Wall Street law firm Cravath arrives in D.C. with federal regulator hires

Katie R. Ochoa

The Cravath, Swaine & Moore offices in Manhattan, New York City, U.S. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

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  • Ex-FDIC chairman Jelena McWilliams will lead the new office
  • This is 200-year-old Cravath’s third location

(Reuters) – Large law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore said Monday that it is opening a Washington, D.C., office, the 200-year-old firm’s second location in the U.S.

Three former government regulators will open the office for Wall Street firm Cravath, which has only two other offices globally, in New York and London.

Ex-Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation chairman Jelena McWilliams will serve as the new D.C. office’s managing partner. Former U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Elad Roisman and former SEC enforcement official Jennifer Leete have also joined Cravath.

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A firm spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and McWilliams and Cravath presiding partner Faiza Saeed were not immediately available for interviews.

Saeed said in a statement that the opening of the new office will help the firm’s clients navigate “an increasingly complex and active regulatory environment.”

It’s unusual for Cravath to expand its partnership by hiring from outside the firm, rather than promoting from within.

Cravath in February 2021 made its first partner hire from a rival law firm in at least a decade and brought on two more partners later that year. The firm had hired only a handful of former government officials as partners during that past decade.

Cravath was one of the last large firms to adhere to a “strict lockstep” pay policy that rewarded partners based on seniority. Late last year, Cravath said it would join other firms in adopting a so-called modified lockstep system that determines pay based on partners’ contributions and tenure.

Other large firms have similarly loosened their strict lockstep systems, a move that offers more leeway for recruitment and retention in the midst of an industry-wide war for talent.

Lawyers rarely leave Cravath for other firms. But since 2021 the firm has seen at least five partners depart for competitors Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Sidley Austin, Kirkland & Ellis and Davis Polk & Wardwell.

According to American Lawyer data, Cravath last year topped $1 billion in gross revenue, and its partners generated average profits of $5.8 million.

(NOTE: This story was updated to accurately describe the new office as Cravath’s third current location.)

Read more:

Cravath abandons strict pay model, joining most law firm peers

Freshfields lures Cravath dealmaker in latest loss for Wall St firm

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Reporting by Jacqueline Thomsen

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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