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Wake Up Call: Attorneys Accused of Ripping Off Covid Relief

Dec. 17, 2021, 1:33 PM

In today’s column, law firms are turning to professional teams to handle their conflict checks; another Big Law firm is letting lawyers get bonus-eligible hours credit to “recharge”; several law schools are preparing students for a new “status quo” of virtual litigation.

  • Leading off, the Queens, New York, district attorney charged a Brooklyn lawyer with defrauding the Paycheck Protection Payment and Small Business Administration Economic Injury Disaster program of $287,400 and using most of the Covid relief money for gambling and personal expenses. (New York Law Journal) A Philadelphia attorney faces wire fraud charges for allegedly inflating his firm’s payroll to get money from the Paycheck Protection Program and another Covid relief program. (
  • The case of a former Cozen O’Connor conflict counsel recently sanctioned on insider trading charges by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission reflects risks firms can face when accused of inadequately vetting potential conflicts of interest. Big firms are increasingly using teams of specialized professional analysts to handle such checks, a study says. (Legal Intelligencer)
  • Following in Orrick’s footsteps, Sheppard Mullin’s new “unplug & recharge” program lets certain associates and special counsel at the firm get credit for up to 40 hours of bonus-eligible time to recharge. (Above The Law) Sheppard Mullin also matched the Cravath/Davis Polk scale for associate bonuses with extra money for big billers. Arnold & Porter matched the market scale and it’s offering extra money for very high billers; Baker Donelson announced raises that for some markets range from $185,000 for first year associates to $285,000 for seventh years, plus additional payouts tied to hours worked; meanwhile, Latham & Watkins’ associates haven’t gotten a year-end bonus announcement yet, but they did get holiday fruit baskets, a legal blog reported. (Above The Law)

Lawyers, Law Firms

  • Harvey Weinstein is serving a 23-year sentence in New York on rape and sexual assault charges and facing more charges in California. But judges on a New York appeals court have questioned about his New York convictions. (Variety)
  • Sidley Austin senior counsel Newt Minow, going on 96 years old next month, was chair of the Federal Communications Commission during the Kennedy administration. Practicing law for seven decades, he says he has no time for retirement. (Reuters)

Laterals, Moves, In-house

  • A former consumer product legal counsel at Facebook/Meta, Rob Collier, joined crypto startup Rally as general counsel; K&L Gates recruited former North Carolina federal prosecutor Lou Patalano, recently chief legal officer, senior vice president, and corporate secretary at Sentara Healthcare, as health care of counsel in Research Triangle Park, N.C.; K&L Gates also got health-care partner Kevin Page in Nashville; Barnes & Thornburg added Specialty Audit Services principal Steve Herst as a government services and finance partner in Wilmington, Delaware. (
  • Moses & Singer recruited veteran entertainment industry in-house attorney Kenneth M. Kaufman as senior counsel in its intellectual property, internet & technology and entertainment & media practices. He’s been at Skadden Arps and Manatt earlier in his career.
  • Gowling WLG Canada elected longtime business law partner Steve McKersie as its new CEO for a six-year term starting Jan. 1, 2022. Based in Toronto, McKersie is Canadian leader of the firm’s U.S. sales initiative, managing Gowling’s relationship with some of its biggest clients. ( International) Holland & Hart elected and appointed several partners to new firm leadership roles effective Jan. 1, 2022. (
  • Jackson Lewis snagged Ogletree Deakins employment senior counsel Kimya S.P. Johnson, who was diversity and inclusion practice group chair at Ogletree, as its new chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer and principal; Hunton Andrews Kurth hired former financial institution in-house leader Shaney Lokken as public finance counsel in Atlanta; Arnold & Porter elected 14 new partners, five new counsel, and one managing director, effective Jan. 1, 2022. (

Legal Education

  • Virtual litigation, a temporary solution to keep cases moving during the pandemic, now looks likely to be part of the courtroom “status quo.” An increasing number of law schools are taking steps to get students ready for this new reality. (

To contact the correspondent on this story: Rick Mitchell in Paris at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Chris Opfer in New York at; Darren Bowman at