Irell Elects First African American Managing Partner

By Elizabeth Olson, Big Law Business

Irell & Manella LLP has elected Ellisen S. Turner as the firm’s managing partner. Turner, a partner in the firm’s Los Angeles office who is the hiring chair and an executive committee member, is Irell’s first African-American managing partner.

He will succeed Andrei Iancu who is completing his second three-year term, which is the maximum allowed tenure. Iancu has been nominated to become Patent and Trademark Office director.

Turner, 41, said he plans to continue practicing in the firm’s litigation and intellectual property practice groups. This includes his focus on patent litigation as well as inter partes review and other contested patent office proceedings, trade secret disputes, IP licensing and transactions and IP due diligence during mergers and acquisitions.

In his legal career, Turner has won in verdicts or settlements totaling $5 billion for firm clients, representing clients in various federal courts, at the Patent Office, the International Trade Commission and the ICC International Court of Arbitration, according to the firm.

Iancu praised Turner’s election to the top post, noting that he “has garnered a reputation as one of the country’s leading IP litigators while at the same time establishing himself as a leader both within the firm and the community at large.”

“Through his years of leadership and service, he has earned the trust and confidence of the partners, associates and staff. Ellisen is tremendously dedicated to the firm, and the future is bright under his leadership,” Iancu said in a statement.

The handover to new leadership comes two years after the firm was rocked when a group of attorneys, including partners John Hueston and Brian Hennigan, left to form their own boutique, Hueston Hennigan LLP. Hueston had served as chair of Irell & Manella’s trial and crisis management practice, winning a $5.15 billion settlement for the Tronox Trust in litigation against Anadarko Petroleum Co. and Kerr McGee Corp. over environmental liabilities. Both partners were former federal prosecutors. Hueston was a lead prosecutor in the Enron trial.

Turner said the split was well behind Irell, and the firm was continuing a broad-based practice. Earlier this year, it hired former federal prosecutor Jason Linder to broaden its white-collar defense practice. Linder is heading the firm’s global investigations and anti-corruption practice.

Under his leadership, Turner said the firm, founded in 1941, “will focus on excellence in client service and on hiring the best lawyers we can find.”

Irell has about 111 associates and partners, with offices in Los Angeles and Newport Beach, Calif., Its practices include litigation, transactions, intellectual property, entertainment, insurance, bankruptcy and tax. Its clients, according to its website, include public companies, universities, individuals and entrepreneurial companies.

According to Bloomberg Law, some of the top clients Irell has represented over the past year in federal courts include Genentech, Inc., Amgen, Inc. and Marvell Semiconducter, Inc.

Among its recent litigation wins was an Aug. 3 verdict in a dispute over defibrillator technology patents. The jury found that Irell’s client Zoll Medical Corp. was liable for $7.1 million instead of the $217 million Phillips Electronics North American Corp. had demanded in its infringement claim after the jury found Zoll did not willfully infringe.

Turner, who earned his juris doctorate at the University of Michigan’s law school, was a clerk for Judge Robert E. Payne of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. Before he entered law school, he worked as a software engineer for AlliedSignal Aerospace, now known as Honeywell International, Inc., Hewlett-Packard and at IBM’s Santa Teresa Laboratory.

From 2015 to 2017, Turner was vice chair and then chair of the Intellectual Property Section of the National Bar Association, where he continues to serve as a Board member. During this period, he founded the organization’s Diversity in Tech Awards, which each year recognizes leaders in fostering diversity and inclusion in the STEM and IP fields. He also serves on the Litigation Committee, and its Education subcommittee, for the Intellectual Property Owners Association.

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