(Los Angeles) January 3, 2017 – Former Quinn Emanuel litigators John Pierce and David Sergenian today announce the formation of business litigation law firm Pierce Sergenian LLP, with its initial office in Los Angeles, California. Pierce was with Quinn Emanuel from 2006 to 2014, making partner at the end of 2009. He went on to be a partner at Latham & Watkins before being recruited at age 43 to serve as co-Global Practice Area Leader for Litigation and Dispute Resolution at K&L Gates. He and the firm will continue to serve as outside General Counsel for the SGVC family of technology venture capital funds. Sergenian was with Quinn Emanuel from 2006 to 2013 and has since been with the litigation group at Glaser Weil. The firm launches with three associates, Allen Ho from the NYU School of Law, and Cody DeCamp and Stacey Villagomez from the USC Gould School of Law.
The firm, which will represent clients in the full range of complex business litigation focusing on high-stakes courtroom trial work and arbitrations, is built from the ground up to account for the organizational and personnel traits called for by the fundamental disruptions of the digital age. “The world has changed,” said Managing Partner John Pierce. “We are creating a law firm that accounts for that from day one. We emphasize speed, collaboration and resilience over committees, information silos and 5-point plans. Each of our lawyers are hand-picked to possess the key traits for successful trial lawyers in today’s day and age: teamwork, tenacity, rapid decision-making ability, and a nuanced understanding of the global competitive environment.”
As one early example of innovation, the firm is moving decisively away from internal e-mail toward more collaborative, social, open-source communication tools like Yammer and Slack. “Internal e-mail is akin to spam. It is a terrible drain on lawyer productivity and often serves as a weapon for organizational infighting, something we don’t engage in. We anticipate we can easily increase real productivity by 40-50% with this one small change, allowing us simultaneously to achieve incredible results for clients in far fewer billable hours while increasing compensation for highly productive lawyers,” said Pierce. “In short, we intend nothing less than to unleash the productive power of up-and-coming litigators throughout the United States and the world by creating the perfect platform for them to exploit the full potential of their talents. We are also going to make the practice of law open, collaborative, vibrant and fun.” In addition to this and other radical organizational innovations, the firm will aggressively seek success fee arrangements and contingency cases, the proceeds of which will be shared by all lawyers.
Founding partners Pierce and Sergenian emphasized their gratitude for what they learned from Quinn Emanuel Founder and Managing Partner John Quinn and his partners. “John Quinn is the modern-day pioneer in cutting-edge complex commercial litigation practice at the elite level. We cannot overstate the debt we owe him and the other partners at Quinn Emanuel for how much we learned while at the firm,” Pierce said. “At the heart of all our innovations is something learned at Quinn Emanuel because of the visionary nature of John Quinn, the way he saw the future, and how he and our other former colleagues there made history and forever changed the nature of elite litigation practice. Their extraordinary success is no accident and we know it will continue. If we can follow in their footsteps and gain some degree of their success, we will be thrilled, and we hope they will consider our work to be a part of their legacy in the marketplace.”
Pierce and Sergenian also expressed warm and sincere appreciation to the partners of the other top-tier firms at which they practiced, and with litigation groups they hope to emulate in some ways, Latham & Watkins; Glaser Weil; and Gradstein, Luskin & Van Dalsem.
Pierce also praised K&L Gates and wished the firm future success. “K&L Gates is without question one of the very solid and respected broadly-focused firms in the second half of the AmLaw 100. I continue to admire the firm very much, and Peter Kalis deserves tremendous credit for getting it to that point before deciding to step down. I wish the firm nothing but the best and sincerely hope and expect it will be able to successfully navigate today’s storm-tossed global economic environment.”
In addition, Pierce noted the tremendous respect he has for so many of the AmLaw 100 firms and leaders. “There are many great law firms in America, and I have been privileged to get to know many of their partners and several of their leaders very well over the past few years. A few truly great ones along with John Quinn that come to mind right away are Ora Fisher at Latham & Watkins, Ken Doran at Gibson Dunn, Brad Butwin at O’Melveny and Myers and Andy Levander at Dechert. There is no doubt I will be looking to them and their counterparts at other terrific firms for some mentoring and advice when litigators from around the world swell our ranks and Pierce Sergenian LLP starts to grow,” said Pierce. “We have been delighted to already see a lot of interest from lateral partners and associates, both individuals and groups, even before we have launched.” Pierce explained, “To a person, they have all been instantly drawn to the idea of getting on the perfect platform to practice complex global litigation in the digital age and being rewarded for it under such a merit-based compensation system. What we are seeing is a kind of self-selecting effect that we hope will bring together on one platform all such like-minded litigators wherever they may be. We’re going to keep overhead very low and profits very high.”
Pierce Sergenian LLP will have a lean management structure with little vertical hierarchy. The firm will also have an intensively unified culture of teamwork, transparency, information-sharing and “empowered execution” throughout the organization down to the lawyers operating on the front lines of litigation. In addition to the work of John Quinn and Quinn Emanuel, the firm cited as inspiration the developmental and philosophical underpinnings of its organizational and cultural traits to the seminal work Team of Teams by retired Army General Stanley A. McChrystal, who commanded the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in the mid-2000’s.
Pierce, who served in the Army’s 1st Cavalry Division during the mid-1990’s as an M1A1 tank platoon leader and attended the Army’s Airborne School, praised McChrystal’s ground-breaking work. “General McChrystal saw the way the world changed. He conceived and implemented radical organizational changes while in a crucial phase of the ongoing Global War on Terror because he had no choice. His mission required his JSOC warfighters to win, and winning in this new hyper-complex age of loosely connected organizational networks and overwhelming amounts of data required rapid and radical innovation. Modern global complex litigation is very analogous in numerous ways, and since law firms have no choice but to win for clients, the time for them to change is now. Like the Army Rangers, Pierce Sergenian will ‘Lead the Way.’”
The firm also cited the work No Ordinary Disruption by McKinsey Global Institute Directors Richard Dobbs, James Manyika and Jonathan Woetzel. “We are still in the very early phases of a once-in-a-millennium fundamental change in global economic and societal systems. The change isn’t going to slow down; it’s going to accelerate. It’s not time to catch your breath on true innovation; it’s time to double down. This will allow the legal industry to catch up to others in terms of productivity,” said Pierce.
The firm will also have a unique compensation system. All of its lawyers, from the most junior associate to the most senior partner, will be rewarded the way equity partners are in most firms —based on productivity as measured by business origination, revenues collected on billable hour matters, and contributions to the success of contingency and alternative fee matters. Under this system, the firm expects associate compensation to exceed that of top-tier lockstep firms such as Cravath or Wachtell.
“This is going to be a very special law firm. We are going to work extremely hard, go after the most interesting litigations while achieving extraordinary results for clients, and have an unbelievable amount of fun doing it,” said Pierce. As a nod to his Quinn Emanuel DNA, Pierce noted that “the almost mandatory dress code will consist of the familiar jeans and flip-flops, or ‘slides,’ as I think the Millennials call them these days. Desert combat boots are also permitted. We are focused on results, not suits and ties.” In addition, the firm is already planning its first wilderness outing. “While we won’t attempt to match the exotic locales of the famous one-of-a-kind firm hikes our friends at Quinn Emanuel enjoy and we personally will never forget, we have our own unique twist on extremely challenging wilderness outings in the works. It won’t disappoint,” Pierce promised.The firm’s website is now live, and can be viewed at www.piercesergenian.com