As Sedgwick closes its doors, the dissolving Am Law 200 firm’s lawyers in California are finding new firms to call home in the new year.
Akerman’s Los Angeles office has picked up an entertainment and commercial litigation duo, Duane Morris has continued its recruitment of Sedgwick refugees by snagging two litigation partners in the Golden State, Steptoe & Johnson has snagged a seven-strong team and Buffalo, New York-based Goldberg Segalla has opened its first West Coast office in Los Angeles after adding John Stephens, the former co-chair of Sedgwick’s cybersecurity and privacy group.
“I’m really excited about this [move],” said Stephens, who like many of his now former colleagues began making future plans following the late November confirmation by Sedgwick that the 85-year-old firm would wind down its operations this month.
Last year saw a series of high-profile defections at Sedgwick leave the firm with nearly 40 percent fewer lawyers than the year before, along with a 20 percent dip in gross revenue. Following a failed late fall effort to salvage the firm through a tie-up with U.K.-based Clyde & Co, Sedgwick confirmed that it would dissolve.
Stephens, who joined Sedgwick in 1999, helped the San Francisco-based firm build out its cybersecurity practice and create what he dubbed a “360 cyber” group that attempted to fulfill all the data privacy needs of its clients, wherever they might be.
As Sedgwick’s looming demise became clear, Stephens interviewed with several other firms to determine his next steps. Goldberg Segalla, no stranger to controversy (the firm is currently battling a spin-off group of partners in court), stood out to Stephens, who during his time at Sedgwick made news for his alleged role in a roadside dispute.
“This firm was very different,” said Stephens, who joins Goldberg Segalla as head of its new Los Angeles office and chair of its cyber risk practice. “Not only in its approach to me, but just the message and what was conveyed behind the words.”
Goldberg Segalla’s outpost in Los Angeles marks the 20th office nationwide for the civil litigation and insurance defense shop, which began 16 years ago as a seven-lawyer firm that has since grown rapidly into a nearly 360-lawyer outfit, said the firm’s managing partner Richard Cohen.
“Every one of our offices has been the result of us listening to our client community,” said Cohen, adding that his firm’s move westward came as a result of queries from clients asking it to develop a presence in Southern California. “We knew there would be a point in time where [we] would need to have a geographic presence that matched the reaches of our firmwide skill set. It was just a function of finding the right person and feeling like it was the right time to do it.”
Stephens heads to Goldberg Segalla along with Steven Vahidi, a former partner at the firm who has re-joined its ranks after four years at local shop Yukevich Cavanaugh. Goldberg Segalla’s Los Angeles office is looking to grow dynamically and methodically, said Stephens and Cohen, although that proposed expansion comes at a time when the firm is seeking to cope with the loss of at least 16 lawyers—and potentially more—that have formed Gerber Ciano Kelly Brady.
And as Goldberg Segalla establishes a foothold in California, it has some competition from other firms looking to boost their respective practice areas with lateral hires from Sedgwick, whose former chair, Michael Healy, and two other lawyers have joined Shook, Hardy & Bacon in San Francisco.
Duane Morris has added Sedgwick litigation partners Michael Fox and Robert Kum to its trial practice in San Francisco and Los Angeles, respectively. In a statement, Duane Morris chairman and CEO Matthew Taylor, who assumed the firm’s top leadership role this month, said that both new hires will enhance its presence on the West Coast.
Fox represents energy and construction companies, chemical and equipment manufacturers and public entities in commercial litigation matters and toxic tort claims, among others. Kum specializes in complex litigation matters concerning catastrophic injuries and business disputes in state and federal courts.
Meanwhile, Akerman has brought on Sedgwick litigation partners Kanika Corley and Caroline Mankey in Los Angeles. Corley specializes in entertainment litigation and represents multimedia entities, musicians and other companies. Mankey, an intellectual property litigator, advises clients in the art, entertainment and media space.
Lastly, Steptoe & Johnson has hired a commercial and class action litigation team from Sedgwick in Chicago and San Francisco led by Bay Area-based partner Stephanie Sheridan, who served as chair of the now defunct firm’s retail and fashion industry practice.