Becky James

Becky James, a former chief of criminal appeals at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles, has joined business litigation boutique Greenberg Gross as head of its appellate practice.

Greenberg Gross, a 21-lawyer firm, announced this weekits addition of James from her own firm, Los Angeles-based James & Associates, which she formed seven years ago after spending three years as a partner at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, having co-chaired that firm’s appellate practice.

James’ addition comes on the heels of an expansion effort by Greenberg Gross, a firm founded only four years ago by Greenberg Traurig litigation duo Alan Greenberg and Wayne Gross, the latter of whom convinced James to leave her boutique practice and join the growing firm, which is based in Costa Mesa, California, and in January opened an office in downtown Los Angeles.

“I was not looking to leave my own boutique, but I know [Gross] from the U.S. attorney’s office [and] he reached out to me and asked if I would head up the firm’s appellate practice group,” James said. “As I started looking at it, I realized this would be a great opportunity.”

In her new role, James will be tasked with handling appellate and white-collar defense work for the Greenberg Gross, which represents both public and private companies in high-stakes litigation.

“I think what I really liked about the firm is that it’s a real rising star litigation boutique and it’s quickly established itself as a go-to firm for high-stakes litigation,” James said. “And what’s kind of exciting to me is this is happening not only at the trial level but at the appellate level as well.”

James began her legal career in 1990 as a clerk at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The following year she joined O’Melveny & Myers’ Los Angeles headquarters as a litigation associate, where she spent three years before becoming an assistant U.S. attorney in 1994.

While working for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Central District of California outpost in Los Angeles, James handled child exploitation, drug trafficking and fraud cases in the trial and appellate courts. During her 13 years as a federal prosecutor, James eventually rose to the rank of chief of general crimes section and then chief of the criminal appeals section.

In 2007, James left public service for Manatt Phelps, leaving the Am Law 200 firm after three years to start her own boutique. James & Associates had three lawyers at the time of its namesake’s move to Greenberg Gross. She will be joined at the firm by an associate, Rachael Robinson, although James & Associates of counsel Marianne Wisner won’t make the move to Greenberg Gross.

The firm has been on an expansion kick since its inception in 2013. Greenberg Gross co-founder and managing partner Alan Greenberg previously served as co-chair of the litigation practice at Greenberg Traurig.

In its first few years, the litigation boutique has gone on to win a number of multimillion-dollar trials, including a $50 million jury verdict against a nonprofit investment fund that helped propel Greenberg Gross’ push into appellate work. Greenberg said in a statement that James’ addition to its partnership ranks is a continuation of that growth.

“Greenberg Gross’ many trial victories led to the unexpected benefit of a growing appellate practice that initially served as a complement to the firm’s trial court practice, but has grown into a robust practice of its own,” Greenberg said. “[James’] arrival enables us to continue to expand that practice area and solidifies the firm as one of the country’s top firms for appellate work.”

In addition to James, Greenberg Gross has brought on many former Big Law faces to build out its practice. In 2015, the firm picked up longtime Irell & Manella litigation partner Evan Borges, as well as associate-turned-partner Michael McMahon. In early 2016, Greenberg Gross picked up longtime Paul Hastings partner Howard Privette, who now serves as managing partner of the firm’s Los Angeles office. In March, Alston & Bird intellectual property partner David Stein joined Greenberg Gross as chair of its IP litigation group.

The firm hasn’t just made headlines for its lateral additions. In December, Greenberg Gross announced that it would surpass by $5,000 the new level of associate bonuses set by Cravath, Swaine & Moore for associates. Lawyers both young and old at Greenberg Gross are required to wear courtroom attire to the office each day, and encouraged to stay away from their smartphones.