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A founder of Blank Rome’s blockchain technology and digital currencies practice has joined Crowell & Moring in New York, as Crowell seeks to grow its office there and to boost its tech-focused offerings.

Michelle Ann Gitlitz will lead Crowell & Moring’s global blockchain and digital assets practice, with firm leaders describing her as a key component of Crowell’s “digital transformation” practice—aimed at clients that are looking to get into artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles or, in Gitlitz’s case, blockchain.

“ The digital transformation is all about helping our clients move to adopting and integrating new types of technologies … and helping them implement those solutions in a legally compliant matter,” Gitlitz said in an interview. “Blockchains are one piece of that.”

A Crowell spokesperson said “many clients” are moving with Gitlitz to the firm, adding, “we’re excited about her impact on current clients.”

Michelle Ann Gitlitz of Crowell & MoringMichelle Ann Gitlitz of Crowell & Moring. (Courtesy photo)

Gitlitz is joining an office that Crowell wants to grow. The firm’s New York head count has fluctuated around 50 attorneys since 2012, but its numbers dropped to 43 attorneys in 2017, according to ALM data. That number has been bolstered by the hiring of three partners this year as well as last year’s addition of a nine-lawyer team specializing in health care.

There are now around 60 lawyers in the firm’s New York office, and Gitlitz won’t be the last hire, firm leaders said. Three partners were added earlier this year, as well as a nine-lawyer team that specializes in health care that joined in 2018.

“This firm is doubling down on the future and getting the brightest, most exciting entrepreneurial but at the same time expert practitioners in this area,” said Glen McGorty, managing partner of the firm’s New York office.

Gitlitz, who founded and co-led Blank Rome’s blockchain group, will advise her clients at Crowell on the legal and regulatory issues surrounding blockchains. The firm described Gitlitz as being a “widely respected as a leader in the area of distributed-ledger technology” in a press release.

“Michelle has a name in this space,” firm chair Philip Inglima said in an interview. “She has a real client following, and she has a real perspective and vision of what’s happening in that space that you only gain from spending several years in it.”

Legal recruiters told The American Lawyer earlier this year that both law firms and in-house legal departments are hungry for lawyers who specialize in emerging fields like data privacy, data security and blockchains.

A Blank Rome spokeswoman said the firm wishes Gitlitz well and noted that the firm’s blockchain and digital currencies team has more than 30 lawyers, led by founding partners Grant Buerstetta and Keith Letourneau.

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