Akerman’s former national intellectual property practice chair, Michael Switzer, has joined a boutique Chicago firm that bills itself as a technology-focused alternative to Big Law.
Switzer joined 16-attorney Actuate Law this month alongside three other former Akerman partners: Stacy Baim, Mark Anderson, and Peter Hawkins.
It is something of a homecoming for the group. Actuate was founded in early 2018 by a separate group of lawyers from Akerman and Katten Muchin Rosenman.
The four-partner group joining Actuate had been part of the eight-lawyer group that founded Akerman’s Chicago office in 2014. That group of lawyers joined from Ulmer & Berne and also included Scott Meyers, who was named Akerman’s managing partner in August.
Switzer said he was drawn to Actuate in part by the firm’s technology subsidiary, Quointec. Launched in January, it sells subscriptions to legal products based on new technologies. Its first product, using an expert system from Neota Logic, tells clients what obligations they have to report data breaches.
“If Quointec is able to come up with something that may cannibalize billable hours but provides a better solution, [then] that is something Acutate can do,” Switzer told Bloomberg Law. “You can make money off of it as a product or service sale rather than worrying about whether your 25 first-, second- and third-year associates can review documents or crank away on form agreements.”
Actuate recently saw a founding partner, Charles “Chuck” Chejfec, depart for Seyfarth Shaw.
Martin Tully, an Actuate Law co-founder, was previously a co-chair of Akerman’s data law practice. He and another former Akerman partner who now practices at Actuate, Jeffrey Sharer, had led the development of a product at Akerman called the Data Law Center. The tool won industry awards but is no longer marketed by Akerman.
Akerman did not immediately return to a request for comment on the lawyers’ departures or on the status of the Data Law Center.
Actuate plans to launch in February a legal services product that automates the review of banks’ communications with clients, Dara Tarkowski, an Actuate co-founder said.
As for the firm’s human-delivered legal advice, Tarkowski said the new hires will allow the firm to provide new IP services to its clients, many of which operate in the Fintech and regulatory space.
“Bringing on a team of this caliber to our firm is a really big deal for us,” Tarkowski said. “I think it speaks volumes to the state of the larger Big Law market in Chicago, and it makes me feel that we did something really right back in January 2018.”
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