Daniel Salemi

Morgan, Lewis & Bockius’ Chicago office has expanded in the past few months with the addition of a group of tax partners from rival global giant Baker McKenzie.

The nearly 80-lawyer Windy City office kept its growth streak alive Monday by recruiting from the opposite end of the legal services spectrum. Employment partner Daniel Salemi moved from a small Chicago firm, Franczek Radelet, where he had co-chaired the 40-lawyer shop’s employment benefits practice.

Salemi’s jump from boutique to Big Law will offer more resources for his practice representing employers in collectively bargained benefits plans with labor unions known as multi-employer plans, he said Monday.

“That was a big draw here, because Morgan Lewis has one of the largest nationwide practices in the multi-employer space,” Salemi said. “There aren’t a lot of firms that lead in this space the way Morgan Lewis does, so that was a huge attraction here.”

Salemi said he maintains a generalist approach to his employee benefits practice. He also represents publicly traded and private companies, universities, colleges, hospitals and nonprofit organizations on employee benefits issues, which sometimes involve ERISA litigation, he said. Morgan Lewis’ experience in ERISA litigation was another draw, he added.

There was also a personal connection, as Salemi had practiced with two Morgan Lewis partners—Marla Kreindler and Julie Stapel—when he spent two years as an associate at Winston & Strawn from 2008 to 2010. Salemi had been a Franczek Radelet associate before that and returned to the firm as a partner in 2010.

“This is a very exciting move for me and I view Morgan Lewis as the gold standard in the practice areas I [work in],” said Salemi, ticking off employee benefits, labor and employment and ERISA litigation. “The employee benefits world is small. I know most of the practitioners in Chicago and across the country. I wasn’t out looking. This was the one other place I’d consider practicing and I’m very excited to be here.”

Franczek Radelet saw a trio of partners decamp in February when higher education experts Ellen Babbitt, Peter Land and Scott Warner left for Husch Blackwell. The firm did not immediately return a request for comment about Salemi’s departure. For his part, Salemi said he did not use a legal recruiter in switching to Morgan Lewis, crediting Kreindler and Stapel as being “crucial in introducing” him to the firm.

“Dan is precisely the kind of versatile partner clients are seeking, someone who has worked with clients throughout the private, public, and nonprofit sectors to develop benefit plans and to defend them when needed,” said a statement from Steven Spencer, the Philadelphia-based leader of Morgan Lewis’ employee benefits and executive compensation practice. “Clients also will benefit from his comprehensive thought leadership on plan compliance.”

Earlier this year, Morgan Lewis returned to Baker McKenzie to take on three more tax partners for its offices in Chicago and Silicon Valley. The former, which absorbed the bulk of Bingham McCutchen in early 2015, began ramping up its lateral hiring efforts a year later when it brought on McDermott Will & Emery commercial litigation partner Elizabeth Herrington in Chicago. Herrington previously served as a member of McDermott’s compensation committee.