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29 April 2021

Willkie Farr raids Mayer Brown for quartet of insurance partners in California and New York

Team is led by Mayer Brown's former co-leader of its US insurance regulatory group Kara Baysinger

By Ben Edwards

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Willkie Farr & Gallagher has hired a team of four insurance partners from Mayer Brown to boost its insurance transactional and regulatory practice in California and New York.

The team includes Mayer Brown’s former co-leader of its US insurance regulatory and enforcement group Kara Baysinger, who will be based in Willkie’s San Francisco office and co-chair the firm’s insurance regulatory group alongside Allison Tam in New York. Baysinger is joined by Stephanie Duchene, Matthew Gaul and David Heales. Duchene will split her time between the firm’s Los Angeles and San Francisco offices, while Gual and Heales will both be based in New York.

Thomas Cerabino, Willkie’s chairman, said: “Our insurance practice is one of Willkie’s great strengths, with capabilities across the spectrum to serve the most sophisticated needs of clients in the industry. Kara, Stephanie, Matt and David are lawyers of the highest quality and reputation and will be a perfect complement to our practice. They will expand our regulatory offering and add to our capabilities in the burgeoning area of the intersection of technology and insurance.”

Baysinger had been at Mayer Brown for just over two years, following a brief stint as interim chief legal officer at insurer NORCAL Group. She previously spent more than two decades at Dentons, mostly recently serving as co-chair of its insurance sector group. Her practice focuses on representing national and global insurance and reinsurance companies on a wide range of regulatory, compliance and strategic matters.

Like Baysinger, Duchene joins after just over two years at Mayer Brown, having also previously worked at Dentons for more than 14 years. Duchene advises insurtech companies as well as traditional carriers and non-insurance entities on matters where insurance law and innovation meet. 

Gaul followed the same route to Willkie from Mayer Brown and Dentons before that. He also previously worked at Steptoe & Johnson and Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison, as well as a period outside of private practice working for the New York State government in various leadership roles including as chief of the investor protection bureau in the New York State Attorney General’s office. He advises insurance companies and other financial institutions on government investigations and other regulatory matters. 

Heales, meantime, had been at Mayer Brown for roughly two years longer than the rest of the team, joining in 2017 from Clyde & Co. 

Baysinger said: “Willkie’s market leading insurance practice and tech-focused growth on the West Coast are an ideal complement to our current work, our clients’ needs and our goals for the practice.”

Wilkie appointed former Jenner & Block chairman Craig Martin to open a Chicago office last April. He took with him five other ex-Jenner & Block partners: Amanda Amert, Matt Basil, Sara Horton, Barbara Grayson and Matthew Thomas, bolstering the firm's litigation and private wealth practice.

Wilkie also made leadership changes at the end of last year after its veteran chairman Steven Gartner retired having spent 35 years with the firm. Restructuring partner Matthew Feldman was named as new joint chairman, working alongside Cerabino, who had led the firm with Gartner since 2010.

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