Asians, Biglaw, Kathleen Sullivan, Law Professors, Litigators, Musical Chairs, Susan Estrich

Musical Chairs: Quinn Emanuel Picks Up Another Law Professor

The supremely successful Quinn Emanuel, one of the nation’s leading litigation firms, is known for many things within Biglaw. It secures amazing results for its clients, which help generate sky-high profits per partner. It pays its associates well; it’s one of the few firms providing spring bonuses this year (along with Sullivan & Cromwell). And it enjoys a reputation for innovation, a willingness to experiment with new things (e.g., a revamped recruiting model, a founding partner on Twitter).

Interestingly enough, despite the firm’s flashiness, Quinn also has an academic bent. The QE partnership includes such scholars as Kathleen Sullivan, former dean of Stanford Law School (and the first female name partner in the Am Law 100), and Susan Estrich, who still teaches at USC Law.

Joining these leading litigatrices is another prominent professor, with an international orientation….

Congratulations to Professor Tai-Heng Cheng of New York Law School. From the press release just issued by Quinn Emanuel (reprinted in full on the next page):

Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP announced today that Professor Tai-Heng Cheng will join the firm’s New York office as a partner in its International Arbitration Practice. Cheng, a specialist in international law and international arbitration, was a tenured professor of law at New York Law School and co-director of its Institute for Global Law, Justice, and Policy. Cheng is the sixth international arbitration specialist to accept a position with the firm in the last nine months.

Cheng has wide experience in all aspects of international commercial arbitration and investor-state arbitration, having served as counsel, tribunal chair, arbitrator, and expert in investor-state disputes and international commercial arbitrations, under ICDR, ICC, UNCITRAL, JAMS, SCC, HKIAC and ICSID rules. He is a member of the panels of neutrals of the AAA/ICDR, CPR and HKIAC.

Tai-Heng Cheng

That’s some tasty alphabet soup. Hopefully Cheng gets paid by the acronym.

I reached out to Cheng to interview him about his move from the ivory tower to the office tower. Because he’s in Jerusalem right now, teaching a course in international arbitration at Hebrew University, we conducted the discussion over email (a popular mode of communication among Quinn partners, despite the occasional misfire).

Congratulations on joining Quinn Emanuel! So does this mean you’re leaving academia?

Thank you. At Quinn Emanuel, in addition to helping our clients achieve success in international disputes, I will continue to publish research on international law and international arbitration, and to speak at conferences, as international arbitration is one of the more intellectual practice areas. Next week I will give a presentation at the American Enterprise Institute about the impact of globalization on investment treaty arbitration, and in July I will deliver a lecture at the Singapore Academy of Law on the role of policy in international legal decisions.

By coincidence, my election to Quinn Emanuel’s partnership coincides with a long-planned sabbatical at New York Law School. Kathleen Sullivan and Susan Estrich both joined the firm as partners while still maintaining their faculty positions at Stanford and USC law schools, and I have asked New York Law School for a similar arrangement.

For many lawyers, being a tenured law professor is a dream job. What’s leading you to leave your perch in academia for the world of Biglaw — especially Quinn Emanuel, a firm known for its, er, strong work ethic?

After I left a prior law firm to become a law professor some years ago, I worked just as hard a professor as an attorney, so I don’t anticipate much of a change in my work ethic at Quinn Emanuel. I look forward to helping Quinn Emanuel build its international disputes and international arbitration practice, and expect that I’ll hardly notice how much I’m working.

What do you think you’ll miss about academia?

I’ll certainly miss spending time with my colleagues at New York Law School, but I am confident that I will keep a connection with the law school.

What are you looking forward to about returning to full-time private practice?

I am most looking forward to working with Quinn Emanuel’s other international disputes partners to build a preeminent global practice.


Congrats to Tai Cheng on his new post, and congrats to Quinn Emanuel on its latest hire. The firm has long enjoyed a reputation for handling the highest of high-stakes domestic litigation, but now it’s taking its ambitions to the global stage.

Disclosure: Cheng is a friend of mine, as well as a fellow Yale Law grad — as noted in the press release on the next page, which contains a short bio for Cheng. Shameless plug: his latest book, When International Law Works: Realistic Idealism After 9/11 and the Global Recession, is now available from Amazon (affiliate link).

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