Law firm WilmerHale hires new state AG practice head amid enforcement push

Signage is seen outside of the law firm WilmerHale in Washington, D.C.
Signage is seen outside of the law firm WilmerHale in Washington, D.C., U.S., August 30, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

(Reuters) - Law firm Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr has hired a senior lawyer from rival Cozen O’Connor to help run its state attorney general practice, the firm said Monday.

Paul Connell, a former federal prosecutor and senior official in the Wisconsin Department of Justice, will co-chair the firm’s state attorney general practice based in Washington, D.C. Connell served as the chief deputy to former Republican Wisconsin state attorney general Brad Schimel.

Connell will represent clients facing investigations and litigation from state attorneys general, which have increasingly trained their enforcement authority on corporations. State authorities have brought major antitrust challenges and pressured companies on hot-button political issues including the environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) investing movement.

Connell said in a statement that Wilmer has deep knowledge of issues such as data privacy, energy, technology and healthcare that are likely to be a growing focus of state attorneys general.

He previously worked on state attorney general issues at law firms Reed Smith and Cozen O’Connor.

WilmerHale said Connell’s hire is part of the Washington-founded firm’s goal of growing practices that deal with government agencies.

Connell will co-lead the practice with Brian Mahanna, a Democrat and former senior official in the New York state attorney’s office, giving the practice bipartisan leadership in an area where enforcement priorities are often driven by politics.

Major Washington law firms have been jockeying for legal talent to help clients navigate a more aggressive approach from state authorities. Law firms Hogan Lovells and Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld have brought on prominent former Democratic attorneys general in recent months.

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