For more than a half-century, downtown’s Munger Tolles & Olson has defied the geographic expansion that many of the firm’s big law competitors used as a mechanism for growth. Outside of its home base in Los Angeles, the firm had only opened one other office, in San Francisco.
That changed last week.
Munger announced that Donald Verrilli Jr., solicitor general for President Barack Obama’s administration since 2011, would spearhead the formation of a Washington, D.C., office.
“Getting to open an office is a huge opportunity,” Verrilli said. “Hopefully I’ll get to put my stamp on it and leave something meaningful behind.”
Verrilli, who before his government service was a partner with Jenner & Block, will be joined in the D.C. office by Michael DeSanctis, a former Jenner managing partner, and Chad Golder, former deputy associate attorney general.
Despite the small initial footprint, Verrilli, who resigned as solicitor general in June, said the Munger brand and support structure would allow the office to take on any case.
“Munger is an ideal platform for the type of practice I want to have now,” he said. “They bring lean teams of incredible lawyers to solve complex problems. It’s a perfect match.”
Brad Brian, Munger’s co-managing partner, said the firm was still giddy about landing Verrilli. The recruitment started immediately after Verrilli argued his last case as solicitor general and that multiple partners flew out to meet him in D.C. during the recruitment period.
“We try and hire the most talented lawyers in the country and when we saw he was leaving the government we thought, Hey, this guy fits the bill!” Brian said.
The firm doesn’t have a formal plan for how the D.C. office will grow, but Brian likened it to Munger’s San Francisco branch, which now houses 40 attorneys, compared with seven in 1991.
“The San Francisco office opened 25 years ago and grew organically and we see that as a good model,” Brian said.
Given Verrilli’s expertise, the office will almost certainly feature a strong appellate practice and likely vault Munger into the realm of elite firms that argue regularly in front of the Supreme Court. However, Brian said that it won’t be a one-dimensional office.
“There’s no doubt that Don will attract some Supreme Court and appellate cases, but we don’t see this as an appellate boutique branch of the firm,” Brian said. “People view us as problem-solvers and the type of work (Verrilli, DeSanctis, and Golder) do is very much in line with that mentality.”
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