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Gibson Dunn Partner, Ex-Prosecutors Launch Boutique

New York Law Journal


Jim Walden, who co-led the white-collar defense and investigations practice at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher for the last seven years, is starting a boutique with two other former prosecutors, solo practitioner Timothy Macht and Sean Haran from Nixon Peabody.

The six-attorney firm, Walden Macht & Haran, will focus on white -collar criminal defense, civil litigation and investigations. Its three associates are Brian Mogck from Gibson Dunn; Yeeta Yeger from the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office; and Devon Little from Nixon Peabody.

All three partners worked at the Eastern District U.S. Attorney’s office before going into private practice.

Walden’s Gibson Dunn practice included regular pro bono cases in which his clients sued government agencies for allegedly illegal or arbitrary policies. For instance, in a lawsuit over the closing of Brooklyn’s Long Island College Hospital, Walden negotiated a settlement to help maintain emergency medical services at the site.

In other cases, Walden challenged the federal government’s practice of deporting aliens after two unrelated drug possessions. He sued the government to restore food stamp benefits to more than 11,000 disabled New Yorkers; challenged former Mayor Michael Bloomberg on changes to term limits; and sued New York City to remove a bike lane in Brooklyn.

Walden said he intends to continue representing advocacy and community groups and elected officials against government agencies at Walden Macht & Haran. Depending on the case, the firm will decide whether to seek attorney fees from agencies it sues, he said.

Walden said he moved from Gibson Dunn—where profits per partner were about $2.9 million in 2013, according to the American Lawyer—because he was attracted to building a firm with friends and having flexibility in choosing cases and assigning staff.

“There was nothing that I was unhappy about at a large firm,” he added, noting he plans to continue working with Gibson Dunn on a few matters.

The three partners said they all have existing client relationships with individuals and companies in media, financial services and real estate.

Walden, 49, said his clients were enthusiastic about the move.

Macht, who is also 49, said, “In my experience, clients tend to hire lawyers they trust rather than law firms.” He added, “A boutique model combines the sort of intimate ability to service a client with the ability to have a team that can handle quite a surprising range of matters.”

The partners said they seek to compete with firms of all sizes. “We already have a team in place,” said Haran, who is 45.

“We’re not starting out with a shingle,” Walden said. “We’re going to challenge the notion that companies need to hire large firms to handle their most sensitive matters.”

Walden said his billing rates will have a “fairly substantial reduction,” but he declined to discuss specific rates.

The firm signed a two-year lease at One Broadway, subletting from Kenyon & Kenyon. “We have room to grow,” Walden said, noting the firm may hire more associates in the coming months.

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