Latham & Watkins has hired Jean Pawlow, a top tax controversy litigator who formerly served on the management committee at McDermott Will & Emery and as chair of that firm’s tax controversy practice until a year ago this month.
Pawlow, who will split her time between Latham’s offices in Silicon Valley and Washington, D.C., said she was enticed by her new firm’s global reach and the opportunity to practice with her longtime friend, Miriam Fisher, a former Morgan, Lewis & Bockius partner who left that firm in 2012 to join Latham, where she now serves as global chair of the tax controversy practice.
“We’ve always talked about the possibility of practicing together,” said Pawlow, who started at Latham on Jan. 5. “I’d recruit her; she’d recruit me. And finally the timing worked out for me to join Latham, and I’m excited about it.”
Last year, McDermott’s office in Washington, D.C., saw a large group of executive compensation lawyers led by partner David Rogers bolt for Winston & Strawn. (Rogers was previously one of five partners at McDermott considered for leadership of the firm, a role that eventually went in late 2016 to Ira Coleman.) Pawlow said that while her practice overlapped with Rogers’ group, her decision to leave McDermott was “independent” from that mass lateral move.
A spokesman for McDermott did not immediately return a request for comment about Pawlow’s departure for Latham, which last month picked up a pair of Kirkland & Ellis partners on both coasts to lead its securities litigation and professional liability practice, while also hiring a new head of its payments and emerging financial services practice in Paul Hastings partner Todd Beauchamp.
Pawlow has represented financial institutions, retailers, technology companies and industrial manufacturers in a broad swathe of tax disputes, including transfer pricing issues, tax accounting and insurance tax matters, tax-advantaged transactions and more. She is currently representing Citigroup Inc. in a case in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in which the banking giant is seeking the repayment of more than $412 million in taxes dating back to 2005.
That makes Pawlow the second tax partner Latham has hired in the past four months with ties to Citigroup. In October, the firm brought on Elena Romanova, who had most recently served as global head of the financial services giant’s business tax advisory and institutional clients group. In that role, Romanova led the bank’s lawyers who focused on U.S. federal income tax aspects of financial products and corporate transactions, as well as cross-border tax planning issues and other tax matters.
“We didn’t move together, but it’s a really happy coincidence,” Pawlow said.
Latham also grew its tax controversy practice in May 2017 through its addition of counsel Andrew Strelka, a former Miller & Chevalier counsel who previously served as a trial lawyer in the Tax Division at the U.S. Department of Justice from 2010 to 2014.
Pawlow said Strelka’s courtroom experience, as well as her own, are indicative of how the tax group at Latham has the ability to take cases to trial, which she said “is a little bit more unique [among tax practices] and fits in really well with Latham’s general trial and appellate practices.”
Latham’s recruitment of Pawlow also has a connection to Miller & Chevalier, a Washington, D.C.-based firm known for its tax expertise. Pawlow began her career at Miller & Chevalier, where she stayed for nearly 20 years, practicing with Sarah Nappi and William McGlone, who now together co-chair Latham’s export controls, economic sanctions and customs practice.
Pawlow said the tax and tax controversy practices have been particularly busy with clients seeking answers on how the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act signed into law in December will affect their bottom line.
“Companies are thinking ahead,” Pawlow said. “How do we marry the people here who do [our] traditional tax planning with the controversy folks who take a longer-range view? How will the IRS interpret these new laws? How will they apply them?”
Pawlow declined to discuss whether or not a legal recruiter had been engaged to expedite her move from McDermott to Latham.