Biglaw, David Boies, General Counsel, In-House Counsel, Lateral Moves, Litigators, Musical Chairs, Partner Issues, Partner Profits

Musical Chairs: Star Litigator David Bernick Joins Boies Schiller

David Bernick

As we just noted in Non-Sequiturs, the litigation powerhouse of Boies Schiller & Flexner has managed to fill the — possibly peep toe? — shoes that were recently vacated by Elizabeth Wurtzel. Trading one famous name for another, the firm just hired celebrated litigator David Bernick (as reported earlier today by Thomson Reuters).

So it seems that there will be two David B’s in the building. Boies Schiller was founded, of course, by the legendary David Boies, one of the greatest litigators of our time — known for his work on such marquee cases as Microsoft, Bush v. Gore, the Perry / Prop 8 case (which could end up in the Supreme Court), and too many others to mention.

Let’s take a closer look at David Bernick’s résumé, and analyze what his arrival means for BSF….

Legal credentials don’t get much better than this. From Thomson Reuters:

David Bernick, an experienced litigator and the recently departed general counsel of Philip Morris International Inc, has joined Boies, Schiller & Flexner, the law firm led by celebrated attorney David Boies.

Bernick, 58, resigned from Philip Morris in February after about two years on the job. Previously he had been a partner at the international law firm Kirkland & Ellis. Bernick will start immediately, working at Boies Schiller’s New York office….

Before Philip Morris, Bernick was a senior partner and a member of the management committee at Kirkland & Ellis. His litigation practice varied widely in his 31 years at the firm: He gained widespread attention for defense work for tobacco companies, breast-implant makers and corporations with asbestos liability.

Thomson Reuters notes that Boies Schiller rarely picks up lateral partners, hiring just four senior partners since its founding 15 years ago. But talent like David Bernick rarely comes on the market. He was wooed to the firm by William Ohlemeyer, a fellow veteran of the 1990s tobacco litigation wars.

And probably by a hefty pay package, too. During his time as general counsel of Philip Morris International, Bernick was one of the highest-paid GCs in the country. In 2011, he came in at #8 on Corporate Counsel’s list of the best-paid general counsel, with total cash earnings in excess of $3.6 million. In the 2012 rankings, he moved up to #2, with just over $6 million in aggregate cash compensation.

So Boies Schiller is probably paying Bernick a pretty penny. But the firm can certainly afford it. In the latest Am Law 100 rankings, Boies Schiller came in at #11 in profits per partner, with more than $2.5 million in profits per equity partner. And the firm happily shares that wealth, by paying amazing bonuses to its associates.

What does Bernick’s joining Boies Schiller reflect about the firm? It seems to me like a bit of succession planning. Read between the lines of this paragraph from the Thomson Reuters piece:

At 71, Boies is still the public face of the firm. And he shows no evidence of slowing down. In the last two years, he has represented Oracle Corp in two high-profile trials and taken on the federal government in a case over the bailout of American International Group Inc on behalf of the insurer’s former chief executive, Maurice “Hank” Greenberg. He has also been the lead lawyer, along with Theodore Olson, in a case challenging California’s ban on gay marriage.

It could have been rephrased as follows: “Even though Boies shows no evidence of slowing down, and continues to be the public face of the firm, he is 71 years old.” So it’s probably not a bad idea to add another renowned litigator named David to the stable — one who, at 58, is more than a decade younger than Boies.

As noted by Thomson Reuters, the firm has grown from eight lawyers in 1997 to more than 250 today. If it’s going to keep those 250 attorneys busy after David Boies’s retirement, it has to make sure it has other rainmakers in the house. The firm is certainly cultivating additional talent — see, for example, the five other Chambers-ranked litigators at the firm — and broadening that base of business generators can’t hurt.

Congratulations to Boies Schiller on its newest partner, and congratulations to David Bernick on his latest post. He might not measure up to La Wurtzel in fabulosity, but his prowess in the courtroom should more than make up for it.

Exclusive: Boies Schiller hires litigator David Bernick [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

Earlier: Who Are America’s Best-Paid General Counsel? (2012 Rankings)
Who Are America’s Best-Paid General Counsel? (2011 Rankings)

(hidden for your protection)

comments sponsored by

Show all comments