Akin Gump Loses Top Partner to Skadden, Arps

Michele Roberts packs her briefcase, filling a litigation gap at her new firm

By: Marisa M. Kashino

Akin Gump lost one of its highest profile partners yesterday when renowned trial lawyer Michele Roberts packed up for Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. She’s taking today off before she starts at her new firm Wednesday.

Washingtonian.com featured this Q&A with Roberts earlier this month, and her representation of alleged murderer Gigi Jordan is highlighted in the upcoming issue of the magazine. However, we only recently learned about Roberts’s departure from Akin Gump after seven years of practicing there.

“I wasn’t looking to move when Skadden came calling,” says Roberts. “It’s a firm I’ve always admired.” She adds that she has had “nothing but good experiences” at Akin, and leaving would be much easier if that wasn’t the case.

Roberts, a former DC public defender who now focuses on civil litigation and white-collar criminal defense, is known for dazzling juries. She doesn’t expect her practice to change. “I’ll continue to talk to juries. That’s what I do,” she says.

Skadden suffered its own loss in 2009 when another high-profile white-collar defender, Bob Bennett, left for the firm now called Hogan Lovells. Earlier that year, Skadden also lost another group of litigators led by partner Andrew Sandler, when he joined the firm now called BuckleySandler.

Though Roberts says she’d never compare herself to the legendary Bennett, she acknowledges that she can help fortify Skadden’s litigation group.

“I do think that with Bennett’s departure, there’s been some effort to make sure the litigation capabilities at the firm didn’t in any way diminish. I believe I’m going to contribute to making sure that’s not a problem.”

Roberts anticipates that her clients will follow her to Skadden.

In an e-mailed statement, Anthony Pierce, partner in charge of Akin Gump's DC office, called Roberts "a valued colleague and friend" and said he knows "she will do well in her new endeavors."

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