In what has already proven to be a seller’s market in the highly prized antitrust practice area this summer, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has lured an experienced antitrust lawyer away from Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati.
Jamillia Ferrisis the latest lawyer to find a new home in what has been a hot September for antitrust lateral movers in Washington D.C. The same day Ferris joined Freshfields, Justice Department antitrust division lawyer Ryan Sandrock left for Shook Hardy & Bacon as co-chair of its antitrust practice, splitting his time between D.C. and San Francisco.
Kathy O’Neill, who spent over 15 years in the DOJ’s antitrust division, arrived at Cooley just after Labor Day—the same week James Attridge left the division after almost six years for Axinn Veltrop & Harkrider. In July, Carsten Reichel—a 15-year veteran of the division—joined Norton Rose Fulbright.
Firms outside the Washington D.C. Beltway area are also securing as much antitrust talent as they can. Trans-Atlantic plaintiffs’ firm Pogust Goodhead last week brought on Jeffrey Gittleman in Philadelphia to lead the firm’s growing international antitrust and competition practice. Gittleman had spent almost half a century at Barrack Rodos & Bacine.
Even before the summer, firms were deepening their antitrust bench in the nation’s capital, as demand in the Beltway for skilled antitrust attorneys continues to rise due to increasing client needs as regulators and enforcement agencies continue to focus on anti-competitive behavior.
In May, Covington & Burling snagged the Federal Trade Commission’s deputy assistant director of the Technology Enforcement Division, Ryan Quillian, for its antitrust practice. In March, Ethan Glass joined Cooley in Washington from Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, where he was chair of Quinn’s firm’s antitrust investigations and government enforcement practice.
While the current administration has increased enforcement, there’s a bipartisan belief at the moment that large corporations need to be reined in and competition needs to be increased, said Sandrock, the new Shook partner, in an interview. There are also several proposals currently pending in Congress to update the Sherman Act and other laws that prohibit anticompetitive business practices, he noted.
“Antitrust is at a historic moment,” Sandrock said. “Antitrust is a topic of everyday conversation, more than it’s ever been probably since the early part of the 20th century.”
Washington-based legal recruiter Dan Binstock, characterizes the practice as an “almost bullet-proof” practice area right now.
“We are seeing a particularly high number of antitrust candidates experiencing high demand from clients, even those without portable business or coming from the government,” said Binstock, a partner at Garrison & Sisson. “They are in the driver’s seat.”
Describing antitrust in an interview as a “team sport,” Ferris spoke of an increasing demand for antitrust services both in Washington and other major regulatory centers such as London and Brussels.
Demand for antitrust advice and services, according to the new Freshfields partner, is increasingly requiring collaboration across multiple practice areas and geographies—especially M&A, corporate and litigation in the U.S., Europe, U.K. and Asia.
“From an antitrust perspective, the transactional team and other regulatory practices, both here in the U.S. as well as abroad, provide me with a unique opportunity to work with and collaborate with colleagues around the globe as one team—particularly given what clients are facing from in this current regulatory environment,” said Ferris. “The regulators are working together, so it’s great to be part of a team similarly working together and sees the broader lens of all the issues one can face as companies navigate this regulatory environment.”
Bruce McCulloch, Washington-based U.S. head of antitrust at Freshfields, said, in the market for antitrust services, it has become “much more important” to be “joined up” in a law firm’s service offering.
McCulloch sees the recent hiring activity—at least for Freshfields—as not reactive to the current surge in antitrust demand but as building the team for future demand.
“We see [Ferris’s arrival] as helping us be great for a long time. This is not a two-or-three-year move. This is something we’re building here,” said McCulloch, noting Freshfields’ U.S. antitrust practice has promoted three associates to partner in the past three years—Justin Stewart-Teitelbaum in 2020, Jenn Mellott in 2021 and Jan Rybnicek in 2022—as well as had three promotions to counsel in 2022. This is more evidence, McCulloch said, of the firm’s long-term strategic thinking in the practice area.
While antitrust work has come from other practice areas at the firm, such as M&A and corporate, McCulloch said for at least the past fifteen years, the D.C. team has become a destination for large clients specifically looking for antitrust talent.
“There’s never been a period over the last 20 years—after the first three or four years of startup—where we haven’t been consistently promoting people internally. We haven’t been heavy in the lateral market for a long time because we didn’t need to be,” said McCulloch. “But as we’ve grown we’ve realized we need to bring in some more talent and deepen our bench.”
Ferris has joined Freshfields’ U.S. antitrust, competition and trade practice as a partner in D.C. Ferris also becomes a member of Freshfield’s global antitrust leadership team.
Until Monday, Ferris had been a partner at Wilson Sonsini for just shy of seven years after serving a little over a year in the Federal Trade Commission’s Office of General Counsel. Prior to her public service, she was a partner at Hunton & Williams but also spent three years in the DOJ’s Antitrust Division as chief of staff and counsel. Early on in her career, she spent four years at Hogan Lovells forerunner Hogan and Hartson and a year and a half at Covington & Burling.
Freshfields has had an antitrust practice in Washington for the past 20 years, and with Ferris’ arrival now has a bench 39 lawyers deep in the Beltway. Also resident in Washington is Eric Mahr—one of the firm’s joint heads of its global antitrust litigation group. Mahr arrived at Freshfields in 2017 after serving as the DOJ antitrust division’s director of litigation. Before his public service, he was at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr for 15 years.
A spokesperson for Wilson Sonsini said the firm thanked Ferris for her contributions to the firm “and our clients,” and wished her well.