Wilson Sonsini adds to its LA office

Two Sidley Austin corporate partners with energy expertise join the outpost
By David Ruiz Daily
Journal Staff Writer

PALO ALTO – Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati PC said Wednesday it has hired two Sidley Austin LLP partners to join its Los Angeles office, adding an energy and infrastructure finance focus to its Southern California presence.

Partners Sean M. Moran and Michael P. Joyce started Monday. They are the first corporate transactions laterals hired for the 14-lawyer L.A. group.

That office launched in April with four Sidley Austin intellectual property litigators led by partner Edward G. Poplawski.

Firmwide co-managing partner Douglas J. Clark in Palo Alto said the additions came at the behest of client demand.

“Our energy and tech client base is increasingly drawn to the financial structuring that Sean’s team does,” Clark said.

“These hires enable us to better serve our energy and tech finance clients in sponsoring or financing renewable energy projects with complex financial structures,” he added.

Still, Wilson Sonsini, which for years had dominated Silicon Valley by nursing startups like Apple and Google, has yet to make a play for new ventures in Southern California’s booming tech scene. Some of its rivals, meanwhile, have set up shop right in the middle of Silicon Beach.

Cooley LLP has scooped up attorneys from the corporate practices at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP and Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP for its Santa Monica office, launched in 2012, and Gunderson Dettmer Stough Villeneuve Franklin & Hachigian LLP quietly opened that same year in Venice. Both have been helping clients there raise millions in funds.

When asked about Wilson Sonsini’s strategy, Clark said the firm has a different approach.

“This isn’t a Silicon Beach strategy,” Clark said.

“Los Angeles, among other virtues, has many talented lawyers operating in variety of practices and our strategy is to attract and hire those that can service our client base in high-end, sophisticated practices, including patents and energy finance,” he added.

“The mere fact that the firm is [in downtown Los Angeles] suggests that they’re not trying to follow the Cooley plan,” said Esquire Inc. legal recruiter and president Sanford A. Lechtick.”And the fact that they brought in an energy group suggests the firm is actually diversifying and expanding beyond its corporate, emerging growth image.” Sidley Austin declined to comment on the departure of its partners. According to its website, the firm’s L.A. office is one of the biggest in town with some 160 attorneys.

Moran said he expects to continue to grow his practice at Wilson, which dovetails with the office’s current clients.

“Not only will we continue to work as we currently do, which is by providing financing for all types of companies, but we expect to grow that with existing clients in investment and lending, and also on the development side of the business as well,” Moran said.

Clark said Moran and Joyce will be joining a team of attorneys who already have experience in energy finance. The firm boasts lawyers with such expertise in San Francisco, Seattle and Hong Kong, according to its website.

In the past, Moran has helped clients secure financing for multiple energy projects, including the Kern County- based Alta Wind Energy Center being developed by Terra-Gen Power LLC and a $275 million geothermal project in Dixie County, Nev., also developed by Terra-Gen.

Joyce, who could not be reached for comment, also focuses his practice on renewable energy project financing as well as coal, gas-fire and nuclear energy projects.

david_ruiz@dailyjournal.com

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