11 Mar 2022

Kramer Levin touches down in Washington DC with litigation boutique tie-up

Move adds 24 lawyers to Kramer Levin's litigation and appellate practice and brings its office count up to four

AmLaw 200 firm Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel has landed in Washington DC through a tie-up with local litigation boutique Robbins Russel Englert Orseck & Untereiner. 

The combination adds 24 lawyers to Kramer Levin’s litigation and appellate practice, including 11 partners, two counsel and 11 associates as well as 14 professional staff members, according to a joint statement.

Once finalised in the coming weeks, the deal will see Kramer Levin touch down in the nation’s capital under the stewardship of Robbins Russell partner duo Gary Orseck and Jennifer Windom, who will serve as co-managing partners of the new office, which will be known as Kramer Levin Robbins Russell. 

Barry Berke, chair of Kramer Levin’s litigation department, said the two firms were a “perfect combination” particularly thanks to Robbins Russell’s well-regarded bench of trial lawyers and the firm’s strength in commercial litigation and appellate work. 

By joining forces, the firms have also created a strong bankruptcy practice that brings Robbins Russels’ bankruptcy litigation team to Kramer Levin’s reputable bankruptcy and restructuring group that has won representations in bankruptcy cases for big names like Forever 21, Toys R US and Hertz. 

The tie-up stands as the first major merger for Kramer Levin since it first opened up its flagship New York shop in 1968. Led by managing partner Howard Spilko, the firm now has more than 400 lawyers in New York, Menlo Park, Paris and DC. 

It spent considerable effort building out its Paris presence last year that included the addition of a five-lawyer team from Eversheds Sutherland in May. And just last month, it hired tax and ESG expert Jerome Labrousse as a partner in Paris from French independent De Gaulle Fleurance, a move that brought its Paris headcount to include more than 55 lawyers. 

Closer to home, Kramer Levin lost its corporate co-chair James Moriarty to Goodwin Procter last summer as the latter firm looked to build out its global private equity practice. 

Robbins Russell, meanwhile, was founded in 2001 and is known for its work representing clients in front of the US Supreme Court. The firm said it has argued a total of 45 times in the Supreme Court in its 20-year history, while its team of lawyers have tried more than 150 jury trials to verdict across trial, appellate and bankruptcy courts across the US, along with its work in front of the Supreme Court. 

The firm most recently acted on behalf of Sony Interactive Entertainment in a $340m dispute related to its PlayStation product before the US Court of Appeals in DC, which ended in victory for Sony in January. 

Orseck said the firm was “extremely proud” of what it accomplished independently in the past two decades, adding that the firm was looking forward to expanding its existing service offering with Kramer Levin’s team “who have practices that perfectly complement our work”. 

According to research published by Fairfax Associates in October, US law firm merger activity has lagged to pre-pandemic levels in 2021 despite a bounce-back in Q3 when eight mergers went live, including Holland & Knight’s tie up with Dallas-based energy specialist Thompson & Knight.

Earlier this year, New England regional firm Verrill Dana’s merger with Rackemann Sawyer & Brewester was completed in January, boosting Verrill’s Boston attorney headcount to 60 and its overall tally to nearly 150 lawyers. 

And last week, AmLaw 200 firm Arent Fox completed its merger with Schiff Hardin, with the new firm operating under the name ArentFox Schiff. The move catapulted the combined entity into the top 100 US law firms by revenue and rival the likes of Barnes & Thornburg and Crowell & Moring with a combined revenue of around $508m. 

Crowell announced plans for a US merger of its own last year when it revealed it would combine with Chicago-based tech and IP firm Brinks Gilson & Lione to expand its footprint in the Midwest. The deal, set to go live in July, will see 61 Brinks lawyers join Crowell, including 27 partners. 


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