I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed by Law Times Korea reporter, Soojung Hong. In a wide-ranging discussion, we explored our Quinn Emanuel mentality of seeking growth and greater global office expansion, highlighting our “work-from-anywhere” policy. We touched on the core values of remaining the most feared law firm in the world through our commitment to only litigation. Soojung Hong was eager to learn my views on emerging areas of the law, such as data privacy and AI, in addition to understanding how best Korean companies can benefit from a more “aggressive litigation strategy.”
I am grateful to my Quinn Emanuel colleague John Rhie, Managing Partner of our Hong Kong office, for translating this article to English, which I’ve included below.
“A strong player in international litigation”… Law Firms Most Feared by Litigation Opponents
Inside Quinn Emanuel
Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP, “a powerhouse for litigation,” was founded in 1986 by four lawyers in Los Angeles, California, including John B. Quinn. Because they were litigation lawyers, it provided an opportunity to establish Quinn Emanuel as a law practice solely focused on litigation.
It is considered the greatest player in the field of litigation. Quinn Emanuel does not have corporate practice. It only focuses on business litigation and arbitration. Quinn Emanuel continues to enjoy its reputation of, what the Wall Street Journal termed, a “global litigation powerhouse.” Because of this, it is known as the most feared law firm. Uniquely, it is also a law firm where the founder remains an active practitioner. Having consistently been selected as Band 1 by Chambers USA, John B. Quinn continues to work actively as a litigator.
Close relationship with Korean companies
Brought triumphs for Samsung Electronics and Mirae Asset
Continues to support artists
It has deep ties with Korean companies. Quinn Emanuel represented Samsung in a patent dispute between Samsung Electronics and Apple, which began in 2011. It also represented Mire Asset in its victory in an international dispute between Mirae Asset and a Chinese company, Anbang Insurance.
Quinn Emanuel continues to be engaged in social activity, such as supporting artists. Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, the ‘Artists-in-Residence Program’ has been in place to provide artists with empty space in the firm’s office.
John B. Quinn has his own YouTube channel as well as a podcast. It features interviews with famous individuals, and prominent legal professionals. As the number of meetings with his colleagues decreased due to the Covid-19 pandemic, [he] started using the platforms to [facilitate communication among industry professionals]. He also has a website.
Interview with John Quinn, founder of global law firm ‘Quinn Emanuel’
“The only secret to growth is securing the talent… always looking for new opportunities”
“Powerhouse for international litigation.” “Big Law Titan.” “The firm that litigators do not want to see on the other side.”
These are the descriptors of the global law firm “Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP.”
Founded in 1986, Quinn Emanuel has now grown into a global firm with 30 offices and more than 900 lawyers worldwide. John B. Quinn (in the picture), lawyer who founded the law firm with three colleagues, is the one who has led the growth so far. He has been considered the best litigation lawyer by the media, and uniquely, he remains an active litigator among global firm founders.
The Law Times met with John B. Quinn at the Josun Palace Seoul Gangnam hotel in Yeoksam-dong on September 2, 2022. I learned about the present and future of the legal profession around the world from him, who humbly smiled but never lost his sharpness from beginning to end.
Observing talent and abilities
from law school students to opposing counsels
Firstly, when asked about the secret to growing [Quinn Emmanuel] into a global law firm, he reiterated the importance of retaining outstanding talent.
He said, “The only asset a law firm has is the talent of its lawyers,” and as such, “We never compromise on the abilities and skillsets of lawyers.” He said, “From law school students to our opponent’s lawyers, we always look carefully for talented people with good qualities.”
He also said, “We always look for new opportunities (for growth)” and “the reason we opened an office in Doha, Qatar is because we saw new opportunities there, and it has been very successful.” He added, “We believe in potential and try to be bold when it comes to taking on challenges.”
Quinn Emanuel has built a reputation by focusing on litigation since it was founded by four litigation lawyers. I asked [him] if he plans to maintain the current strategy.
He said, “We have carried out numerous litigation cases over a long period of time, shared the work process, and accumulated our own know-how to this day.” He added, “There is only one message that Quinn Emanuel sends across to the legal market. That is, we are best at litigation.” He proudly said, “We will not change our stance in the future.”
Emerging areas of law:
Data Privacy, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Fair Trade
I asked him about the emerging areas of law. Quinn picked data privacy, artificial intelligence (AI), and fair trade.
“The ‘personal information’ field will become particularly important,” he said. “Americans are sensitive to personal information issues these days. The [U.S.] will soon overhaul related regulations based on the EU’s personal information protection regulations (GDPR),” Quinn said. “Many companies that collect personal data are going to face incidents and accidents relating to privacy,” he added. “Many companies are already hiring in-house counsel focusing on personal information issues,” he said.
Quinn also picked artificial intelligence as a promising field, saying, “AI is being deployed in all directions of various industries, such as manufacturing, distribution, and service.” “New regulations will emerge and create tremendous legal demand,” he predicted.
He added, “Fair trade should also be noted. Government plans and measures (regarding fair trade issues) are increasingly being implemented in areas such as advanced technologies and ESG. A number of measures on climate change have already been implemented under the Biden administration.”
work from anywhere policy
Since 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a severe impact around the world. I asked what kind of impact it had on the perspective of running a global law firm.
Quinn responded, “The concept of the office has changed as remote work increased. Both lawyers and clients prefer working remotely and efficiently.” “From this year, our firm has implemented a policy that allows lawyers to work wherever they want without coming to the office,” he said. “When we required lawyers wishing to have his/her own office to come to work at least three times a week, in the case of the LA office, more than half of the partners gave up their offices,” he added. “[Also], as the number of remote work has increased due to COVID-19, we are able to hire talented lawyers from locations where we do not have offices,” he said.
“Meanwhile, junior lawyers have fewer opportunities to learn from seniors at work,” he said. “After considering ways to fill in this educational experience gap and [cultivate talent], we opened the Quinn Emanuel Academy. Over 70 programs and mentoring are currently underway,” he said.
The growing role of lawyers
in times change and turmoil
While the pandemic has entered a lull, the world now faces other risks, including rising interest rate and the war in Ukraine. I asked Quinn about the relevant prospect for the legal industry.
Quinn said, “Every time there was a cyclical economic downturn, there were also countless bankruptcies and restructurings. There are also risks (from a lawyer’s perspective) related to some countries pursuing de-globalization lately.” “However, whenever there is change and uncertainty, the role of a legal professional in resolving them peacefully becomes more important,” he said. “Quinn Emanuel is representing Ukraine in a cross-border lawsuit filed by Ukraine against Russia’s aggression to the European Court of Human Rights,” he said. “In times of change, the work and role of lawyers will expand,” he added.
“Korean Companies need
an aggressive litigation strategy”
Recently, as Korean companies have grown in size, international disputes over copyrights and other areas have also increased. When asked to give advice for the Korean companies, he responded, “Korea is a small country but has the tenth largest economy in the world, and Korean companies are making a new leap forward by adapting quickly to overseas markets.” He advised, “It is better to maintain partnerships with lawyers who have profound understanding of various cultures and get assistance in a timely manner.”
“Korea’s conglomerates have so far been in a defensive position in intellectual property litigation, but it is also necessary to consider taking aggressive litigation strategies for greater growth,” he stressed. He said, “That is the litigation strategy being taken by leading global companies. They recognize and utilize litigation as a business tool.” In short, his message is that litigation can work as a business strategy for greater growth.
On the question of plans to open a Korea office, Quinn explained, “We advise Korean companies in overseas disputes. Hence, we are able to do this without having lawyers on the ground in Korea.” He explained, “As we are continuously looking for new opportunities, Korea office is something we would consider, but the nature of the work we do will not change much.”
Lastly, I asked him about his future plans as a founder. He said he was pleased with Quinn Emanuel’s current reputation as a top law firm. “Recently, in a survey, Quinn Emmanuel was named ‘the most feared law firm’ – a firm you do not want to see on the other side (laughs),” he said. “Clients want an aggressive firm that can achieve an early resolution of the case,” he said. “We are proud to have such ability and wish to maintain that reputation,” he explained.