Munger Tolles & Olson announced Wednesday it has hired former U.S. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli to open an office in Washington, D.C.
It marks the first office outside California and the first new office in 25 years that the 200-lawyer firm has opened.
Verrilli argued 37 cases in front of the U.S. Supreme Court while serving as solicitor general between 2011 and 2016, including the landmark arguments on the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), and also marriage equality and other issues.
The announcement ends speculation that started in June about whether Verrilli would return to Jenner & Block, where he was previously a partner and worked between 1988 and 2009.
Munger’s co-managing partner Brad D. Brian said he flew to Washington to meet with Verrilli when he heard he was looking around at firms, but that there was no preexisting relationship or connection.
“This does not signal some trend by Munger Tolles & Olson to open more offices,” said Brian. “We don’t plan to do that. We just had the opportunity to hire a really talented lawyer who brought along two other really talented lawyers, and happened to be in Washington, D.C.”
Verrilli said he knew the firm by reputation, and privately had mused on the idea of opening a D.C. office for Munger, when out of the blue the firm reached out to him to set up a meeting. “We were thinking along the same lines,” he said.
“I’m hoping and expecting that we’ll have a supreme court practice that’s second to none,” said Verrilli, but he added, “I’m envisioning a broader practice than that and I want to be a full part of Munger.”
That means not only appellate work but helping clients with multidimensional problems, like thinking about sweeping legal or regulatory overhauls that “change the rules of the game,” he said.
“I’d like to spend some time in California over the next couple of years because I’d like to develop close bonds with my colleagues,” Verrilli added.
Helping open Munger’s D.C. office are two lawyers: Michael DeSanctis will join as a partner and Chad Golder will join as counsel.
DeSanctis, the former managing partner of Jenner’s Washington, D.C. office and until recently a member of its management committee, specializes in election law and telecommunications. [Fun fact: He clerked for U.S. District Judge Maryanne Trump Barry from 1995 to 1997 in New Jersey — the sister of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.]
Golder is a former deputy associate attorney general, who worked in the U.S. Justice Department for the past seven years and provided counsel to the deputy attorney general, and also to senior government officials about regulatory, litigation and public policy issues.
He is a former clerk to former Associate Justice John Paul Stevens of the U.S. Supreme Court, and also to current U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Merrick Garland of the U.S. Court of Appeals.
That distinction plays well at Munger Tolles & Olson, which prides itself on hiring former U.S. Supreme Court clerks. Founded in Los Angeles around 50 years ago by Charlie Munger, vice chairman of Berkshire-Hathaway, the firm opened its second office in San Francisco in 1991 and maintains a 1:1 partner-to-associate ratio, according to its website. Most firms have a higher ratio of associates.
Verrilli said in the same release: “The strengths of Munger, Tolles & Olson make it a perfect fit for the kind of practice I want to build – working with supremely talented attorneys to solve clients’ most challenging problems with high-powered legal analysis and advocacy.”
And now’s a good time to consider Verrilli’s reputation, and cast your vote for the most famous Big Law lawyer — our poll closes on Friday.
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