Steptoe Announces Promotions

January 2, 2013

(January 2, 2013, Washington, DC) — Steptoe announced today the promotion of eight lawyers.  Four lawyers have been elected to the partnership:  Ruth Kochenderfer, Michelle Levin, Dylan Ruga, and Brooke Quist.  The firm also named four lawyers as of counsel:  Erica Gerson, Hunter Hodges, Rachel Hofstatter, and Colleen O’Brien.

“These talented new partners and counsel represent a cross-section of the firm’s practice areas and offices, particularly in our Litigation, Intellectual Property and Regulated Industries Departments,” said Roger E. Warin, chair of Steptoe.  “They have made substantial contributions to the firm in their time at Steptoe, and are important to our future.”

Steptoe’s newest partners and counsel and their backgrounds are as follows:

New Partners

Ruth Kochenderfer (Washington) is a member of Steptoe’s Litigation Department and focuses her practice on complex litigation, with extensive experience representing insurance carriers.  She handles matters involving general and professional liability coverage issues, including construction defects, products liability, environmental liability, class actions, asbestos, and other toxic torts.  She has served as a vice co-chair of the American Bar Association’s Insurance Coverage Litigation committee and served a clerkship with the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.  Ms. Kochenderfer earned a B.A. from the University of Houston, and a J.D. from the University of Texas.

Michelle Levin (New York) focuses her practice on white-collar criminal defense.  She is part of the Steptoe team that is defending a former hedge fund portfolio manager against insider trading charges.  She was also part of the Steptoe team that secured an acquittal for a former GlaxoSmithKline lawyer who had been charged with obstruction and making false statements in a FDA investigation into off-label promotion.  In addition, Ms. Levin was part of the Steptoe team that defended a former Duane Reade CEO against accounting fraud charges.  Ms. Levin is a cum laude graduate of Tufts University, and earned a J.D. from the University of Virginia, where she was an executive editor of the Journal of Law and Politics.

Dylan Ruga (Century City) is a member of Steptoe’s Litigation and Intellectual Property Departments.  He has defended several Fortune 500 companies in general commercial matters, and has litigated several intellectual property claims, including actions for copyright, trade secret, trademark, and trade infringement.  He currently is representing a photographer in a copyright infringement action against Skechers arising from Skechers’ alleged unauthorized use of several photographs in the company’s global advertising campaign.  Mr. Ruga earned a B.A. from Oberlin College and a J.D. from UCLA, where he was senior editor of The UCLA Law Review and was elected to Order of the Coif.  Following law school, Mr. Ruga clerked for US District Court Judge James V. Selna in the Central District of California.

Brooke Quist (Century City) is a member of Steptoe’s Intellectual Property Department, and concentrates his practice on domestic and foreign intellectual property, counseling his clients in various aspects of patent law, trademark law, copyright law, and related intellectual property matters.  He has substantial patent experience in computer systems (hardware, software, networks, operating systems, user interfaces, and data management systems); e-commerce; data security systems; telecommunications technology; satellite systems; film processing and post-processing technology; gaming technology; sporting equipment; medical devices; materials science; and business methods.  Prior to practicing law, Mr. Quist was an aerospace engineer, developing designs utilizing advanced materials, structures, and forming techniques for commercial and military applications.  Mr. Quist earned a B.S. from the University of Southern California, and a J.D. from the University of Texas.

New Of Counsel

Erica Gerson (Washington) is a member of Steptoe’s Litigation Department.  Ms. Gerson represents clients in court and before arbitration panels in disputes where there are often allegations of breach of contract, fraud, misrepresentation, unfair trade practices, professional liability and bad faith.  She handles matters in a broad array of industries, including insurance, energy, construction, law enforcement, and transportation.  Her practice also includes managing internal investigations regarding compliance with antitrust laws, and she has represented clients in connection to responding to civil investigation demands.  Ms. Gerson is a member of the advisory board of the Children’s Law Center in Washington.  She earned a B.A. from the University of Maryland, and her J.D., cum laude, from American University, where she was a note and comment editor of The Administrative Law Review.

Hunter Hodges (Washington) is a member of Steptoe’s Regulatory and Industry Affairs Department, and focuses his practice on electric utility law and energy transactions.  He represents electric utilities before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), federal district courts and courts of appeals in cases involving wholesale market rules and market design issues, the scope of FERC’s jurisdiction, mergers and acquisitions, market-based rates, contract disputes, and the commission’s refund authority.  Mr. Hodges graduated cum laude from Georgetown University, and earned a J.D. from New York University.

Rachel Hofstatter (Washington) is a member of Steptoe’s Litigation and Intellectual Property Departments.  She focuses primarily on the acquisition, protection, and enforcement of intellectual property rights, and has represented clients from various industries in intellectual property litigation in federal courts, at the US Patent and Trademark Office, and at the National Arbitration Forum.  She is also a member of the Alternative Dispute Resolution committee of the International Trademark Association.  Ms. Hofstatter received a B.A. from Pennsylvania State University with honors and highest distinction, and was also elected Phi Beta Kappa.  She received her J.D. with highest honors from The George Washington University, where she was a merit scholar, the senior notes editor for The George Washington University Law Review, and was elected to Order of the Coif.

Colleen O’Brien (Los Angeles) is a member of Steptoe’s Litigation Department, and focuses her practice on toxic torts and employment matters.  She has served as lead counsel in bench and jury trials in state and federal courts.  Since joining Steptoe, she has taken on high-profile roles in many complex litigation matters involving long-term occupational injury, infectious disease, property damage, and groundwater contamination.  In May 2012, she was featured in California Lawyer magazine, which highlighted a pro bono case in which she secured indefinite asylum for an LGBT individual from India.  Prior to joining Steptoe, Ms. O’Brien was an officer in the US Coast Guard, serving as an attorney in various capacities.  She earned a B.A., magna cum laude, and a J.D. from the University of Pittsburgh, where she was on the National Moot Court Team and was elected to Order of the Barristers.

About Steptoe

Steptoe & Johnson LLP is an international law firm widely recognized for vigorous advocacy in complex litigation and arbitration, successful representation of clients before governmental agencies, and creative and practical advice in guiding business transactions.  The firm has more than 500 lawyers and other professionals in offices in Beijing, Brussels, Century City, Chicago, London, Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix and Washington.  For more information, visit