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Richard C. Godfrey joins Quinn Emanuel

Firm News


Expert in handling complex multidistrict cases like GM Ignition Switch litigation, Godfrey joins Quinn Emanuel’s Chicago office from Kirkland & Ellis.

CHICAGO – Adding to its formidable capabilities in complex multidistrict litigation, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP announced today that Richard C. Godfrey is joining the firm as a partner, resident in the firm’s Chicago office. Godfrey joins from Kirkland & Ellis, where he served for 16 years on the Global Management Executive Committee. At Quinn Emanuel, Godfrey will become Chair of the Complex Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) practice group, the firm said.

As a partner at Kirkland, Godfrey served as lead counsel in some of the most challenging, high-profile cases that corporations have faced in recent years, earning a reputation as a broad-thinking strategist. In the General Motors Ignition Switch MDL, for example, he served as lead outside counsel for the automaker from its start in 2014 through the ending of the MDL in 2022, handling thousands of individual claims and more than 100 consolidated class-actions. In the Deepwater Horizon litigation, described by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals as “epic” and of “gargantuan size and extraordinary complexity,” Godfrey represented BP from April 2010, as the oil rig was sinking, through 2015. The scope of his work included representing the company in the federal government’s administrative investigation and trial into the causes of the casualty from May 2010 to April 2011, in the MDL, on appeal, and in negotiating class action and other settlements.  

“Rick is an exceptional trial lawyer and a trusted counselor to whom clients turn for their most challenging disputes. He is a giant in the litigation world who has represented corporations at trial and on the appeal in the toughest of cases. We are very pleased to have him join us,” said John B. Quinn, the firm’s Founder and Chairman. “Our firm specializes in high stakes matters, and that is precisely what Rick is known for. He will be a great fit and a tremendous asset.”

Godfrey advises senior management and corporate boards regarding litigation strategy, including crisis and risk management. His “undeniably wide-ranging practice” (Chambers) includes defending against class actions, mass torts, personal injury claims, as well as lawsuits involving antitrust and trade regulation, contracts and commercial disputes, consumer fraud, false advertising, employment discrimination, ERISA, environmental matters, franchise and distribution, insurance, products liability, trade secrets, tax cases and other matters.

As Chambers noted in 2020 and 2021, Godfrey is “highly strategic and has vast experience,” and is “second to none on high-level strategy.” In this regard, James Neath, BP’s retired head of global litigation, lauded Godfrey’s handling of the Deepwater Horizon litigation, saying, “What sets him apart is his strategic thinking. There is no one better at getting from point A to point Z than Rick. He is easy to deal with, he’s a clear thinker, and he pays attention to every detail.”  

“Rick has a stellar reputation and is known not just nationally but globally as a pre-eminent trial lawyer and litigation strategist. We are extremely fortunate to have him join us,” said Jonathan C. Bunge, Co-Chair of the firm’s National Trial Practice and Managing Partner of the Chicago office.

A magna cum laude graduate of Boston University’s School of law, Godfrey joined Kirkland & Ellis in 1979. Rising to partner and serving on Kirkland’s Global Management Executive Committee, he has also found time to serve as a Trustee of Boston University, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Augustana College, The Newberry Library, the National Center for State Courts, and the American Air Museum in Britain. He has also been a member of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago and is Chancellor for the Northern Illinois Conference of the United Methodist Church.

“I am very excited about joining Quinn Emanuel. Their role and reputation as the go-to firm for high stakes litigation is known and acknowledged the world over and will be the perfect platform for my practice. I am honored to be join this team,” Godfrey said.

Download the press release here.