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Big Law Braces for Oil Fallout With Houston Hometown Edge Faded

April 21, 2020, 12:35 PM

Law firms in Houston are anticipating a surge in bankruptcy filings for oil and gas producers, and who wins that work could impact which firms have a competitive advantage when the industry’s financial lifeline, M&A deals, turns back on.

Shuffled Competition: Houston has become a hub for the biggest of Big Law firms. Ten of the country’s 15 largest firms have opened an office in the city since 2005. Firms that have made the biggest gains in deal work involving Texas energy companies include Kirkland & Ellis, Latham & Watkins, Sidley Austin, and Gibson Dunn. Some of those national firms also have prominent bankruptcy practices.

Change Ahead: “If there has to be consolidation among our clients, because there are too many of them or there is too much production, does that mean that there also has to be consolidation among the law firms servicing those clients?” said Cliff Vrielink, co-managing partner of Sidley Austin’s Houston office. “And probably the answer is, yeah, there are too many lawyers doing that kind of work.”

Roy Strom and Meghan Tribe have the story.


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DAILY BRIEF


Law Firms

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A UCLA linguistics professor is suing Big Law’s Seyfarth Shaw and one of its former partners over their investigation of her discrimination and harassment complaints against her former employer, California State University at Fullerton.

In-House

Guardian Life Elevates In-House Veteran After Legal Chief Exits
The Guardian Life Insurance Co. of America has installed a longtime in-house lawyer to its top legal role following last month’s departure of its former general counsel.

Business of Law

Lawyers Get Pay Cuts, Furloughs as Firms Grapple With Downturn
The legal world is being ravaged by the economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic, as lawyers are furloughed, forced to take pay cuts or unable to find work.

Ethics

Nebraska Lawyer Who Helped Girlfriend With Case Gets Reprimand
A Nebraska county attorney who prepared legal documents for his girlfriend relating to her firing from a job at the county sheriff’s office without initially indicating his involvement in the case was publicly reprimanded by the state’s highest court.

New York Lawyer Suspended for a Year Over Emails
A New York lawyer who communicated on numerous instances with a person he knew to be represented about the subject of the representation, and whose emails were said to be disparaging was suspended for a year.

Judiciary

Justices Say U.S., States Can’t Argue in Ford Jurisdiction Cases
The U.S. Supreme Court told Solicitor General Noel Francisco and a coalition of states Monday that they won’t get argument time in a pair of Ford jurisdiction cases that have the potential to significantly limit where companies can be sued in product liability cases.

WAKE-UP CALL

Cash Crunch at U.S. Firms Drives ‘Aggressive’ Virus Cuts
In today’s column, a task force of Big Law firms advised the U.K. government on a lending fund to help innovative small companies survive the economic crisis wrought by the Covid-19 pandemic; the U.S. bankruptcy system risks an overload as a flood of companies seeks protection during the crisis; law firms looking to boost their operating cash are asking banks for more credit; and the average score on the multistate bar exam fell to an all-time low in February.

CORONAVIRUS UPDATES

  • More than 776,581 people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with Covid-19 and 41,347 people have lost their lives. Global confirmed cases of Covid-19 surpass 2,450,000 worldwide, with deaths topping 168,000.

  • The Eastern District of Arkansas reported that a third of the 93 hearings it conducted over the past month have been conducted via video conference, as more courts make teleconferencing available across the country.

  • Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Noach Dear died of coronavirus over the weekend, according to multiple reports. Before becoming a judge he was a city council member.

  • In a video address Monday, New York State Chief Judge Janet DiFiore said while the “last weeks have bene painful for all of us,” its virtual court plan is going smoothly. Last week the state heard 8,000 cases, disposed of over 2,600, and issued 1,400 written decisions on undecided matters.


Follow the latest changes in court operations using our interactive map.

Follow Bloomberg Law reporters on Twitter as they track updates from courts across the country with the hashtag #COVID19Courts.

PRACTITIONER INSIGHTS

INSIGHT: Best Practices for Conducting Remote Arbitration Hearings
Two King & Spalding attorneys were one week into a two-week arbitration hearing when New York City shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic. They learned valuable lessons from continuing the hearing via video and share their experience and some tips.

INSIGHT: Climate Change Could Bring Lawsuit Whirlwind to Mortgage Industry
With Earth Day on April 22, Hogan Lovells’ Alison Schoenthal explores how climate change and recent hurricanes have impacted the mortgage industry and outlines ways financial institutions can prepare for climate-controlled risks.

INSIGHT: Did You Offer a Sweepstakes Prize? Time to Review the Official Rules
Covid-19 is having a significant impact on sweepstakes and contests, as sponsors face the challenge of providing winners with the advertised prizes, especially trips or event tickets. Manatt partner Jesse Brody says it’s important for contests’ official rules to include language on substitute prizes and explores when changes to the rules may be needed.

INSIGHT: Covid-19 Spotlights M&A International Security Concerns
In recently released guidance, U.S. and European Union regulators emphasized their concern that the Covid-19 pandemic and associated economic downturn is providing an opportunity for certain investors to strategically invest in sensitive companies to the detriment of national security. Kirkland & Ellis attorneys outline four key points about what CFIUS and the EU will be watching.

WORKFLOWS

Morrison & Foerster hired Mitchell Presser as a partner in its Mergers + Acquisitions and Private Equity Investments + Buyouts practices in New York, and will serve as co-chair of the firm’s Global Corporate Department with current co-chairs Eric McCrath and Jackie Liu | Alston & Bird added Doug Taber as senior counsel to its corporate debt advisory and restructuring capabilities in New York from Hogan Lovells | Orrick announced that French M&A and private equity advisor Olivier Jouffroy has joined the Paris office as a partner from Clifford Chance | Sidley Austin grabbed Joshua Thompson from Shearman & Sterling; he joins as a partner in its global finance group in New York | Paul Hastings got back restructuring and insolvency lawyer James Grogan in Houston from Blank Rome | Latham & Watkins hired Erin Murphy as a partner in the Tax Department and member of the Benefits, Compensation & Employment Practice in
the Bay Area from Simpson Thacher.

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To contact the reporter on this story: Bruce Kaufman in Washington at bkaufman@bloomberglaw.com

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