Two senior partners, Philippe Z. Selendy and Faith E. Gay, are leaving litigation powerhouse Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP to form a new firm. Six more of the firm’s veteran trial lawyers, including Selendy’s wife, Jennifer, will be joining their colleagues to set up Selendy & Gay PLLC.
Philippe Selendy was chair of Quinn Emanuel’s securities and structured finance practices, and had led litigation against big banks over the sale of residential mortgage-backed securities in the aftermath of the recession. The litigation recovered more than $25 billion for the federal government. Gay was co-chair of Quinn Emanuel’s national trial practice.
Both the firm and the defectors underscored the amicable nature of the departure. “Quinn Emanuel remains close to my heart, and our new firm looks forward to working closely with QE in the future.” Gay said in a statement.
Said Selendy: “Working alongside John Quinn and the rest of my Quinn Emanuel colleagues has been a terrific and rewarding experience.”
But the departure was atypical. High-powered attorneys usually leave firms for equally prestigious positions elsewhere, rather than starting a new venture. And generally three or fewer partners depart. Eight partners are leaving Quinn Emanuel.
Quinn Emanuel is likely to remain a commercial litigation force. The three-decade old firm represents major clients including Google, Qualcomm, and Samsung in key legal disputes. Its litigation prowess helped the firm amass a record $1.2 billion in revenues in 2016.
Revenues for 2017 haven’t been announced.
“Our firm has never been stronger, and has never had a deeper bench of veteran and next generation talent,” wrote managing partner John Quinn in a statement.
“We of course respect our valued colleagues’ decision to take their practice to a smaller platform, but we do not expect these departures to have any significant impact on our practice or our revenue.”
Much of the securities litigation Selendy had been overseeing – the slew of lawsuits against the major banks over their alleged roles in the 2007 recession – had recently settled, resulting in multi-billion dollar settlements with the banks.
According to an interview Big Law Business conducted with Selendy in the summer of 2017, the settling of such cases made way for him to pursue other interests and to be more entrepreneurial than would be allowed in a firm with 250 partners worldwide.
In that interview, Selendy explained the transition of his practice, saying he was studying market manipulation cases in the energy sector, and that he would seek to partner with the federal government in some cases. He also said that he was interested in exploring pro bono work.
Selendy acknowledged Quinn Emanuel partners have different views on what cases they would like to handle, and characterized the firm as “fractious.” Some lawyers prefer high profits while others are interested in public interest work, Selendy said.
“There is frequently active dissent or disagreement” between lawyers, Selendy said, though he declined to share details. “That is what you would expect of litigators.”
An attempt to reach Selendy about these comments, and whether they had anything to do with his departure, was unsuccessful. At the time he made them, he said that he appreciated a firm where partners could openly speak their minds.
In addition to Selendy and Gay, the other departing lawyers are Selendy’s wife Jennifer, David Elsberg, Andrew Dunlap, Christine Chung, Maria Ginzburg, and Sean Baldwin.
Quinn Emanuel has more than 700 lawyers in 21 offices in 9 countries.
UPDATED: This story has been updated to correct a quote attribution.