January 18, 2017
Two Top Sports Lawyers—On Opposite Sides—Switch Firms
A pair of top sports industry lawyers left their respective law firms Tuesday for new digs.
James Quinn, a longtime litigation partner at Weil, Gotshal & Manges in New York, has retired from the firm at 71 and joined trial boutique Berg & Androphy. O’Melveny & Myers also announced its hire of DLA Piper corporate partner Charles “Chuck” Baker to chair the firm’s sports industry group from its base in the Big Apple.
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The American Lawyer reported last month on Quinn’s work representing a group of Ultimate Fighting Championship fighters forming a trade association in order to seek better working conditions with the mixed martial arts giant. Quinn’s other sporting clients over the years have included big broadcast networks, professional rodeo riders and unionized players from the NBA, National Football League and National Hockey League. (Some of those players, including NBA Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson, have publicly praised Quinn for his contributions to their cause.)
Quinn said he will continue advising UFC players in tandem with his former colleagues at Weil. A group of litigators that have worked with him for years at the firm plan to have a dinner in Quinn’s honor next week at the Porter House Bar and Grill in New York. Weil’s mandatory retirement age is 68, but it was waived for Quinn, who at various times served as head of the firm’s litigation department and a member of its executive committee.
While he resists the retirement label, Quinn is effectively retiring from Weil’s partnership in order to make the move to Berg & Androphy, where he will be of counsel in a New York office that the Houston-based firm opened in 2015 after hiring two litigators from Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman. Asked why he chose to leave Weil for Berg & Androphy, Quinn said that after 45 years in Big Law (38 of them as a partner), he was “looking forward to a second act.”
Quinn said he has known Berg & Androphy name partner David Berg for decades, noting that the two first worked together in 1994 representing Westinghouse Electric Corp. in a trial over allegedly faulty steam generators provided to a nuclear power plant in Bay City, Texas.
“Six months in Bay City with Berg,” Quinn said of the case that eventually settled ahead of Westinghouse’s $5.4 billion buy of television network CBS Inc. The bond between both lawyers remained strong over the years.
Berg said that Quinn would frequently refer work to his plaintiffs firm that he was conflicted out of at Weil. One of those referrals resulted in a $420 million settlement that Berg secured in 2000 against Marriott International Inc. Berg, a well-regarded litigator also known for his writing and civil rights work (the father of actor Woody Harrelson was accused of murdering Berg’s brother), felt it was only fair to give his old friend a job. “I saw him outside Weil with a ‘Will Do Legal Work for Food’ sign and I took pity on the poor bastard,” Berg said jokingly of his decision to bring aboard Quinn.
Beneath the banter is respect for a seasoned trial lawyer, one who will be the 15th lawyer at Berg & Androphy and one of its most experienced courtroom practitioners along with Berg, 74. “Joe Jamail once said to me that he admired Jim because he was not afraid to tee it up and try a case,” Berg said of the late titan of Texas torts. And Berg and Quinn plan on teaming up again in the courtroom. “We’ll be pushing each other out of the way to get to the podium,” Berg said. “There are fewer and fewer big trials these days, but we’ll find some things to do together,” added Quinn.
Taking cases to trial, Quinn said, has become something of a rarity in Big Law due to changes in the litigation process and the increased prevalence of mediation. That’s one reason why he has also started his own alternative dispute resolution firm called JW Quinn ADR LLC, something Quinn said he was unable to do at Weil because of perceptions about conflicts of interest he might have. Quinn is no stranger to mediating high-stakes disputes.
In late 2011, he was brought in to help resolve a collective bargaining impasse in the NBA, where his close ties to players and former commissioner and ex-Proskauer Rose partner David Stern helped end a five-month league lockout. Those sports battles have provided Quinn with enough material for a book. He said the tentatively titled tome, “Of Youth and the Bench,” could be released next fall.