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Wake Up Call: Akin Gump Rides Covid to Strong 2021 Results

Jan. 22, 2021, 1:46 PM

In today’s column, twelve Fortune 500 firms started 2021 with vacancies for top lawyers, boding for a competitive talent market; Michael Jordan’s NBA team, the Charlotte Hornets, hired a new top lawyer; Major League Soccer’s former longtime top lawyer joined Arent Fox; the Biden administration continued to reach into Big Law firms to fill key positions.

  • Leading off, Akin Gump’s practice mix helped it post revenue and profit gains last year, even as the pandemic slammed the general economy. According to preliminary data, the firm posted $1.208 billion in 2020 gross revenue, up 6.5% in its 11th straight yearly revenue increase. Profits per equity partner surged 16.3% to $3.023 million. (American Lawyer)
  • Big Law firms were able to hike rates about 5% last year, as clients needed essential advice on how to deal with the pandemic. But at the same time, firms and clients were trying to find common ground on pricing, and as a result, both sides can claim some success, this report says. (Law.com)
  • A dozen Fortune 500 companies entered 2021 with top lawyer vacancies, according to a new report on 2021 hiring trends for legal executives from executive search boutique Barker Gilmore. The report finds, among other things, that over half of the fourty-four Fortune 500 GCs or chief legal officers appointed last year were women and/or minorities, but that men dominated internal appointments. Thirteen of the women appointed top lawyers replaced men. (BarkerGilmore.com)
  • Almost all in-house lawyers are still working remotely because of the pandemic, and most of them would like to keep working remotely at least half the time post-Covid, according to a new survey of 50 in-house lawyers and legal ops leaders by contract-management tech provider Juro. (Juro.com)
  • With the pandemic still killing thousands of people daily in the U.S., law firm leaders during a recent virtual roundtable hosted by the New York State Bar Association talked about uncertainties clouding their return-to-office policies. (New York Law Journal)
  • Meanwhile, plans to bring back in-person jury trials around the country are getting blocked again. (Law.com)

Biden Administration

  • The Biden administration named Latham & Watkins partner Nicholas McQuaid, a former deputy counsel in the Obama White House, to be the acting leader of the Justice Department’s criminal division. (National Law Journal)
  • The administration also named Linklaters’ disputes partner Matthew Axelrod to an unspecified role in the DOJ. Axelrod, who worked in the Obama DOJ, left that job when Trump fired Acting Attorney General Sally Yates. (Law.com International via National Law Journal)
  • Morrison & Foerster said the administration named partner John Carlin as acting deputy attorney general and partner David Newman as associate deputy attorney general. Both held previous roles in the Obama administration. Carlin was chair of Mofo’s global risk & crisis management group. (MoFo.com)
  • Reed Smith said appellate litigation partner Todd Kim was named deputy general counsel at the Energy Department. (ReedSmith.com)
  • The administration has hired several law professors to posts and is expected to hire more. (Law.com)
  • President Biden fired the second-highest-ranking attorney at the National Labor Relations Board, ex-Prior Cashman partner Alice Stock, a day after firing her boss. (BLAW)

Fallout From Capitol Riots, Election Litigation

  • Former President Donald Trump hired South Carolina lawyer Butch Bowers to represent him at his impeachment trial. (Bloomberg News via BLAW)
  • Even as Trump is ditched by some lawyers, others are sticking with him. (BLAW)
  • Facing sanctions in Michigan, Trump’s election fraud-case lawyers are arguing they can’t be sanctioned for frivolous arguments because, among other things, they claim they didn’t sign the documents in question .(Above the Law)

Lawyers, Law Firms

  • Former Georgia U.S. Attorney Byung Jin “BJay” Pak, whose abrupt Jan. 4 resignation made the news at the same time Trump was pressuring the state’s secretary general to change the state’s election results, is rejoining Alston & Bird as a partner in Atlanta. (Alston.com)
  • The Justice Department inspector general is investigating the circumstances of Pak’s unexpected early resignation, according to a report. (WaPo)
  • Norton Rose Fulbright appointed business litigation partner Judith Archer as a new co-partner-in-charge of its New York office. (NortonRoseFulbright.com)
  • Baker Botts said finance section chair Luke Weedon will succeed trial partner Tim Durst as partner-in-charge of its Dallas office. (BakerBotts.com)

Laterals, Moves

  • Arent Fox hired former Major League Soccer top lawyer and executive vice president Bill Ordower as a sports and entertainment law partner in New York. (ArentFox.com)
  • Arent Fox’s New York office also got customs and trade law lawyer Angela Santos as a partner. (Arent Fox)
  • Skadden, Arps added former Securities and Exchange Commission senior official Raquel Fox, who earlier spent seven years at WilmerHale, to its SEC reporting and compliance practice. (BLAW)
  • Willkie Farr & Gallagher poached two patent litigators from IP firm Fish & Richardson. Indranil “Indy” Mukerji and Stephen Marshall both join as partners in Washington, with Mukerji joining as Willkie’s tech patent litigation head. (Willkie.com)
  • Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough got digital currency and alternative trading system expert Richard B. Levin as a partner and chair of its financial technology and regulation practice. He arrives in Denver from Polsinelli, where he held the same roles. (NelsonMullins.com)
  • Honigman hired departing Michigan federal prosecutor Matthew Schneider as a partner and co-leader of its white collar defense and investigations practice and member of its government relations and regulatory practice. He starts in February. (Honigman)
  • Distributed firm FisherBroyles hired Carlton Fields entertainment and intellectual property attorney Steve Sidman in Atlanta as a partner. He’s a former Greenberg Traurig shareholder. (FisherBroyles.com)
  • Holland & Knight added litigator Louis Rouleau as a partner in Washington. Rouleau was most recently a partner at Womble Bond Dickinson. (HKLaw.com)
  • Management-side worklaw firm Littler Mendelson grabbed Davis Wright Tremaine partner Gregory S. Fisher as a shareholder in Anchorage. (Littler.com)

In-House

  • The Charlotte Hornets announced they hired a National Hockey League team in-house leader as its new top lawyer at the basketball franchise. Hornets Sports & Entertainment said in a statement that Tamara Daniels, currently VP and general counsel at the Vegas Golden Knights and its affiliated properties, will start as new senior vice president and general counsel in February. Daniels fills a job vacated when former Hornets top lawyer Joseph Pierce left for the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons last November. (NBA.com)
  • National Public Radio Inc. hired Elizabeth Allen, former general counsel for newspaper publisher Gannett Co. Inc., as chief legal officer starting Feb. 16. (BLAW)

Technology

To contact the correspondent on this story: Rick Mitchell in Paris at rMitchell@correspondent.bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rebekah Mintzer at rmintzer@bloomberglaw.com; Darren Bowman at dbowman@bloomberglaw.com