david bernick kirkland.JPGKirkland & Ellis is known for its powerful litigators and leading litigation department. Though Gibson Dunn was happy to knock Kirkland from its Amlaw “Litigation Department of the Year” throne this year.
Kirkland is suffering another big knock this week. Litigation co-chair David Bernick has developed a tobacco addiction. Here’s a quote from Bernick included in an official firm statement and in an internal memo sent around the firm yesterday (both available in full after the jump):

“I have spent my entire career at Kirkland & Ellis and I am proud to have contributed to the growth and success of one of the top law firms,” said David Bernick. “I will remain close to my many friends and colleagues at the Firm, but I look forward to pursuing new challenges during the next phase of my career with Philip Morris International.”

After 31 years at Kirkland, Bernick is leaving to become senior vice president and general counsel of Philip Morris International, and he’s going very far away. He’ll be relocating from New York to Switzerland.
Bernick is a powerhouse at Kirkland. He has a smoking résumé. His firm bio recounts victories for big pharma, nuclear weapons plants, breast implants, and tobacco….


Says one Kirklander:

Very terrible news. Bigger than [bankruptcy partner Jamie] Sprayregen’s (temporary) departure.

Is it so terrible? Certainly not if Bernick sends lots of work in his former firm’s direction.
Bernick recently helped Apple fend off a class action alleging hearing loss via iPod. And he was lead counsel on the successful defense of W.R. Grace on asbestos charges in the “largest and most complex criminal environmental prosecution ever.”
He should be well-equipped to help Philip Morris out, or to serve as a film consultant for a sequel to Thank You For Smoking.
Below are two statements from Kirkland & Ellis. The first is the official statement on David Bernick’s move sent to us by a spokesperson. The second is an excerpt from an email sent around the firm internally.
KIRKLAND & ELLIS STATEMENT
Senior Partner David Bernick has announced his plans to join Philip Morris International as Senior Vice President and General Counsel effective March 1, 2010.
“David has been an integral part of our premier litigation practice, and his achievements during his 31 years at Kirkland are truly remarkable. We thank him for his varied and long-standing service to the Firm and we wish him success in his new role,” said Jeffrey C. Hammes, Vice-Chair of the Firmwide Management Committee.
“I have spent my entire career at Kirkland & Ellis and I am proud to have contributed to the growth and success of one of the top law firms,” said David Bernick. “I will remain close to my many friends and colleagues at the Firm, but I look forward to pursuing new challenges during the next phase of my career with Philip Morris International.”
KIRKLAND & ELLIS INTERNAL MEMO
Kirkland’s culture has always included an entrepreneurial element, and many of our lawyers have left the Firm to pursue new challenges in government service, to serve as general counsel, or to work as a principal in the private sector. As we begin the new year, this tradition continues with David Bernick.‬ David has accepted a position, effective March 1, as senior vice president and general counsel of Philip Morris International, where he will be based in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Philip Morris International is the largest tobacco company in the world, with revenues of nearly $26 billion in 2008 and 75,000 employees. We know that David will bring his characteristic insight and commitment to excellence to his new position.
David has been an integral part of our premier litigation practice, and his achievements during his 31 years at Kirkland are truly remarkable. We thank him for his varied and long-standing service to the Firm as a litigator and member of our management committee, and we wish him success in his new role.
As David communicated to the Firm Committee: “I have spent my entire career at Kirkland & Ellis and I am proud to have contributed to the growth and success of one of the world’s top law firms. I will remain close to my many friends and colleagues at the Firm, but I look forward to pursuing new challenges during the next phase of my career with Philip Morris International.”
Over the next few weeks, we will find time to congratulate David on his new position and thank him in a more personal setting for his outstanding contributions to the Firm.


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