Reid Whitten (JD ’07) named managing partner at the Sheppard Mullin London office

Photo of London landscape with Big Ben

Former Fletcher Scholar, Reid Whitten (JD ’07), has been named managing partner of the London office of Sheppard Mullin. Following is a brief interview about his journey and transition to London.

Describe your journey to becoming the managing partner at Sheppard Mullin’s London office.

Before I went to law school, I was living in the South of France where I worked as a teacher and bartender. I enjoyed my time overseas so much that I knew prior to law school that I wanted to do something internationally. Photo of Reid Whitten

After graduating from law school, I clerked for a year in the Western District of Virginia. I was lucky enough to have the chance to interview at the big firms up and down the East Coast. I settled on a firm in Washington, D.C., for a reason, that I now realize, was the best reason to join a firm: I met a partner that I liked and admired.

Since 2008, I have practiced in international trade controls with my partner and longtime mentor, Scott Maberry. When Scott moved to the D.C. office of Sheppard Mullin in 2011, I moved with our practice group with the ambition to return to Europe. In 2013, I put together a business plan and presented it to the firm’s executive committee. It seemed like a wild idea, but the plan dovetailed with Sheppard Mullin’s interest in expanding its global reach. A year later, the firm sent me to Brussels as the only Sheppard Mullin associate in all of Europe where I initially worked out of my apartment, coffee shops and a borrowed office at a friendly firm in the city. By 2016, I was made full partner and we had established our own Sheppard Mullin Brussels office with a team of twelve attorneys.

Now, as managing partner for Sheppard Mullin’s London office, I will be charged with developing the firm’s international services, client base and reputation.

What are your main practices and how have they changed in a digital marketplace?

Two of the regulatory areas I focus on are sanctions and export controls. As money and information move almost instantly across borders, compliance with those regulations becomes more complex.

As one example, if you are a startup payment application platform with headquarters in Silicon Valley, you are subject to U.S. sanctions and cannot do business with certain countries, governments and individuals. The application, however, can be accessed by anyone to send money anywhere – how do you ensure that the prohibited persons do not use your application for prohibited transactions? What if your users and payment recipients are anonymous? What if all of their messages and information are encrypted, even from the application developer?

This is one of the many challenges that are leaving regulators scrambling to keep up and are keeping me and those in my field constantly on our toes.

How have business practices and law changed in the face of more populist policies across borders?

Since Brexit and the commencement of the Trump administration, many of my clients have wondered what is next. Trade agreements, sanctions, antidumping and countervailing duties (AD/CVD) and foreign investment regulations (CFIUS) have changed or are likely to change as politics shift in the U.K. and the U.S.

For my job, I do my best to remain policy agnostic. I do not advocate for one policy over another. I simply try to help my clients anticipate, prepare for and respond to the shifts in global economic conditions.

What is the most interesting business practice that you conduct?

Sanctions. No question.

International sanctions are a political tool by which countries make manifest their foreign policy. As sanctions shift, increase or roll back, business risks and opportunities move with them. If I advise my clients well, they can be best positioned to take advantage of a new market and/or protect themselves against a hidden risk of sanctions violations.

How can current law students make connections with global law firms?

Go meet them. Go to bar association or trade group events where lawyers are speaking and meet them after they speak. Go to meet’n’greets. Go to courts. Yes, it is stilted and awkward and you’ll have to stand around a lot feeling uncomfortable, but it is worth it.

When you talk to practicing attorneys, don’t talk about yourself. If there is one thing people like, it is talking about themselves. If you ask a few good questions and get a person to talk about him or herself for ten minutes, then just ask if you can give them a follow-up email or call and exchange contacts. After that, in your next call, you can tell them how you are on the Law Review or how you succeeded in moot court competitions, but start by asking questions.