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Supreme Court Advocates Leave Mayer Brown For McDermott

Aebra Coe LAW360.COM

Two experienced U.S. Supreme Court advocates who are both just 11 years out of law school have left Mayer Brown LLP to lead McDermott Will & Emery LLP’s appellate practice, McDermott said Monday.

Paul W. Hughes and Michael B. Kimberly will practice out of McDermott’s Washington, D.C., office and will lead the law firm’s Supreme Court and appellate practice, securing positions of leadership at a major national law firm after graduating together from Yale Law School in 2008.

The move from Mayer Brown, which has a relatively large and well-established Supreme Court bench, strengthens McDermott’s Supreme Court practice, which until now has mainly been made up of one partner: M. Miller Baker. According to Peg Warner, a leader of McDermott’s litigation group, Baker is planning to leave the firm to become a judge on the Court of International Trade.

“In anticipation of Miller going on the bench, we wanted to build on the foundation he laid here,” Warner said. “We sought to bring in some young appellate advocates and we are thrilled that Paul and Michael have decided to join us.”

According to McDermott, Hughes and Kimberly have argued 10 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court between the two of them, including a recent win by Kimberly for a client in Smith v. Berryhill, a case over whether disability benefit applicants can ask federal judges to review administrative denials of their applications even if they miss the deadline for an agency-level appeal.

In all, the law firm said, Kimberly has handled more than 200 appellate matters, while Hughes has handled over 250, and both have taken on more than 20 merits cases at the Supreme Court.

The two attorneys attended Yale Law School at the same time, were editors of the Yale Law Journal and went on to clerk for federal appeals court judges, Hughes on the Fourth Circuit and Kimberly on the Ninth Circuit.

“We are honored to have the opportunity to bring our experience to bear in growing and enhancing this area of focus for McDermott,” Hughes said in a statement Monday. “Michael and I love what we do, and we’re excited to put that passion to work for the firm and its clients.”

According to legal recruiters, the demand among law firms for top appellate talent is increasing.

Jon Lindsey of legal recruiting firm Major Lindsey & Africa explained that some firms see top appellate specialists as a way to offer clients a competitive advantage by not only trying cases in the lower courts, but strategizing in such a way that their wins will stand up on appeal, or can be overturned if they lose.

“It is not work that lends itself to lots of leverage, so by itself it is not as profitable as some other areas. But having an ace appellate group can help win major litigation assignments as part of a team pitch,” Lindsey said. “In an era of tightening litigation spend, that can be a huge advantage.”

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