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Wake Up Call: Corporate Lawyers ‘Volunteer’ for Bankruptcy Duty

April 16, 2020, 12:32 PM

In today’s column, Crowell & Moring and other big firms announced cost-cuts to protect their finances during the Covid-19 crisis; Seattle-based Spaceflight Inc. hired a former Boeing in-house lawyer as general counsel. Amazon.com is idling warehouses in France for five days after a court accused it of lax Covid-19 protections for workers; Chicago police said a husband and wife lawyer team were stabbed to death.

  • Leading off, as law firms’ corporate and M&A practices nosedive amidst the economic crisis ignited by the Covid-19 pandemic, U.K.-based corporate lawyers with relevant experience at Big Law firms, including DLA Piper and Ashurst, are “volunteering” to work where the action is: restructuring and insolvency practices handling a surge of bankruptcies. (Law.com)

  • Restructuring giant Kirkland & Ellis is getting a flood of work. (American Lawyer)

  • And the Financial Times reported last week that transatlantic firm Hogan Lovells was considering offering “secondments” to its restructuring practice for lawyers in London and New York. (Financial Times)

  • Meanwhile, Crowell & Moring said it will cut pay for lawyers and some professional staff by 5% to 25%, with equity partners getting the biggest cuts. The firm said it’s avoiding layoffs. (American Lawyer) Three more New York firms revealed layoffs and furloughs. Florida-based Greenspoon Marderannounced layoffs and pay cuts. U.K. firm Osborne Clarke said partners will defer 75% of quarterly profit draws, and some staff will be furloughed. Ashurst is reducing partner draws 20%. (The Lawyer)

  • Although several firms appear to be “nobly” promising that equity partners will take the biggest hits on their compensation, it not yet clear where the budget ax is really coming down hardest. (BLAW)

  • More firms also adjusted their summer associate programs. Florida-based Greenberg Traurig said it’s eliminating its program, but plans to make job offers to participants. Reed Smith said it will delay its new associate start date to January next year and abbreviate its summer program. (BLAW) It could be worse. The 36 students in Atlanta-based Ogletree Deakins’s canceled summer associate program won’t get compensation or job offers. That firm also announced pay cuts, unpaid leave offers, and it may have made layoffs. (AbovetheLaw.com)

  • Some firms are making their Covid-19 cost-cutting more painful than necessary, with such gaffs as Monday layoffs arriving by email, lack of transparency, and other problems, this report says. (Above the Law)

  • The U.S. Supreme Court’s move to limit paper filings is the type of change you can find in Bloomberg Law’s daily updated map showing federal courts’ schedule changes and other responses to Covid-19. (BLAW)

  • Amazon.com said it will stop activity at its fulfillment centers in France for five days after a court order banned sale of non-essential goods during the Covid-19 shutdown. (Bloomberg News)

Lawyers, Law Firms

  • Last year, before Covid-19 arrived, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr’s gross revenues increased 3.1% from 2018 to reach $1.184 billion and its average profits per equity partner rose 7.5% to $2.3 million, according to preliminary data. (National Law Journal)

  • Twitter Inc.'s chief legal officer, Vijaya Gadde, saw her pay drop by one-third last year, but her total compensation of $7.9 million still made her one of the social media company’s top paid executives. Plus, she has the power to block tweets. (BLAW)

  • Two prominent Harvard Law educated Chicago lawyers found dead in their home were stabbed to death, and the case is now a homicide investigation. (Chicago Tribune)

  • Big shot criminal defense lawyer Ed Genson, known for defendants ranging from alleged mobsters to former Governor Rod Blagojevich, died at age 78. (Chicago Sun Times)

  • A New York law firm did “more harm than good” in its representation of victims in a Toyota car crash and, consequently, should get no legal fees from a $10.9 million jury verdict in 2015, a federal appeals judge ruled. (StarTribune.com)

  • Ahead of the ABA antitrust section’s virtual spring meeting starting tomorrow, a new report by the American Antitrust Institute cites a “troubling” falloff in antitrust enforcement under the Trump administration. (Antitrustinstitute.org) An April 21 podcast by the ABA’s cartel & criminal practice committee during the virtual meeting is to discuss a “decline” in big investigations of global cartels.” (AmericanBar.org)

Laterals, Moves

  • Willkie Farr & Gallagher hired intellectual property partner Michael Babbitt from Jenner & Block two weeks after the Wall Street firm launched a Chicago office led by former Jenner & Block chairman Craig Martin. (BLAW)

  • Locke Lord expanded its Texas public finance and bond expertise, adding a Norton Rose Fulbright team of three lawyers based in Austin. Adam Harden joins as a partner, while John Hall and Justin Rodriguez join as senior counsel. (LockeLord.com)

  • Norton Rose Fulbright also lost litigator Spencer Persson to Davis Wright Tremaine, where he joins the L.A. office as a partner in its technology + privacy & security practice. (DWT.com)

  • Bressler, Amery & Ross hired former Morgan Stanley and Citigroup in-house lawyer Joseph L. Calabrese as a principal in its financial institutions group in New York; Faegre Drinker private client lawyer Megan Cannella jumped to Bressler as counsel in New Jersey. (Bressler.com)

  • Barnes & Thornburg hired corporate attorney Tan Le as a partner in Chicago. (BTLaw)

In-house

  • Seattle-based Spaceflight Inc., which offers launch services and space-mission management, hired former Boeing top lawyer Dennis Wiessner as vice president and general counsel. According to his Linkedin, Wiessner, at McDermott Will & Emery early in his career, has been an in-house leader at French aerospace company Thales Avionics, Lockheed Martin Corp. spinoff Astrolink International, and he was most recently top lawyer at Italian aerospace company Leonardo. (Spaceflight.com)

  • Chinese fintech giant Ant Financial Services Group’s new general counsel was the founding partner of a Shanghai law firm that’s been advising the company for a long time. (BLAW)

  • Colorado cannabis company Redwood Green Corp. hired a former in-house lawyer at tobacco giant Philip Morris International Inc. to be its general counsel. (BLAW)

Legal Education

  • The D.C. Court of Appeals canceled the District of Columbia bar exam set for late July. (BLAW)

  • Stanford Law School is launching a searchable database of about 4,000 memoranda on legal, regulatory, accounting, and governance matters related to Covid-19. (BN via BLAW)

  • The pandemic looks likely to staunch or sharply reduce the flow of international law students coming to the U.S. for the coming academic year. (Law.com)

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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