Chicago-based class action boutique Freed Kanner London & Millen has opened an office in the Philadelphia suburbs with the additions of Kessler Topaz Meltzer & Check’s previous antitrust co-chair and a former partner from Spector Roseman & Kodroff.
Freed Kanner’s new office, located in Conshohocken, technically opened when Jonathan Jagher joined from Spector Roseman about three months ago. But the firm did not officially announce the new location until this week, after adding, effective April 4, Kimberly Justice, who previously served as co-chair of Kessler Topaz’s antitrust practice group.
Freed Kanner opened in Bannockburn, Illinois, near Chicago, in 2007 with three lawyers after spinning off from Chicago-based Much Shelist Freed Denenberg Ament & Rubenstein, which has now rebranded simply as Much. With the additions of Jagher and Justice, Freed Kanner now has nine attorneys.
Freed Kanner founding partner Michael Freed said his firm targeted the Philadelphia area for growth in part because it felt it could benefit from a presence in the Northeast.
But, he added, the move had much less to do with geography than with the chance to bring aboard Jagher and Justice, two attorneys with whom Freed Kanner has had long working relationships.
“It was a wonderful opportunity to get two outstanding lawyers,” Freed said.
Jagher said he worked closely with Freed Kanner attorneys representing the direct purchasers in the sprawling multidistrict antitrust litigation over automotive parts, which is centralized in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.
That close working arrangement is what initially piqued his interest in joining Freed Kanner, Jagher said.
“You work with people day in and day out, you learn what makes them go, their values, their work ethic and their abilities,” he said.
When the opportunity arose to help establish Freed Kanner’s Conshohocken office, Jagher said the move made sense for him.
“I was ready to take the next step in my career, to grow both responsibility-wise and to feel like I could take more of an ownership approach to my cases,” he said.
Justice said she was similarly enticed by the chance to help grow Freed Kanner’s presence in the Northeast from the ground up and to work in more of a boutique environment than what she had experienced at Kessler Topaz, which has close to 100 lawyers in Pennsylvania and California.
Like Jagher, Justice said a smaller firm would allow her to take more “ownership” of the cases she’s involved in, as well as provide a “more collaborative and inclusive environment.”
David Kessler of Kessler Topaz could not be reached for comment on Justice’s departure.
Justice, who noted her experience balancing her legal career and motherhood, also expressed an interest in mentoring other women lawyers, using the platform she’s gained through various leadership positions in multidistrict litigation across the country to help foster their careers.
Earlier this year, Justice was appointed to the plaintiffs steering committee in In re Local TV Advertising Antitrust Litigation in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. In August of last year, in the same court, she was appointed as co-lead counsel in In re Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index Manipulation Antitrust Litigation. In July 2018, she was appointed to the plaintiffs steering committee in In re Liquid Aluminum Sulfate Antitrust Litigation in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. And, in December 2017, she was appointed to the plaintiffs steering committee in In re German Automotive Manufacturers Antitrust Litigation in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
“I’ve been very fortunate in the past few years that judges have taken notice of my ability to lead cases and that they’ve appointed me personally to these roles,” Justice said, noting the traditional lack of gender diversity among MDL leadership and the movement to change that. “That has given me a voice and a certain empowerment to not just be a part of the team but to lead. I look to mentor women, I look to encourage them and to provide them with opportunities to grow.”
As for Freed Kanner’s growth, Freed said the firm will look to remain opportunistic but has no target head count in mind.
“We’re not looking at this is as a plan of, ‘Let’s add one lawyer in a year and then two lawyers in three years,’” Freed said. “If the opportunities are there, we will add lawyers in Philadelphia, Chicago or anywhere else.”
The firm is similarly open to expanding its practice focus beyond antitrust, Freed said, pointing to his own extensive experience handling securities fraud litigation.
Again, Freed said, circumstances will dictate any such expansion.
“We concentrate on antitrust because there have been so many opportunities—the internationalization of cartels, the autoparts cases—but we have no concern whatsoever [about branching out] if a great opportunity comes to us,” he said. “We’re able to go there.”