Former U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon to join Atlanta law firm King & Spalding – Law News

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10 July 2017 | 10:34 pm

Former U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon is opening a new office here for King & Spalding, an elite Atlanta-based law firm that has not had a presence in Chicago, sources say.

When Fardon resigned as the city’s top federal prosecutor in March, he did not telegraph his next move. But before his stint as U.S. attorney, he chaired the litigation department in the Chicago office of Latham & Watkins, the country’s largest law firm, between 2009 and 2013. Many in the city’s legal circles assumed he would return to the firm.



Instead, Fardon will plant the flag for King & Spalding, according to sources familiar with the situation. Fardon started his career at King after graduating from Vanderbilt Law School in 1992.

“He knows the firm and is comfortable with the brand that they represent, and think he would fit well with them,” one of the sources said.

With $1.06 billion in revenue in 2016, King & Spalding ranked as the 27th largest firm in the United States, according to the trade journal American Lawyer. Profits per partner equaled just under $2.5 million. The firm’s approximately 1,000 lawyers are spread among 19 offices worldwide, including in Tokyo and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, but has been no Chicago office.

Partner compensation at Latham averages $2.5 million, compared to $1.5 million at King & Spalding.

Latham’s 2016 revenue was $2.82 billion.

Law firms often compete to hire former federal prosecutors, particularly ones who held the top job. What they lack in ready business, they make up for in rich professional networks and trial experience that eclipses that of their private practice peers. Patrick Fitzgerald, who preceded Fardon as U.S. attorney, settled at Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom.

Chicago has seen a number of out-of-town law firms hang out their shingle in recent years, hoping to capture an outsize share of the third-largest market in the United States. But growing an office profitably can prove challenging. Firms established in Chicago, like Kirkland & Ellis, Sidley Austin and Mayer Brown, still maintain the largest offices here by headcount. Firms from elsewhere that have passed the 100-lawyer mark usually (but not always) opened here decades ago. Success requires an entrepreneurial bent and time to develop a brand in a new location.

Fardon worked as an associate at King & Spalding for four years in white-collar criminal defense and corporate investigations. He left to join the public defender’s office in Nashville, Tenn., then became an assistant U.S. attorney in Chicago, then returned to Nashville as a prosecutor. The Nashville office was headed at the time by Jim Vines, who has since returned to King & Spalding.

Fardon played a key role in prosecuting former Gov. George Ryan. At Latham, his practice focused on white-collar defense, internal and government investigations and complex commercial litigation. As U.S. attorney in Chicago, he prosecuted gang crime, brought charges against former U.S. Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert and indicted Ald. Ed “Fast Eddie” Vrdolyak. When he resigned, he left an open letter decrying Chicago’s gun violence and suggesting solutions, including pursuing a consent decree to improve policing and creating neighborhood centers in poor areas to steer teenagers away from gangs.

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