Microsoft's general counsel and executive vice president William Neukom is to return to his former firm
He will join the Seattle office of Preston Gates & Ellis - the firm which bears the name of Microsoft founder Bill Gates' father - as a partner. Neukom, who led Microsoft's defence against federal charges of anti-competitive conduct, announced that he would leave the company last November. He will be succeeded by Brad Smith, formerly deputy general counsel for worldwide sales, when he leaves Microsoft at the end of the month. Gerry Johnson, managing partner of Preston Gates, said: "Bill Neukom is one of the country's finest corporate general counsels and businessmen. His breadth of experience and legal acumen will be of great benefit to our clients." Neukom first worked with Microsoft in 1979 when he was a partner with Shidler McBroom Gates & Lucas. In 1990, the firm merged to become Preston Gates & Ellis. He was introduced to the software company by William Gates, who headed the firm at that time. Neukom moved in-house in 1985 as general counsel and set up a legal department that he has subsequently grown to 600 employees from an initial team of just five. During his 22-year relationship at Microsoft, he has masterminded a series of aggressive litigation strategies. In addition to leading the charge against allegations that Microsoft was abusing its dominant position, he led the company's successful seven-year battle with Apple Computer over intellectual property rights. Neukom said: "Preston Gates attorneys handle leading-edge legal assignments for their clients on a daily basis and are well known for the quality of service they provide."