Robert Claassen, Kaye Scholer partner
Robert Claassen, Kaye Scholer partner (Shelley Eades)

PALO ALTO — Kaye Scholer has snagged the chairman of Paul Hastings’ corporate practice in Silicon Valley.

Robert Claassen joined the firm’s corporate department in Palo Alto on Wednesday. Claassen focuses on advising venture-backed startups, particularly financial-tech companies. He also counsels public companies on their regulatory filings, executive compensation, governance and other corporate matters.

Claassen said he was attracted to Kaye Scholer’s strong mergers and acquisitions and intellectual property litigation practices, as well as the opportunity to build an emerging companies practice from scratch. “They haven’t done emerging growth work historically,” he said of the New York-based firm.

Before joining Paul Hastings in 2007, Claassen spent seven years at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, where he was chairman of the capital markets group. In addition to lawyering, he’s a principal at Camp One Ventures, a venture fund that invests in startups, including XOLA Inc., a booking and marketing platform for lifestyle companies, and Ripple Labs Inc., an open source payments system.

Kaye Scholer’s managing partner Michael Solow said in a statement that the addition of Claassen is “the latest success” in the firm’s strategy “to grow those practices and industry groups for which [we] are continuously recognized.”

Corporate partner Nicholas O’Keefe joined the ranks in Palo Alto in January and former U.S. Department of Justice attorney Philip Giordano joined in April. With Claassen on board, the total attorney head count in the office climbs to 17, including five corporate partners.

The firm’s corporate group in Los Angeles, however, has seen at least six departures since last fall, including Timothy Spangler, who served as Kaye Scholer’s investment funds group leader, and Thomas Stromberg, who served as managing partner of the firm’s Los Angeles and Palo Alto offices.

When interviewed earlier this year, Solow said the departures were part of a strategic decision to shift the firm’s focus in Los Angeles away from corporate work to other practice areas. The firm’s corporate practice, he added, was gravitating north.

The managing partner of Paul Hastings’ Valley office did not respond to a request for comment. Corporate partner Robert Carlson will take over the helm of the firm’s corporate practice in Silicon Valley, said Claassen.

Contact the reporter at npierrepont@alm.com.