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MOVES-Cravath M&A litigator Goldstein leaves for Kirkland & Ellis -sources

April 13 (Reuters) - Sandra Goldstein, one of law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP’s most senior mergers and acquisitions litigation partners, has resigned to join rival law firm Kirkland & Ellis LLP, people familiar with the matter said on Friday.

Kirkland & Ellis has been poaching corporate deal lawyers from competitors as it expands its client list beyond private equity firms to many of the biggest U.S. companies. It has been seeking to expand its M&A litigation practice as part of that strategy.

In her career with Cravath spanning three decades, Goldstein won several precedent-setting corporate legal cases, including on Barnes & Noble Inc’s use of a “poison pill” defense, the merger of First Citizens BancShares Inc and First Citizens Bancorp and fending off a $2 billion securities class action lawsuit against Xerox Corp.

She served as Cravath’s head of litigation from 2010 to 2016.

The sources asked not to be identified because Goldstein’s move has not been announced. Goldstein could not be reached for comment, while Cravath and Kirkland & Ellis spokespeople did not respond to requests for comment.

The move makes Goldstein the latest deal lawyer to leave Cravath for Kirkland & Ellis following M&A partner Eric Schiele’s move earlier this year, M&A partner Jonathan Davis move in 2016 and M&A partner Sarkis Jebejian’s move in 2012.

Scott Barshay, one of Cravath’s most prolific dealmakers, also left Cravath in 2016 to join Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP.

Moves of seasoned partners in the legal industry have traditionally been few and far between. However, intensifying competition for top talent has made some law firms more aggressive.

Cravath is among the law firms that reward their partners based on seniority, rather than business generated, in a compensation system known in the legal industry as “lockstep,” designed to avoid disputes over who brought in a client. This has provided an opening to firms such as Kirkland & Ellis to use more flexible compensation structures as a selling point to recruit. (Reporting by Greg Roumeliotis in New York; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)