Kirkland bulks up regulatory practice

Including the recent hiring of two former SEC employees, the law firm has more than doubled its regulatory capability related to private funds in less than two years.

Kirkland & Ellis has been building up its regulatory practice as it increasingly caters to private funds at all stages of their life cycle.

In less than two years, the law firm has more than doubled its regulatory capabilities, growing its team from about 12 lawyers to nearly 30.

Most recently, Kirkland hired Erica Williams and Marian Fowler in its Washington, DC office as partners, as the firm announced on Tuesday. They have both previously served at the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Williams joins the government, regulatory and internal investigations practice group, having most recently served as special assistant and associate counsel to President Barack Obama after 11 years at the SEC, where she was deputy chief of staff under Mary Jo White. 

Fowler, who was more recently senior special counsel to the director of the division of investment management at the SEC, joins the investment funds group.

“We now have something like 27 people doing fund regulatory work,” said Norm Champ, who joined Kirkland in February 2016 as a partner in the investment funds group and who previously served as the director of the SEC's division of investment management.

“We have built that regulatory practice to help clients register with the SEC, to help them with examinations by the SEC, to help them prepare for the examination, to help them structure transactions and their funds and to remain compliant with the law.”

Others who have joined Kirkland from the SEC include Jamie Lynn Walter, who came in August and previously was a senior counsel in the private funds branch of the division of investment management at the SEC, and Aaron Schlapoff, who joined in March 2016 and served as an attorney fellow in the division of investment management at the SEC.

The team also includes Rob Khuzami, who serves as a partner in Kirkland's government and internal investigations practice group and was the director of the SEC's division of enforcement.

Kirkland is by no means the only law firm snagging former SEC employees. At the beginning of the year, Debevoise & Plimpton hired Mary Jo White, former chairman of the SEC, and Andrew Ceresney, former director of enforcement at the SEC.

Champ explained that Kirkland's regulatory practice was an area where there was an existing capability with about 12 people as of 2015, most of whom had private practice experience, having represented clients during exams and other matters. “We've added to that a lot of people with SEC experience,” he said. “We've also added people with in-house experience at private fund firms. We wanted to include people with all those perspectives.”

The regulatory piece completes the holistic approach Kirkland has taken over the years of offering a full array of services related to managing a private fund, from setting up and raising a fund, to transactions and taking advantage of the secondaries market, to SEC exams and – potentially – enforcement.

“We can help firms from the time they register as an investment advisor, all the way to responding to an enforcement matter if necessary,” Champ said, adding that the regulatory practice also offers services around the 1940 Act funds as private market firms are increasingly interested in either acquiring or setting up such types of funds, which can include business development companies.

“We wanted to be there for funds in their whole life cycle,” Champ said.

Kirkland will continue to selectively build up its regulatory practice in the US and around the world with more hires expected to come.