Suzanne Bell, who spent nearly three decades at Wilson Sonsini, has left the storied Silicon Valley firm to join the Redwood Shores, California, office of Washington, D.C.-based Covington.
Bell came to Wilson Sonsini in 1989 and was promoted to partner in 1995. During the past 29 years, she has handled technology and intellectual property transactions for a range of clients, including companies specializing in clean technology, cloud computing, digital media, electronics, internet, software and telecommunications.
“I wasn’t looking to leave, but Covington sought me out,” said Bell, who worked out of Wilson Sonsini’s headquarters in Palo Alto, California.
As the technology sector increasingly intersects with government regulations, Bell said she was attracted to Covington’s strong regulatory practice.
“One of the other trends that I observed it that every company need to be a technology company these days in order to compete,” added Bell.
Covington represents a larger number of Fortune 500 companies getting involved in the technology sector, and Bell said she is looking forward to using her experience in technology transactions to assist those clients.
The San Francisco office of Covington, which opened in 1999, now boasts 74 lawyers. A Silicon Valley office opened by the firm in 2008 with a team of lawyers fleeing now-defunct Heller Ehrman has 35 lawyers, including Bell. Covington, fresh off a financially successful 2017, has been growing in the Golden State in recent years.
While the firm shuttered its San Diego office in 2015, Covington relocated the bulk of those lawyers to a new outpost in Los Angeles, part of an effort by the firm to capitalize on the latter’s booming Silicon Beach neighborhood. Since then, Covington has hired a number of prominent partners to enhance its client services in California, including Wade Ackerman, a former U.S. Food and Drug Administration official, and Carolyn Kubota, a former federal prosecutor and a ex-partner at O’Melveny & Myers.
Covington also reeled in Catharina Min, Reed Smith’s former Silicon Valley office leader, as a corporate partner last year for its corporate practice. Covington’s San Francisco office did lose partner Tammy Albarrán last month to Uber Technologies, where she now serves as deputy general counsel for the ride-sharing giant. Jennifer Martin, a cybersecurity expert and of counsel at Covington in Silicon Valley, also left the firm in January to join Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe.
“Our clear strategy is to expand the firm’s presences in California and to also expand the firm’s presence in the corporate area,” said Covington’s West Coast corporate chair Thomas DeFilipps, who joined the firm in 2016 after previously serving as Sidley Austin’s managing partner in Palo Alto. “When you do the intersection of those two things, you see that expanding the California corporate practice is a high priority of the firm.”
Although Covington has a robust technology transactions practice on East Coast, DeFilipps said the firm did not have a partner doing such work on the West Coast and therefore had been searching for an experienced individual to fill that role in the region.
“We felt, in order to increase the size of our corporate practice, we have to find a senior tech transactions partner with experience and reputation in the Northern California market, and we couldn’t find anyone better than Suzanne to fill that role,” DeFilipps said.
With the addition of Bell, Covington now has 22 lawyers working firmwide in the technology transactions space. DeFilipps, who spent 27 years at Wilson Sonsini before opening Sidley’s Palo Alto office in late 2009, said Bell’s arrival at the firm is a big reunion for former Wilson Sonsini partners eager to practice together once again.
At Wilson Sonsini, Bell worked on a number of notable transactions, including network security company Blue Coat Systems’ $2.4 billion sale in 2015 to private equity firm Bain Capital and data analysis software provider Informatica Corp. on its $5.3 billion going-private sale that same year. Her former firm, which saw a number of partners leave its ranks last year, wished Bell well in her future endeavors.
“We’re sorry to see Suzanne leave and certainly wish her the best,” said a statement from Wilson Sonsini COO Courtney Dorman about her departure. “Mobility is an unfortunate reality of this industry, but that doesn’t mean we are sanguine about it. We’re having an excellent year across the board with high-profile transactions like Zscaler, Dropbox, Microchip’s $10.15 billion acquisition of Microsemi and Salesforce/MuleSoft’s $6.5 billion deal, in addition to important litigation technology and antitrust successes. We have made a number of important partner and associate additions this year and expect to announce more soon. We remain in growth mode and have never been more optimistic about our business, our clients and our talent.”
Wilson Sonsini saw gross revenue and partner profits rise in 2017, a year in which the firm shook up its leadership structure by tapping partner Katharine Martin to succeed founding partner Larry Sonsini as chair of its board. Wilson Sonsini has seen a few more partner departures in 2018, with Latham & Watkins welcoming aboard emerging companies expert Todd Carpenter earlier this month and Cooley picking up technology transactions pro T’Challa “T.J.” Graham in late March.