Quinn Emanuel Partners Launch NYC Law Firm

Selendy and Gay Partners

• High profile departures from Quinn Emanuel raise eyebrows

• New firm like “like litigation arm” of much larger firm


Ten partners from litigation giant Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP announced today their departure from the firm and the formation of a single-office law firm in New York.

Philippe Selendy, known for suing banks over their alleged roles in the 2007 financial crisis, and Faith Gay, co-chair of Quinn Emanuel’s national trial practice, laid out their plans for the firm in a joint interview with Big Law Business.

Selendy & Gay PLLC will staff roughly 30 associates after partners conduct interviews in the next two to three months. It intends to have around 75 legal professionals altogether after hiring support staff for their office at 1290 Avenue of the Americas, they said.

“This will be the equivalent of the litigation arm of a significant law firm,” Selendy said.

News of Selendy and Gay’s departure raised eyebrows in the New York legal community last month because of their senior status at Quinn Emanuel.

Selendy was the leading force behind many of the firm’s suits against large financial institutions—which generated hundreds of millions in legal fees over the past decade—while Gay had advised clients such as Novartis, Coca Cola Co. and Colgate-Palmolive Co.

Both sides depicted the split as amicable and Selendy and Gay said they intend to continue to work with Quinn Emanuel on litigation matters. But the business model at Selendy & Gay will be markedly different from the Los Angeles-founded firm they are leaving.

“We think we can have a more collaborative partnership that lets us innovate for clients because we are all in one place,” said Gay, who pointed to client conflicts that come with a large firm structure. Quinn Emanuel is global in nature and has 750 lawyers in 22 offices around the world.

Selendy & Gay will also not focus on achieving a certain level of profits-per-partner, a departure from Quinn Emanuel, which was the second most profitable U.S. law firm last year, averaging $5 million in profits per partner.

“We want to create unique incentive structures that will create teamwork and emphasize that over per partner profits,” Gay said.

Selendy added, “We aren’t interested in advertising ourselves to the world and other partners based on profits, rather than who and what we are as a firm.”

A Quinn Emanuel spokeswoman issued a firm statement that the departures would not affect the strength of the firm’s global litigation practice. It pointed to the firm’s role in securing a nine-figure settlement from Uber, for Waymo, over its closely watched trade secrets case, among other matters.

“2017 was a great year for Quinn Emanuel,” said managing partner John Quinn, in the statement. “But make no mistake: in 2018, we will do more.”

Since the departures surfaced last month, Selendy & Gay has been in the market for additional hires.

Already, what was originally reported to be an eight-partner venture has turned into ten, with Jordan Goldstein and Yelena Konanova also joining from Quinn Emanuel.

Jennifer Selendy, a former Kirkland & Ellis litigator, and David Elsberg, the former co-chair of Quinn Emanuel’s investment fund litigation practice, will serve as managing partners. Jennifer Selendy is also the wife of Philippe Selendy.

Andrew Dunlap will head the firm’s recruiting and associate development programs, and Christine Chung will be the firm’s general counsel.

Philippe Selendy said that the firm will hire non-lawyer analysts to study legal and business issues in industry sectors that the firm specializes in, such as energy and financial sectors.

And, it will hire a chief operating officer from a hedge fund to manage business operations.

What cases and clients are the firm bringing over from QE?

Selendy said an “overwhelming majority” of cases “will come across including virtually all the cases… we’re handling in the financial sector,” though he declined to provide specifics.

Gay said that the firm will focus, in part, on forming alliances with various parties—federal and state governments, non-profits and individuals, and even other law firms—in bringing both plaintiffs lawsuits and representing defendants.

To contact the reporter on this story: Casey Sullivan in New York at cSullivan@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tom P. Taylor at ttaylor@bloomberglaw.com