November 21, 2023
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Hopkins, Smith leave Sheppard Mullin for Cooley


Thomas Hopkins and Ian Smith, two of the top deal-making attorneys in the Tri-Counties, have left Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton for technology powerhouse Cooley.

Hopkins and Smith both joined Sheppard Mullin in 2001 when it acquired Santa Barbara firm Nida & Maloney. They accumulated a roster of billions of dollars of deals with local clients such as Fastclick, CKE Restaurants and Sientra, as well as national names such as Boeing. Hopkins co-chaired the 600-attorney firm’s corporate practice group.

The pair has jumped to Cooley, a firm with 700 attorneys and a deep specialty in growth capital companies. Cooley handled the initial public offerings of Zynga and Yelp last year, among scores of other financing deals.

“I did not leave Sheppard because I wasn’t happy or wasn’t treated well. Cooley is just one of the leading firms in the country, particularly when it comes to tech work, which is something I love to do,” Hopkins told the Business times. “My historic work and client base just seemed to be a better fit.”

Cooley has strongholds in the Bay Area’s technology sector and the San Diego biotech sector. It has recently expanded its presence in Southern California. It recruited Randy Churchill, well known in the technology sector of the Tri-Counties for his role in tracking emerging growth companies with the accounting firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers. In July 2012, Cooley opened a Los Angeles office.

“I think it’s a great validation for what people have been seeing over the past couple of years – a lot of growth, and a lot of new companies sprouting up in Southern California,” Smith told the Business Times. “We’ve always had an entertainment base here, but we’ve also got a strong engineering base. Digital media is really stepping in to create a lot of jobs and build companies.”

Hopkins said he will be splitting time between Santa Monica and Santa Barbara. “Nothing much is going to change for me. They are going to maintain a physical presence in Santa Barbara. The team I had in Santa Barbara is all going to transition with me,” he said.

Jeff Dinkin, a partner in the Santa Barbara office of Sheppard Mullin, said his firm plans to keep its location in the city.

“We wish Tom and Ian good luck. The Santa Barbara office of Sheppard Mullin remains open for business,” he told the Business Times.

For Hopkins, the move is the first time he’s totally changed jobs since 1996, when he came to Nida & Maloney.

“It was a great run,” Hopkins said. “I left a lot of good friends behind.”