chosen—but the case ended when Moskovitz died at 83 in 1996.

Sullivan also represented Helen Chayie Sieger, a Jewish woman who filed a high-profile suit against two Orthodox rabbinical groups for allegedly discrediting her in a divorce proceeding with her Hasidic husband. The hard-fought litigation became tabloid fodder—and the subject of a 2003 feature story in New York magazine—but was ultimately unsuccessful. Nonetheless, it helped Sullivan make a name for himself in certain circles.

“I still have clients from Borough Park because of that case,” Sullivan said of the Brooklyn neighborhood home to one of the nation’s largest Jewish communities. (Sieger died in 2011.)

In more recent years, Sullivan advised Dublin-based Anglo Irish Bank in foreclosure litigation in New York as the now-defunct lender grappled with the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, which brought about an abrupt end to Ireland’s economic boom. Sullivan said he got the Anglo Irish work not because of his Celtic last name, but through a referral from a former Herrick colleague.

During the past three decades, Sullivan has experienced firsthand the swirling winds of change in the legal profession. The cost structure has changed and clients today are much more sophisticated—and less institutionalized—he said, noting the more corporate nature of what is now first and foremost a business.

“There is a constant emphasis [today] on creating new relationships,” added Sullivan. “I might walk out from doing an RFP and see someone from [Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom] sitting there or some smaller boutique. Firms of all kinds are coming in and competing for the same business.”

Mintz Levin and Herrick are not immune to those trends. Despite the relatively infrequent pace of lateral activity at both firms—something that Sullivan took as a “good sign” in deciding to join Mintz Levin—each has sought to make hires in key practice areas while resisting raids from larger rivals.

Herrick hired longtime Skadden counsel Barbara Jakubowicz Lawrence late last year as a partner and chair of its trusts and estate practice in New York. Lawrence took with her Herrick counsel Katy Donlan, a former Skadden associate. Herrick also brought back former associate Sara Rubenstein—most recently general counsel at real estate investment and development firm Simone Development Cos.—last month as counsel for its New York real estate group.

But Herrick lost sports industry partner Jared Bartie to O’Melveny & Myers in January, the same month that Herrick partner Paul Shapses, chair of the firm’s hospitality group, left for Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman in New York. A Herrick spokesman declined to comment about Sullivan’s departure or the firm’s merger talks with Crowell & Moring.

Mintz Levin has also seen some recent defections. Education law partner Raymond Cotton, a prominent consultant on academic salaries, left the firm this month for Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough in Washington, D.C. Eddie Rodriguez, managing partner of Mintz Levin’s San Diego office and a former member of the firm’s policy committee, joined Troutman Sanders in February.

General Electric Co. announced last month its addition of Mintz Levin of counsel William “Mo” Cowan, a former interim U.S. senator serving as president and CEO of the firm’s ML Strategies arm, as vice president of litigation and legal policy. Cowan will join GE on April 1.

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