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Move watch: Spotlight on Scott Wilson, DLA Piper

Scott Wilson joined DLA Piper’s litigation practice as a partner in the New York office in December 2019. In the following interview, Helen Donegan, US editor (content), speaks with Scott about this move and his reasons for joining DLA Piper, and he shares some insights into his practice 

Can you tell me about your background and experience prior to joining DLA Piper?

I was a partner at a prominent US litigation firm, Boies Schiller, for six years before I joined DLA Piper. Prior to that, I served as senior advisor and special counsel to the New York Attorney General, which was a formative experience. It gave me insight into how law enforcement agencies make decisions at the highest levels and collaborate with one another in both civil and criminal cases. It also gave me trial experience and time on my feet in court. Since then, my practice has focused on representing companies in state and federal government investigations and complex commercial litigation.

What was important to you when moving firm and what factored into your decision to join DLA Piper?

My practice has become increasingly cross-border, with respect to government and internal investigations and commercial disputes. With offices in more than 40 countries, the global platform that DLA Piper offers felt like an ideal fit. And our white-collar group has incredible coverage across the US, with experienced former prosecutors out of top US Attorney’s Offices like Jessica Masella in New York and Jon King in Chicago. 

In addition, having handled high-profile investigations in the world of sports for the past six years, I was also attracted to DLA Piper’s marquee Media, Sport and Entertainment practice and the opportunity to collaborate with experts like Ed Hanover, who recently served as FIFA’s first Chief Compliance Officer.   

How are you settling in? And what, if anything, has surprised you the most since joining the firm?

The incredible depth and variety of my partners’ knowledge and experience never cease to amaze me. I’ve barely begun to plumb the depths. If a client has a problem anywhere in the world, help is usually just a quick email or phone call away. We draw on each other’s experiences in a way that allows us to add value and cover areas no other firm has as a core focus.

What was not exactly a surprise but rather further confirmation that I joined the ‘right’ firm is the fact that, shortly after I arrived, our US chair-elect, Frank Ryan, and global co-chair for the Media, Sport and Entertainment sector, Peter White, enlisted me to help stand up a dedicated disputes team for the sector. Firm leadership saw an opportunity to bring together a small group to capitalise on our overlapping and deep experience for the benefit of our clients.

From those you can disclose, what do you think is the most interesting (or challenging) case or client matter that you have worked on?

Most of my government-facing practice flies under the radar. To give an example: I once was brought in to represent a technology company in a data privacy investigation that had been pending for a year and had escalated to the point that the government was demanding an onerous settlement. That far into an investigation, it can be tough to move the government off its view on liability. Usually, you’re just negotiating for leniency in the outcome. But after delving into the case I saw there was an argument that the statute allegedly violated did not apply to the client’s business in the first place. After we submitted a white paper laying out the argument, the client never heard from the government again. 

As a young partner, you have been very successful to date in your ability to earn the confidence of high-profile clients. What do you attribute that to? And, in general, how much do you think it comes down to personal efforts versus the firm you work at? 

I’m grateful for the trust that a handful of CEOs and general counsels placed in me when I was fresh out of government. But the adage that companies hire lawyers, not law firms, is only partly true. Clients want to hire the right team, and I’ve been lucky to have great teammates. Coming to DLA Piper has connected me to an incredibly broad and diverse bench of subject-matter experts from which to assemble the right teams quickly and effectively for our clients.

How important is work-life balance to you and how do you maintain it?

For me, work-life balance means being opportunistic about downtime, especially when I have to travel for work – which is all the time. I look up opening hours for the local art museum when I land in a new city. But I love what I do and staying on top of new developments in my spare time doesn’t feel much like work. Believe it or not, I enjoy spending my morning commute on my phone catching up on the overnight industry press and asking myself, ‘Who needs to know about this or that?’ Making those connections often leads to new opportunities.

Do you have any specific plans for your practice? 

I studied law in Paris after my JD and have a special affinity for matters that cross civil and common law jurisdictions. One of the strengths of DLA Piper that clients find compelling is our ability to handle truly global investigations and disputes seamlessly. In that regard, I am particularly excited to collaborate with my investigations and compliance partners around the world, like Fabien Ganivet in France and Ricardo Caiado Lima (a partner at Campos Mello Advogados in cooperation with DLA Piper) in Brazil. I don’t know of any other firm that offers this kind of global teamwork.

Closer to home, DLA Piper attorneys have wide-ranging experience representing clients in significant matters before State Attorneys General, who increasingly are among the more aggressive government regulators in the US. Our team includes Jeff Tsai, who was a top deputy to the California Attorney General, and Matt Denn, the former Attorney General of Delaware. With my experience working in a senior position at the New York Attorney General’s Office and representing clients in state AG matters, I’m looking forward to contributing to and further developing the firm’s practice in this area.

What are the top three things clients expect from you, and how do you deliver on them?

Speed, accuracy, and good judgment. You have to keep pace with the client’s business or a regulator’s demands, without sacrificing care and quality in the advice you’re giving. In my experience, that takes organisation and painstaking preparation. It also requires a good feel for how the steps you’re advising a business to take will play out in the real world. 

Are there are trends you have noticed within your areas of practice, or any insights you can share?

A one-dimensional approach often is inconsistent with guarding the client’s interests. As the old saying goes, if you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail. For example, some lawyers might look at document production to the government solely through the lens of cooperation credit, without stopping to consider the ramifications for civil discovery in potential follow-on litigation. Matters are getting more and more complex, and I’m happy to be at a firm with the resources to tackle multi-faceted problems from all angles and, in the process, provide first-rate client service.

Our interview of Mr. Wilson was conducted in early March 2020 and publication was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.