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Wake Up Call: ‘Blank Check’ IPOs May Be Law Firms’ $30 Million Payday

Sept. 18, 2020, 12:54 PM

In today’s column, elite litigation boutique Hueston Hennigan joined the Covid bonus wars; on Constitution Day yesterday, the phone system for U.S. federal courts was down; McDermott Will & Emery launched a Latin America practice chaired by two tax partners; legal tech company Elevate made an agreement to advise global law firm network Lex Mundi; with October online bar exams looming in several states, test takers continue to complain about the software used for the exams.

  • Leading off, elite law firms are muscling in on the booming market for advising on the initial public offerings of so-called special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs), also known as “blank check companies,” created with a view to acquiring a particular target. IPOs for these shell companies themselves could generate over $30 million in legal fees this year and three to five times that much when the SPACS eventually close their mergers, this report says. (Business Insider)

  • Elite litigation boutique Hueston Hennigan, based in Los Angeles, is the latest firm to join the Covid-19 bonus wars for associates that started this week. The firm, which often beats Big Law firms on year-end and other bonuses, said it will offer $7,500 to $40,000 bonuses, depending on year. That’s the same scale Davis Polk and Milbank announced, after Cooley started the competition earlier in the week with a more modest scale. Cooley also said staff will get bonuses. (Above the Law)

  • Management-side worklaw firm Littler yesterday became the latest firm to say it’s restoring pay cuts it made earlier in the pandemic when firms were making austerity moves to protect their finances. Littler, like several other big firms recently, says its business is doing better than it expected back in the spring. (American Lawyer)

  • The partner office could be among Covid casualties, as long-term remote work leads firms to reconsider how much they spend on real estate. (American Lawyer)

  • Several large intellectual property firms in Massachusetts are doing well despite the pandemic. (Boston Business Journal)

Lawyers, Law Firms

  • McDermott Will & Emery said it started a Latin America practice co-chaired by two tax partners: Miami-based Michael Silva and Dallas-based Manuel Rajunov. Morrison & Foerster started a Latin America desk in 2019 with a team poached from Greenberg Traurig. Polsinelli started a Miami-based Latin America practice in March. (

  • In Constitution Day remarks, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer discussed pros and cons of holding oral arguments by phone, among other subjects. (

  • The U.S. federal courts’ phone system went down yesterday, but the outage isn’t affecting operations, officials said. (BLAW)

  • Debevoise & Plimpton partner Eric Dinallo, chair of the firm’s insurance regulatory practice, said stuttering should not be an obstacle to a law career. He’s also chair of the American Institute for Stuttering. (American Lawyer)

  • A Los Angeles federal judge tacked on $19 million in legal fees to a settlement of an $88 million policyholders’ class action against Transamerica Life Insurance Co. (Daily Business Review)

  • Two U.S. shareholders rights firms say they have filed separate U.S. securities class action lawsuits against top bank in India, HDFC Bank Ltd. (

  • Skadden Arps represented Silverstein Properties in its $430 million acquisition of US Bank Tower in Los Angeles. (Real Estate Weekly)

  • A New York lawyer who last year got himself booted from appellate court arguments over “discourteous” comments to judges, lost his appeal in a separate lawsuit targeting over robocalls. (New York Law Journal)

Pro Bono

  • Haynes and Boone said Texas’ highest appeals court this week commuted the death sentence its client, Juan Lizcano, to life in prison without possibility of parole. The court found Lizcano, sentenced to death in 2007 for the 2005 killing of a Dallas police officer, was ineligible to be executed because of his intellectual disability. (Texas Tribune)

Laterals, Moves

  • Lowenstein Sandler said Matthew Platkin, chief counsel to New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, is joining the firm in October as a partner in its white collar and business litigation groups. (

  • Alternative dispute resolution services provider JAMS added two retired federal judges to its neutral panels. It said retired Texas-based U.S. magistrate judge Nancy Johnson joined its panel in Houston. It said retired Pennsylvania-based U.S. magistrate judge Thomas J. Rueter, who spent four years as a chief magistrate judge, joined its Philadelphia panel. (

  • Litigation finance firm Omni Bridgeway announced three recent additions in New York. In August longtime Lehman Brothers litigation co-head/managing director Martha E. Solinger, whose LinkedIn also lists her as a former co-general counsel at Lehman, joined Omni’s U.S. investment committee. Former Susman Godfrey associate Megan Easley and former Soryn IP Group litigator Austin Ginnings joined as counsel. (

  • Atlanta-based Taylor English Duma expanded in the Southwest Florida market, hiring veteran patent attorney Edward Livingston as a partner in Naples in the firm’s intellectual property practice. (Business Observer)

  • Michael Best said its government relations arm, Michael Best Strategies, hired veteran public affairs executive Tami Jackson Buckner as a partner in Washington. (


  • SoftBank Group Corp. brought on AIG’s former legal operations chief Aaron Katzel as chief operating officer of legal and compliance. (BLAW)


  • Barket Epstein Kearon Aldea & LoTurco, LLP, a New York-based criminal defense, civil rights and commercial litigation boutique, said it promoted to partner Alexander Klein, who is head of its commercial litigation group and co-chair of its civil rights/personal injury group. (


  • Alternative legal services provider Elevate is partnering with global law firm network Lex Mundi to advise it on legal operations and tech. (Artificial Lawyer)

Legal Education

  • With October online bar exams looming for states including California, Illinois, New York, and Texas, test-takers continue to complain about problems with the software to be used for the tests. (

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

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rebekah Mintzer at; Darren Bowman at