Jane Sullivan Roberts of Mlegal. (Courtesy photo)

Legal search boutique Mlegal Group has tapped Jane Sullivan Roberts, a leading legal industry recruiter and wife of U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, to spearhead its move into the nation’s capital.

Roberts is joining from Major, Lindsey & Africa, where she was a partner since 2007. She will serve as Mlegal’s managing partner in Washington.

She said Mlegal, which was founded in the Bay Area of California and has offices in New York and London, plans to add two or three additional recruiters in D.C. within a year.

Several factors played into her decision to move to Mlegal, Roberts said, including that she and her husband became empty nesters in the fall, giving her more time to devote to her business. She said she knew Natasha Innocenti, who joined Mlegal in California in 2017 from MLA, and Melinda Wallman, who moved to Mlegal in London from MLA last year.

“In the end, what most attracted me was I just get that I will be a better recruiter there,” Roberts said. “They have an incredible culture of collaboration.”

Roberts also cited the firm’s strong knowledge of the industry, its store of data and its “culture of shared information” as selling points.

Mlegal CEO Joe Macrae said in a statement that Roberts’ expertise advising transitioning government lawyers “meshes well” with Innocenti and the Mlegal team.

“There are few recruiters in Washington with Jane’s insight and ability to advise clients with such a high degree of sophistication, and we could not find a more ideal person to help us establish a presence there,” Macrae said.

Among Roberts’ past placements, she helped guide the moves of Robert Bennett to Hogan Lovells from Skadden Arps Meagher & Flom; former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Neil MacBride to Davis Polk & Wardwell; and former U.S. Senator and Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar to Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr. (Bennett, well-known for representing President Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky controversy, later joined Schertler & Onorato as senior counsel from Hogan Lovells.)

Several Supreme Court justices’ spouses and significant others have maintained legal industry careers, if not in the recruiting field. Roberts said she handles potential conflicts on a case-by-case basis and avoids matters with any connection to her husband’s role as chief justice. She said she works with litigators but not those with ongoing business before the Supreme Court.

When an attorney in the U.S. Solicitor General’s office reached out to her previously, Roberts said, she engaged in discussion but did not represent the lawyer.

Roberts is a 1984 Georgetown University Law Center graduate and a former clerk to the late Judge James Sprouse of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Before focusing full-time on legal recruiting at MLA beginning in 2007, she was a partner in the global technology group at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, where she also served as executive partner for talent development.

Speaking about how the market has changed for lateral candidates, Roberts pointed to the effect of the Great Recession, which she said had buoyed out-of-town firms as some market power shifted from New York to Washington. She declined to say whether she thought the current political climate in Washington had changed the calculus for lawyers considering whether to exit or pursue government service.