Adtalem’s Former Legal Chief Chaka Patterson Joins Alston & Bird

Adtalem Global Education Inc.’s former general counsel Chaka Patterson has landed a new role as a partner with Alston & Bird.

Patterson, who officially started Tuesday, joins the firm’s litigation practice group in its San Francisco office, which opened in 2017. He’ll focus on litigation, investigations, and corporate governance, according to a statement provided to Bloomberg Law.

“Chaka brings significant heft to our commercial litigation capabilities, both complementing our existing practices and strengthening our presence locally and nationally,” Teresa Bonder, who leads Alston & Bird’s San Francisco office, said in the statement. “He is an outstanding addition to our accomplished and growing team of litigators.”

Alston & Bird is among the 100 largest firms in the country, reporting nearly $852 million in gross revenue to The American Lawyer last year and around $2.4 million in profits per partner. Patterson was last in Big Law as a partner at Jones Day, which he left in 2017.

“Adtalem does a lot of work with Alston & Bird, particularly the trial practice group,” Patterson said. “From having worked with them as a client, I knew it would be a good fit.”

Patterson resigned from Chicago-based Adtalem on April 30 after more than a year in the role and shortly after the Justice Department dropped a False Claims Act investigation into online educator Walden University. Adtalem agreed to acquire Walden last fall for $1.48 billion, a deal that’s expected to close this year despite concerns from some Adtalem investors.

Adtalem announced June 14 that it hired former Hub Group Inc. general counsel and Seyfarth Shaw associate Douglas Beck as Patterson’s successor. The company said in public filing the same day that Patterson had resigned to pursue another opportunity and that there were no disputes or conflicts with the board or management.

Patterson said his departure from Adtalem was unrelated to the investigation against Walden University, and that he missed working for a law firm.

“I really like the entrepreneurial aspects of being a partner at a world class law firm,” Patterson said, “and the opportunity to build a book of business, to build a practice, and to mentor young lawyers.”

When Adtalem’s Walden acquisition was announced last fall, Patterson drew praise for the diverse lawyer team that he chose to lead the deal. The team was uniquely comprised of five Black, female lawyers, including Patterson’s associate general counsel.

Patterson told Bloomberg Law at the time that he hoped the team’s composition would inspire other general counsel to put diverse lawyers on their own deals.

“In my experience, it is the clients who drive diversity in the legal profession. It’s important for the general counsel to set the tone for other people in the legal department who may have hiring authority, and to help set the tone and drive diversity among his or her outside counsel,” Patterson said then.

Patterson said he plans to work with Alston & Bird’s Atlanta-based diversity and inclusion partner Angela Payne James on the firm’s diversity efforts, including retaining and promoting young, diverse lawyers.

Prior to Patterson’s time with Adtalem, he worked for the State Attorney of Cook County, Ill., for just under a year as the chief of the Civil Actions Bureau. He resigned in December 2017 following an internal review that found he had referred business to his former employer, Jones Day, at higher-than-standard hourly rates for the county. Patterson declined to comment on his resignation.

Patterson has also worked for Skadden, Exelon, the Office of the Illinois Attorney General, and Jenner & Block, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Janelle B. Smith

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