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Wake Up Call: Associate Hourly Rate Tops $1K Amidst Bankruptcy Surge

May 26, 2020, 12:33 PM

In today’s column, a Big Law firm sparked anger by announcing Covid-19 pay cuts right before the long weekend; Morgan Lewis hired a four-lawyer (two-partner) investment funds team from MoFo in London; San Francisco-based corporate immigration firm Berry Appleman & Leiden is number one on the latest Diversity Scorecard; car rental company Hertz filed for bankruptcy Friday; Norton Rose Fulbright is planning a gradual return to its offices but also a permanent flex-work scheme; the judge who wants to review the DOJ’s dismissal of Michael Flynn perjury charges hired a trial attorney for advice.

  • Leading off, the Covid-19 shutdown and global economic collapse has spurred bankruptcy filings at retailers such as J.Crew, Neiman Marcus, J.C. Penney, and car rental giant Hertz, among other companies. That’s generating a flood of fees for Big Law restructuring practices. Meanwhile, billing rates for top associates at Weil, Gotshal & Manges and Kirkland & Ellis are climbing, a report says. (American Lawyer)

  • As century old car rental company Hertz Global Holdings Inc. filed for bankruptcy in Delaware on Friday, it’s getting advice from White & Case. Willkie Farr & Gallagher said it’s representing a large ad hoc group of holders of Hertz senior notes. (Bloomberg News)

  • Troutman Sanders, which already announced a voluntary leave program for staff, sparked anger with its announcement, right before the Memorial Day holiday, that it’s cutting pay for associates and staff by 20% and for partners by even more. The firm is heading for a July 1 merger with Pepper Hamilton, which already slashed associate pay by 20%. (Above the Law)

  • Norton Rose Fulbright said a recent survey showed most of its lawyers around the world are still uneasy about going back to in-person work, so the firm is planning a gradual return to its offices while also shifting to a permanent flexible working model. (Global Legal Post)

  • Litigation finance firm Parabellum Capital raised over $450 million in new funding ahead of a potential torrent of coronavirus-related lawsuits. (BLAW)

  • While technology required to take virtual depositions has existed for over a decade, it hasn’t really gotten off the ground with litigants and courts. But with courts closed across the country because of the pandemic, more litigants are giving the tech a try. (BLAW)

  • Labor lawyer Eugene Freedman, who’s special counsel to the President of the National Air Traffic Controllers’ Association, recently offered some insights about possible solutions to Major League Baseball’s dispute with its players association about how to play a Covid-19 shortened 2020 season. (BeyondtheBoxScore.com)

Lawyers, Law Firms

  • The federal judge facing an appeals court review of his plan to review the Justice Department’s dropping of perjury charges against former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn hired prominent trial lawyer Beth Wilkinson to advise him. (National Law Journal)

  • Florida is the latest state to consider regulatory changes that could boost access to legal services, among other things by allowing nonlawyers to provide certain legal services and share legal fees with lawyers. (BLAW)

  • Berry Appleman & Leiden, which has a U.S. alliance with the U.K. arm of accounting giant Deloitte, topped the latest Diversity Scorecard rankings of law firms’ average number of full-time-equivalent minority attorneys. (American Lawyer)

  • Corporate litigator Mary-Olga Lovett, a Greenberg Traurig partner senior vice president, is running the firm’s litigation skills academy, which among other goals aims to help young women and minority lawyers become America’s next top litigators. (Houston Chronicle)

  • Two reporters talked to 50 people at Boies Schiller Flexner about a “massive transformation” at the litigation firm, which has lost over 30 partners in the last six months. (Business Insider)

  • #MeToo attorney Douglas Wigdor dropped Joe Biden accuser Tara Reade as a client, days after reports that she puffed up her academic credentials to serve as an expert witness. (Politico)

  • Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher partner Ted Boutrous helped MSNBC host Rachel Maddow beat a California federal defamation suit filed by conservative news outlet One America. (The Recorder)

  • Two Texas defense attorneys were arrested for allegedly soliciting the murder of another defense attorney who was the ex-husband of one of the pair. (KWTX.com)

Laterals, Moves

  • The World Series champs Washington Nationals promoted deputy general counsel Betsy Philpott to top lawyer, to replace former top lawyer Damon Jones. Jones left to become of counsel in Covington & Burling’s sports practice in Washington. (BLAW)

  • The Boeing Co. promoted vice president and deputy GC Grant Dixton, a former Kirkland & Ellis associate, to senior vice president and general counsel. He’ll remain Boeing’s corporate secretary and report to recently named chief legal officer and executive VP Brett Gerry. The aerospace giant also promoted assistant general counsel Uma Amulura to VP and chief compliance officer. (BLAW)

Technology

  • Although the Covid-19 lock-down forced law firms to go to remote work, the firms aren’t likely to increase their spending on IT or other tech, at least not in the short term, observers said. (Legaltech News)

  • More corporate legal departments are doing eDiscovery in-house to save money as well as to have more control over their data from litigation. (Corporate Counsel)

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