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Wake Up Call: As Virus Spreads, U.S. Law Firms Launch ‘Crisis Mode’

Feb. 27, 2020, 1:14 PM

In today’s column, Latham’s $3.73 billion in gross revenues for 2019 was “amazing,” but it may not be enough to dethrone Kirkland; Morgan Lewis re-hired the SEC’s departing regional director for Philadelphia; King & Spalding got two partners from Orrick and has grabbed about a dozen laterals this month; and New York is dropping a mental health question from its bar application.

  • Leading off, Paul Weiss is suspending nonessential business travel for its lawyers to and from mainland China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan, and Italy, in response to the spreading coronavirus. Meanwhile, Orrick has postponed its partner retreat in Texas. They’re among several Big Law firms that are changing travel plans or re-considering planned events, as the legal industry goes into “crisis management mode.” (American Lawyer) (Law.com) (Corporate Counsel)

  • In France, law firms are tweaking and practicing contingency plans to protect staff and their business, and they’re advising clients to do the same. (Law.com)

  • Latham & Watkins’ '“absolutely amazing year” in 2019 included gross revenues swelling another 11.3% to slightly more than $3.73 billion, but that may not be enough to beat Kirkland & Ellis as No. 1 firm for revenues. Latham’s average profits profits per equity partner rose 9.5% to $3.78 million. (American Lawyer)

  • Morgan, Lewis & Bockius said the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Philadelphia regional office director, G. Jeffrey Boujoukos, is rejoining the firm as partner working from its Philadelphia and Washington offices. The SEC said Boujoukos is leaving the agency at the end of the month, after nearly 11 years. He previously spent close to 17 years at Morgan Lewis in its securities litigation group, including as a partner. “Jeff has a strong reputation as a talented trial and enforcement lawyer, and we are thrilled to welcome him back,” Morgan Lewis Chair Jami McKeon said in a statement. (SEC.gov) (MorganLewis.com)

  • King & Spalding is having a big month for laterals. Yesterday, it said Orrick partners Shaila Diwan and Alvin Lee joined its trial and global disputes practice group in New York, following a four-partner pharmaceutical and health care mass tort trial team it got from Orrick earlier this month. Also this week it grabbed three international arbitration partners from Kirkland. This month, it has gotten two government contracts lawyers from Morrison & Foerster and a benefits and a compensation partner from Morgan Lewis. (KSLaw.com)

  • A former General Electric Co. general counsel, Alexander Dimitrief, joined legal consultancy the Zeughauser Group as a partner this month. (BLAW)

  • Reed Smith said corporate tax lawyer Angelo Ciavarella, who was a partner at the firm from 2008 to 2016, has returned from Katten Muchin Rosenman. He joined Katten Muchin 12 years ago. He’s also spent time at Sidley Austin, Skadden Arps, and at a predecessor firm of PricewaterhouseCoopers, among other places. (Reed Smith)

  • Blank Rome grabbed a four-lawyer state and local tax group from Morrison & Foerster, including one of the co-chairs of MoFo’s tax department. (BLAW)

Lawyers, Law Firms

  • New York will eliminate a mental health question from its bar application. (New York Law Journal) Meanwhile, some law students say they avoid getting mental health treatment because they’re afraid it could hurt their chances of becoming lawyers. (CNN)

  • Milwaukee-based Michael Best absorbed Texas firm RWR Legal, whose three senior corporate and securities attorneys join Michael Best’s Austin office and its team advising entrepreneurs, venture capital investors, emerging companies, and start-ups. Rick Ressler, RWR Legal’s managing general counsel, will be managing partner of the Austin office, joined by Shari Wynne Ressler, and Stephen Aguilar. (MichaelBest.com)

  • Cozen O’Conner’s investigation for the American Guild of Musical Artists found 27 people who said they were sexually harassed or witnessed inappropriate behavior by opera star Placido Domingo, AP reported. (Associated Press)

  • Raleigh, North Carolina, has emerged as a top U.S. market for law firm growth, with the 27 largest firms collectively employing over 1,100 lawyers in the area’s “research triangle.” (Triangle Business Journal)

  • Two energy-trial lawyers in Houston opened a commercial litigation boutique. (HoganThompson.com)

Deals

  • Willkie Farr & Gallagher advised Switzerland stock exchange SIX on its investment of an undisclosed amount into San Francisco-based fintech company Omniex. Their partnership agreement calls for Omniex to provide SIX and its subsidiary, Swiss Digital Exchange, with a gateway to access to cryptocurrency markets. (CoinTelegraph.com)

  • Cooley advised QED Investors, a Virginia-based boutique venture capital firm, on its $350 million funding round for investments into fintech companies in the Americas and the United Kingdom. (Virginia Business)

Pro Bono

  • Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler attorneys reached a record $5 million settlement from New York in a lawsuit over the 2015 death of a mentally ill New York state prisoner after a fight with corrections officers. (PublicNewsService.org) (PBWT.com)

Laterals, Moves

  • Simpson Thacher & Bartlett got Skadden Arps capital markets lawyer Steven Grigoriou as counsel in Washington in its registered funds practice. (STBLaw.com)

  • Arent Fox added veterans to its patent practice and life sciences group. Daniel Stelter joins in San Francisco from Cardinal Health, Inc., where he’d been 13 years, as vice president and chief counsel of IP. Biotech and pharmaceutical patent attorney Laurence H. Posorske, who has a doctorate in biochemistry and a law degree, joins in Washington from Hunton Andrews Kurth, where he was a partner and had been at 32 years, including at a predecessor firm Hunton & Kurth. (ArentFox.com)

  • McDermott Will & Emery added Sheppard Mullin IP litigator April Weisbruch as a partner in Washington. She earlier spent seven years at Goodwin Procter. (MWE.com)

  • Hinshaw & Culbertson hired a former Chicago Housing Authority general counsel, litigator Jorge V. Cazares, as a partner in its government and administrative affairs practice in Chicago. (Hinshawlaw.com)

Promotions

  • Buchalter promoted three to shareholder: IP litigator Sean Casey, in Orange County, California; corporate lawyer Harumi Hata, in L.A.; and real estate lawyer Eric C. Wilhelm in Scottsdale, Arizona. (Buchalter)

Legal Actions, Decisions

  • Hyundai’s Womble Bond Dickinson and Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman lawyers obtained a $5 million trademark consent infringement judgment from a gray-market parts seller. (BLAW)

  • The Philadelphia Bar Association, without directly mentioning President Donald Trump’s recent Twitter attacks on a federal judge, condemned “recent, unwarranted attacks” on the federal judiciary that it said threaten the rule of law and judicial independence. (BLAW)

Technology

  • The Corporate Legal Operations Consortium said it will formally recognize three law firms that have achieved innovation and design excellence in legal operations, at its 2020 Vegas Institute in May. (PRNewswire.com)

  • Boston-based legal tech company LinkSquares raised $14.5 million in a funding round. (Artificial Lawyer)

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

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