Terry McMahon, MeDermott..photo by Jason Doiy.2-17-10.051-2010
Terry McMahon, MeDermott..photo by Jason Doiy.2-17-10.051-2010 (Jason Doiy)

After almost four decades of practicing in Silicon Valley, McDermott Will & Emery partner Terrence McMahon is retiring on Dec. 31.

McMahon, an IP litigator who serves on the firm’s executive and management committees, is departing to spend more quality time with his wife, he said.

“You can’t just [try cases] a little bit,” he added. “There’s no easy way to work less.”

McMahon represents clients such as American Express Co., Qualcomm Inc. and Aristocrat Technologies Inc. in high-stakes patent cases. He led the firm’s global IP group from 2006 to 2010.

Boston partner Sarah Chapin Columbia, head of McDermott’s IP litigation practice group, said McMahon has been “instrumental in recruiting top talent to the firm” since he joined from Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe in 2001. She pointed to several partners that have come on board in Silicon Valley under his leadership, including Yar Chaikovsky, David Dolkas, William Gaede and Fabio Marino. McMahon,who is known for his tough exterior, charismatic courtroom style and fierce commitment to colleagues and family, has also built out the firm’s IP group in Houston, New York and Europe.

“Terry is a closer. That’s one of the reasons he’s so good in the courtroom,” Columbia said. “But then there’s the general thrill of working with Terry and trying a case with Terry, being in his presence.”

Chaikovsky said McMahon’s leadership was the “main reason” he joined the firm in 2009.

Many of the partners McMahon helped recruit to the firm will inherit his business when he leaves. That should ease the transition of losing a headlining litigator, Columbia said. McMahon has “done a fantastic job spreading [attorneys] across the clients and making sure the clients had a whole team to work with,” she said.

“I’ve always believed IP is a team sport and you have to have plenty of people to do these kinds of cases,” said McMahon.

Recruiter Larry Watanabe, who placed McMahon with McDermott, said, “His leadership and ability to mentor and help younger partners literally established McDermott Will & Emery’s Silicon Valley office.”

Come 2014, McMahon’s first order of business is heading to Kauai with his wife. They may learn to ballroom dance. Eventually, he may teach. But as for practicing law, he’s adopting the motto: “I’ve already done that.”

Contact the reporter at npierrepont@alm.com