Litigation giant Quinn Emanuel beefs up leadership, elevating DC, NY partners

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Lawyers walk with their briefcases towards the federal court house in San Diego, California June 22, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Blake

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  • Partners William Burck and Michael Carlinsky are now co-managing partners
  • L.A.-based founder John Quinn has taken on a newly-created chairman role

May 13 (Reuters) - Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan has shaken up its leadership model, installing two prominent litigators as co-managing partners and shifting namesake Los Angeles-based founder John Quinn from sole managing partner to the newly created role of chairman.

The firm said Friday that Quinn will now share management responsibilities with New York-based partner Michael Carlinsky and Washington-based partner William Burck. It marks a significant change for the litigation powerhouse, which has been led by and associated with Quinn and his assertive style during its 36-year existence.

Quinn, 70, said in an interview that he has no plans to step down or slow down. He cited an intense travel schedule that would take him to Dallas, New York, Boston, Seoul, Tokyo and Miami all before this month is out, and on the heels of wrapping a trial in Florida. But sharing the management load makes sense now that the firm has grown to more than 900 lawyers with offices across the globe, he said.

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“The truth is we should have done it sooner,” Quinn said. “We’re a bigger firm than we’ve ever been. There is a crush of things to do and I’m traveling a lot and trying cases.”

Burck and Carlinsky had already been advising him on management issues for several years, Quinn added, and their new positions solidify that role.

Burck is a power player in Washington, with a clientele that in the Trump era included political strategist Steve Bannon, former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus. He is co-managing partner of Quinn’s Washington, D.C., office and helps lead the firm's crisis law and strategy group, its government and regulatory litigation group, and its investigations, government enforcement and white-collar crime defense group.

Carlinsky joined Quinn’s New York office in 2002 and rose to become its managing partner, growing it into the firm’s largest outpost with about 300 lawyers. He handles high-stakes business litigation for a roster of clients ranging from insurance and financial companies including AIG and Morgan Stanley to South American companies embroiled in U.S. litigation.

Carlinsky said the firm's decision to elevate him and Burck into larger leadership roles sends a message externally and internally that Quinn Emanuel is in a position of strength now and for the long term.

“Internally, some people have interpreted it as, ‘Wow, the two most prominent litigators in the firm have gone all in,’” he said. “They are committed for the long haul, and they are fully invested in the firm. People love that.”

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Reporting by Karen Sloan

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Karen Sloan reports on law firms, law schools, and the business of law. Reach her at karen.sloan@thomsonreuters.com