Melissa Richards, a former Buchalter partner who this past summer set up her own firm after spending nearly a half-dozen years in-house at a national mortgage banker, has joined Mayer Brown’s consumer financial services practice in Northern California.
Richards left Buchalter in 2012 after being hired as chief legal and risk officer for San Ramon, California-based CMG Financial. This past summer Richards formed the Richards Law Group, an Oakland, California-based outfit she ran for about five months before making the move back into Big Law.
“I was laid off at CMG Financial at the beginning of the summer,” said Richards, noting that shortly after others learned about her unemployment she received help from former law partners, clients and industry colleagues supporting her return to private practice. ”I did open my own law practice at the beginning of August and did have a successful run for a couple of months, and then was offered this tremendous opportunity with Mayer Brown that I really couldn’t turn down.”
During her time at CMG, Richards oversaw all legal, corporate governance and real estate matters for the mortgage firm, including enterprise risk management. Prior to joining CMG, Richards spent more than a decade at Buchalter, where she specialized in federal and multistate compliance and served as a licensing specialist for the financial services industry.
“I believe what I bring to Mayer Brown is a unique expertise in multistate compliance, especially in California licensing and enforcement,” Richards said.
Steven Kaplan, co-head of the financial services regulatory and enforcement practice at Mayer Brown, which he joined from K&L Gates in 2016, praised Richards’ experience in a statement announcing her addition to the firm.
“Melissa has cultivated an outstanding reputation in California and nationwide for handling compliance, licensing, regulatory examination and enforcement defense work across the mortgage and consumer financial services industries, which will further enhance our reputation as a go-to firm in this space,” Kaplan said. “Her deep knowledge of California and federal law, together with her significant experience advising on state licensing work and solid background in fintech, will immediately bolster our capabilities.”
Richards is the latest West Coast recruit by Mayer Brown, which last month picked up former Davis Polk & Wardwell technology transactions counsel Michelle Ontiveros Gross as a partner in San Francisco and Palo Alto, California, two offices where Richards will also be based. Mayer Brown also brought on counsel María Eugenia “Maru“ Ferre for its global mobility and migration practice in San Francisco from Berry Appleman & Leiden, where she was a senior associate.
Mayer Brown now has a total of 33 lawyers working in its offices in San Francisco and Silicon Valley. The firm, which finalized a cooperation deal with a Saudi Arabian shop earlier this year and in August announced that it would rebrand itself in Asia by dropping the “JSM” from its shingle, currently has 32 lawyers working in its consumer financial services practice.
In August, Mayer Brown hired Michael McElroy, a former general counsel at mortgage lender First Guaranty Mortgage Corp., as a partner in Washington, D.C.