O'Melveny & Myers group to specialize in advising high-level executives

O'Melveny & Myers LLP attorneys, Thomas McCoy (L) and Jonathan Sallet at their firm's office. The two are helping to launch a new practice.
O'Melveny & Myers LLP attorneys, Thomas McCoy (L) and Jonathan Sallet at their firm's office. The two are helping to launch a new practice. (Jeffrey MacMillan For Washington Post)
By Amanda Becker
Monday, September 20, 2010

O'Melveny & Myers has brought in two high-profile hires to launch a new practice group out of its District office that will specialize in providing big-picture strategic advice to high-level corporate executives, the firm plans to announce Monday (Sept. 20).

Thomas McCoy, most recently the executive vice president in charge of legal, corporate and public affairs at microchip processor Advanced Micro Devices, rejoined the firm to launch the integrated legal strategies practice with new hire Jonathan Sallet, a Clinton administration veteran who acted as chief policy counsel at MCI Communications before joining the Glover Park Group, where he has been a partner since 2006.

"Our group focuses on those legal challenges where legal excellence will not be enough," McCoy said. They are cases where the stakes are high and the legal work "must be integrated with very thoughtful advocacy strategies in the courts of public opinion."

The genesis of the practice group grew out of McCoy's tenure at AMD. During his 16-year career at the technology company, McCoy worked with both former colleagues at O'Melveny & Myers, where he had previously practiced, and Sallet, who worked with O'Melveny attorneys via the Glover Park Group. McCoy attributes AMD's successful antitrust war against rival Intel to an integrated strategy that took into account aspects of the company that generally fall outside the wheelhouse of a typical corporate lawyer. AMD eventually walked away from the decades-long legal battle with a $1.25 billion settlement from Intel.

Those familiar with the needs of high-level corporate executives say there is a demand for lawyers who can think like public relations professionals and lobbyists, but retain the benefit of attorney-client privilege. This sort of strategic advice was what former Clinton White House counsel Lanny J. Davis had in mind when he launched a specialized practice group at Patton Boggs in 2002. That team, which included ABC News and CNN veteran Eileen O'Connor, later moved to Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe. O'Connor now practices at McDermott Will & Emery in conjunction with Davis, who recently started his own firm in order to avoid conflicts and advise other law firms.

"We are often brought in by the general counsel, the PR people or the CEO, who are saying, 'I'm sick of the infighting, I've got to come up with a strategy that will work,' " O'Connor said.

Sallet said it's that sort of integrated approach that O'Melveny's new practice group will offer clients by balancing the competing needs within a company -- say, when a litigator advises against speaking to the media, whereas the company's corporate culture emphasizes openness.

The formation of O'Melveny's integrated legal strategies group, which is up and running, isn't the only step the firm is taking to help clients look at the big picture. O'Melveny also plans to announce that it has formed an informal alliance with the RiceHadley Group, a strategic counseling firm formed by former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, former national security adviser Stephen Hadley and Anja Manuel, a Stanford professor and former assistant to the undersecretary of state for political affairs.

RiceHadley specializes in advising U.S. companies doing business in emerging markets, particularly China, India, Brazil and the Middle East.

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