May 23, 2017
By, Rebecca Cohen
A group of six intellectual property litigators led by partners Stefani Shanberg and Jennifer Schmidt has moved from Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati to Morrison & Foerster’s San Francisco office.
The team includes Wilson Sonsini associate Robin Brower, who joins MoFo as of counsel, as well as associates Madeleine Greene, Michael Guo and Eugene Marder. Larry Watanabe, a veteran legal recruiter with Solana Beach, California-based Watanabe Nason, brokered the deal.
Shanberg has represented technology giants like BlackBerry Ltd., Google Inc. and Square Inc. in patent infringement cases and investigations by the U.S. International Trade Commission. She said she spoke with MoFo’s IP litigation co-chair Richard Hung and technology and life sciences litigation partner Michael Jacobs for almost a year before deciding to join the firm.
A San Antonio native, Shanberg began her career as an association in Wilson Sonsini’s now-shuttered office in the Texas city before leaving for Perkins Coie in 2001. She returned to Wilson Sonsini in 2007 and built up her reputation as a go-to litigator for technology clients.
“Over time, I met with probably 50 MoFo attorneys,” Shanberg said of her slow courtship by her new firm. “The cultural fit was staggering. I heard a consistent message from them on the focus on litigation and the prioritization of the trial practice at the firm and became convinced that our team would thrive here.”
Schmidt, who moved to Wilson Sonsini in 2012 from King & Spalding, joined those talks right after Shanberg’s initial conversation with MoFo. Though it wasn’t confirmed that the associates would come with them to MoFo until very recently, the success the six lawyers had had taking matters to trial at the ITC over the past couple of years made Schmidt and Shanberg eager to keep their close-knit group together.
“It was important to us all along to find a place that was going to be welcoming to our entire team,” said Schmidt, who was elected partner at Wilson Sonsini on Feb. 1, 2016.
From MoFo’s perspective, Hung said the team’s focus on technology matters made it a good fit for his firm, and its skillset jibed with MoFo’s philosophy that “we’re strong litigators first, IP litigators second, but we pride ourselves on both aspects.” He said members of his practice group knew Shanberg through the ITC Trial Lawyers Association, of which she is president, and some of them had worked closely with Schmidt on a case a few years earlier.
The move by MoFo to bolster its IP ranks comes one day after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in TC Heartland v. Kraft Foods Group Brands, which will likely result in more patent litigation being filed in the Northern District of California.
“It hopefully means that we’re going to get to stay home a lot more,” Shanberg said of the ruling. “It’s obviously an opportune time to be growing this practice.”
MoFo, which saw its finances slump in 2016, has been a hotbed of lateral movement this year. The firm picked up Sidley Austin partner Joshua Hill Jr. in February to lead its white-collar defense practice in San Francisco, where MoFo has seen several partners depart in 2017.