Richard Walker, who departed as general counsel of Deutsche Bank last year, has joined King & Spalding as a partner in New York, as the Atlanta-based firm continues to grow.
Last year, the firm surpassed the 1,000-lawyer headcount mark, and has opened 15 offices since 2008 including a Chicago office earlier this year. At the same time, the firm has lost key figures such as Christopher Wray, a partner who reportedly earned $9.2 million, and who Trump tapped as his new FBI Director.
Walker started his career at Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft, and then spent a decade in the Securities and Exchange Commission including as director of enforcement, before joining Deutsche Bank in 2001. Now, he said he hopes to advise companies facing crises — he teaches a class at University of Pennsylvania Law School on crisis management — and conduct internal investigations, interface with regulators and deal with other pressing situations.
“This is the beginning of chapter four in my career,” Walker remarked.
In his more than a decade at the helm of Deutsche Bank, Walker said technology significantly transformed the way most corporate legal department operates. Cybersecurity, and the threat of a data breach, has risen to the top of most general counsel’s concerns, he said.
But social media has also changed the in-house lawyer’s job, by not only cutting the time frame in which companies’ must respond to an incident, but also altering the communication strategy, Walker said.
He pointed to United Airlines’ scandal this spring, in which video of one of its passenger being dragged out of his seat quickly spread on the internet and created a PR crisis.
“That captured everyone’s attention because it went viral in no time,” said Walker. “Fifteen years ago, you’d get your news in the morning or maybe the evening. Now, the reaction time to anything is compressed, and when something happens you’ve got to respond immediately.”
The result is that lawyers often have to work more with other departments, such as communications or IT, to resolve such problems, he said, adding that lawyers need a broader skill set beyond mastery of the law.
“Today most people recognize that you can’t say ‘no comment,’ because that condemns you to the story line that is created by others,” he said. “You have to say something.”
He joins a special matters group at King & Spalding that has recently grown with two additions in the last month: Zachary Fardon, the former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Chicago, who opened an office there; and Brian Michael, a former federal prosecutor in both Manhattan and Los Angeles, joined the firm in California. In November, Gareth Rees QC, who led the UK’s audit regulator authority, is scheduled to join the firm as well.
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