Law360 2019 White Collar MVP: Kaplan Hecker's Sean Hecker

Published on:
December 13, 2019

Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP's Sean Hecker earned a rare acquittal of market manipulation allegations against a Barclays trader, and he's helped build a robust white collar practice at his emerging boutique firm, earning him a spot as one of Law360’s 2019 White Collar MVPs.

His biggest accomplishment this year:

Hecker’s high-profile accomplishment representing former Barclays trader Robert Bogucki in San Francisco federal court was a banner day for the firm, he said.

“Any time you get into a case that actually gets charged and tried, and particularly where you're feeling as though you're representing someone who is innocent and unjustly charged, the amount of pressure associated with a case like that is immense,” he said.

He vividly recalls how U.S. District Judge Charles R. Breyer took the team’s Rule 29 motion under advisement over the weekend “during which we were otherwise preparing to put on the defense case and be prepared to do closing arguments, if need be,” he said.

“When the judge began to read his decision, my first thought, once it was clear that he was granting the motion and dismissing the case, was to look to Rob, our client, who had been living through this nightmare for quite a long period of time,” he said.

“The relief on his face, and then seeing his wife’s face, out in the courtroom, was overwhelming,” Hecker recalled. “It was incredibly emotional, it was incredibly rewarding, and I definitely won't forget that feeling any time soon.”

His proudest moment this year:

The team effort on the Bogucki case made Hecker very proud.

“Anyone who tries cases knows that the dynamic on a trial team is critical, and everyone just worked their butts off without egos getting in the way of doing what was right for the client. So I was quite proud of the way that team came together,” he said.

The legal team included Kaplan Hecker associates Derek Wikstrom, Alex Conlon and Abra Metz-Dworkin played critical roles in the trial, as did Clarence Dyer & Cohen LLP attorneys Josh Cohen and Adam Shearer.

“We had a really cohesive team,” he said. “I'm quite proud that that team worked as well as it did.”

What motivates him:

“I take intense satisfaction in being there for clients in those difficult times,” he said. “In either trying to help make the problem go away, so that it doesn't result in charges, or in mitigating the bad outcomes as much as possible — I just find that incredibly rewarding.”

He noted that some of those client relationships have been deeply meaningful.

“You make lifelong friends when you do that effectively for people in their darkest times,” he said.

His advice to junior attorneys:

“Work across a range of different kinds of litigation matters for a broad range of more senior lawyers,” Hecker said.

“The reality for young lawyers is that it's often hard to get into court. It's hard to argue motions, it's hard to get witness work,” he said. “I usually advise folks that they're better off taking on a range of matters, including civil matters, where, often, they're more likely to get a chance to get into court.”

“The key, at a young stage of your career, is to really exercise all the different muscles that one needs to be a great trial lawyer," Hecker said. "You learn a lot working for lawyers with different styles, and, over time, develop a style that's uniquely your own.”

His other notable work this year:

Hecker is proud of the white collar practice he and his practice partner Jenna Dabbs have built over the past year.

“I’m really proud of how quickly we’ve built ourselves into a credible practice, both for individuals and companies, for defense work and investigations work,” he said.

The highly collaborative nature of the firm means that its new members are utility players.

“For our lawyers, we don’t clearly delineate their work according to practice group,” he explained. “We now have approximately 28 lawyers at the firm, and among the associates and counsel, almost all of them have worked on white collar matters during their time here.”

Hecker, who also chairs the City Bar Mass Incarceration Task Force, added that he's proud of that group's efforts to “take a bite out of the mass incarceration problem.”

“I suspect over the coming year, we're going to spend real time attempting to get legislation passed, for example, that would give categories of New York folks who are incarcerated a second chance at being sentenced to a more reasonable term of imprisonment," he said.

“Our firm was established with a commitment to doing public interest work as a component of all of our practices, and on the criminal justice side, that's one aspect of what we're doing that I think differentiates us from a lot of other firms,” he said.

Read this article on Law360.

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