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07 April 2020

Crowell & Moring snaps up ex-Atrium partners to expand venture capital practice

Hirings come a month after San Francisco-based new law start up said it was shutting down

By Ben Edwards

Crowell hires

Michel Narganes (left) joined Atrium at the start of the year while and Jon O'Connell was a founding member

Crowell & Moring has hired a group of senior lawyers from moribund new law start-up Atrium as the top 100 US firm seeks to bolster its emerging companies and venture capital practice in San Francisco.

The group includes Atrium’s co-managing partners Matthew Melville and Michel Narganes and partner Jon O’Connell, who join Crowell & Moring after the three-year-old legal software and new law firm announced its closure in March.

The trio specialise in guiding emerging companies through the start-up lifecycle, from concept and funding through to regulatory compliance and exit.

Philip Inglima, chair of Crowell & Moring, said: “We are excited about this acquisition. It aligns with our strategic goals of continuing to grow our practice in San Francisco, deepening our corporate capabilities, and advancing our digital transformation initiative to support clients in a business environment where technology plays an increasingly imperative business role.”

He added: “These partners bring bold ideas, an entrepreneurial spirit, and a deep commitment to delivering the highest level of service to emerging companies and investors.”

Crowell & Moring has further expanded its venture capital practice with the hiring of Atrium’s Matt Pelnar, who joins as counsel in San Francisco, as well as Steven Ryan, who arrives from DLA Piper and will work as counsel in the firm’s Washington DC office.

Narganes said: “In the current environment, where new needs and challenges are being identified quickly across every industry sector, entrepreneurs with creative solutions are focused on advancing their ideas. By combining with Crowell & Moring, we are in an even stronger position to support our clients and help them navigate the full scope of commercial and regulatory issues.”

Prior to joining Atrium at the start of the year, Narganes spent almost five years as senior corporate counsel at software company Sitecore. She has also worked in private practice at firms including Winston & Strawn, and McDermott Will and Emery. 

Melville has more than a decade of experience working for national and international firms, including Goodwin Procter, Lowenstein Sandler, and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.

O’Connell was a founding member of Atrium’s legal team and previously worked as an associate at Morrison & Foerster and as a senior associate at WilmerHale.

Atrium founder and CEO Justin Kan — who first found fame in Silicon Valley as co-founder of video gaming platform Twitch, which was sold to Amazon for almost $1bn in 2014 — announced the decision to close the legal tech start-up last month having already laid off most of its legal team in January.

Fellow San Francisco legal start up, online legal marketplace UpCounsel also closed, after a legal dispute with the law firm LegalForce RAPC. 

In February, Crowell & Moring's international policy and regulatory affairs consultancy arm, C&M International, opened an office in Singapore.

Further reading on new law:

Ashurst hires from Deloitte to launch Australia consulting arm

Linklaters groups new law services into 400-strong legal operations arm

Sharp rise in number of UK lawyers working in virtual law firms, research finds

New law pioneer Axiom acquires legal resourcing rival Bliss Lawyers

Kennedys unveils AI-powered claims management services spin-off

Eversheds Sutherland's new law arm dispenses with 'ego' to collaborate on LIBOR advice

Lawyers on Demand takes advantage of new rules to launch UK 'challenger law firm'

Pinsents' legal resourcing arm expands into Germany

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