Cleary Gottlieb lures WilmerHale partner for California launch

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Signage outside of the law firm Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP in Washington, D.C., U.S., August 30, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

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  • Heather Nyong'o was most recently partner-in-charge of WilmerHale's San Francisco office
  • Cleary also relocating four partners and six associates to Palo Alto and San Francisco

(Reuters) - Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton is moving into Northern California, tapping the partner-in-charge of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr's San Francisco office to spearhead its Bay Area launch.

Antitrust litigator Heather Nyong'o is leaving WilmerHale to launch the office alongside Cleary antitrust partners Brian Byrne and George Cary, white collar defense partner Jennifer Kennedy Park, M&A partner Benet O'Reilly, and six associates, who are relocating from the firm's New York and Washington, D.C., offices, the firm said Wednesday.

Cleary managing partner Michael Gerstenzang said the move is driven by the New York firm's decades-long work for clients in the region, adding he expects to expand the firm's Bay Area presence with more talent "in the coming months."

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"The shifting regulatory environment and evolving needs of businesses across sectors adds compelling reasons to provide these clients with on-the-ground support," Gerstenzang said in a statement.

The firm has already secured office space in Palo Alto and will soon announce the location of its San Francisco location, Nyong'o said.

Nyong'o joined WilmerHale from the Justice Department's antitrust division in 2014 and previously led the firm's antitrust and competition practice on the West Coast. Cleary cited her experience as first-chair trial lawyer for Citigroup currency trader Rohan Ramchandani, who was acquitted by a U.S. jury of charges that he colluded to influence daily benchmark euro-dollar rates.

"The ability to leverage Cleary's global antitrust practice with boots on the ground in the Bay Area will allow us to deliver not only the highest caliber client service but also put us in a position to be physically closer to the dynamic regulatory litigation environment in California," she said.

Cary is Cleary's most senior U.S. antitrust lawyer. Byrne, a member of the firm’s global executive committee, also has decades of experience in antitrust matters.

The Bay Area has seen a parade of firms open local offices amid a tech industry boom since the start of the pandemic, including Allen & Overy; Debevoise & Plimpton; Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer; Husch Blackwell; Jenner & Block; and Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.

Read more:

Cleary Gottlieb nabs Vinson & Elkins M&A pro in New York

U.K.'s Allen & Overy breaks into Bay Area with White & Case team

Law firms flock to Northern California as rents drop and opportunities grow

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Xiumei Dong covers legal industry news, with a focus on law firm strategy and growth, in-house counsel and the Washington, D.C., legal market. Reach her at Xiumei.Dong@thomsonreuters.com.