William Stern. Courtesy photo

A veteran class action attorney from Morrison & Foerster has left to join Covington & Burling, as the East Coast firm continues to build out its presence in California.

William Stern has joined Covington as senior counsel in its nearly 20-year-old San Francisco office. Before the move, Stern spent about 14 years at Morrison & Foerster.

“Covington has become the gold standard for California litigation,” said Stern, whose practice is in consumer class action defense, with a special focus on California’s Unfair Competition Law, Business & Professions Code Section 17200.

Stern contends that California sees more than its fair share of class actions because of Section 17200. He said the act is “very strongly pro-plaintiff, and California already has a climate and judges that are often strongly pro-plaintiff and pro-consumer.”

Stern is the author of a book on Section 17200 published by The Rutter Group, and a principal author of a 2004 amendment to Section 17200 known as Proposition 64.

Stern primarily handles cases brought by private litigants and law enforcement officials alleging unfair business practices and false advertising. His clients include banks, high-tech companies, retailers, manufacturers and insurance companies. He noted referral opportunities at Covington as another driver of his move.


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“Covington has probably the premier FDA regulatory practice and I have a lot of food, drugs and cosmetic clients, and it’s nice to be able to refer them to the top firm that does that kind of work,” said Stern.

Within the last year, Covington’s Bay Area offices also added environmental and energy partner Kevin Poloncarz, who came from Paul Hastings, and technology partner Suzanne Bell, who came from Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati.

“Will fits very well with what we are doing in expanding our litigation work, particularly in class actions,” said Simon Frankel, Covington’s San Francisco office managing partner who took over that post in January.

“We have brought on a number of important additions in the recent year. I think you’ll see more over time. But we are also very focused on internal growth at the firm,” added Frankel, noting that Covington promoted three associates to partners in California last year.

Covington’s San Francisco office, which opened in 1999, has grown to 86 lawyers. The firm’s Silicon Valley office, which opened a decade ago after adding a team of lawyers from now-defunct Heller Ehrman, has 40 lawyers.

A spokesman for Morrison & Foerster said in a statement that the firm wishes Stern well.

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