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Wake Up Call: Davis Polk Tops Cooley’s Special Covid Bonus Scale

Sept. 16, 2020, 12:15 PM

In today’s column, growth of big U.K. firms’ profits per equity partner slowed sharply in their recent fiscal year; K&L Gates name partner William H. Gates Sr., father of Microsoft founder Bill Gates, died at age 94; Milbank’s L.A. managing partner was confirmed to a California federal court seat; Washington, D.C., law graduates are a step closer to getting to skip the bar exam; Paul Weiss and Dentons steered Kraft Heinz’ $3.2 billion deal to sell part of its cheese business to a French multinational.

  • Leading off, legal blog Above The Law is calling it the “Covid-19 bonus wars” after Davis Polk said yesterday it will pay associates special bonuses ranging from $7,500 up to $40,000, depending on how long they’ve been at the firm. That’s several times more than the “appreciation” bonuses Cooley announced yesterday, although Cooley also said that especially productive associates can get another bonus. Both firms say the special bonuses, to thank associates for work during the Covid-19 pandemic and other crises this year, won’t affect their usual year-end bonuses. (Above the Law) (American Lawyer) (ABAJournal)

  • A growing number of firms, saying their business is better than they expected early in the pandemic, are eliminating or reversing pay cuts, sometimes retroactively, while some are also giving special bonuses. Squire Patton Boggs yesterday said it’s reversing its Covid salary cuts and it will also consider bonuses for non-partner lawyers and staff who performed at extraordinary level as compensation was lowered. (BLAW)

  • Mayer Brown also walked back pay cuts and said it will pay bonuses to high performers. (American Lawyer) Duane Morris said it’s reversing pay cuts. (Above the Law)

  • Norton Rose Fulbright said it’s suspending the four-day work scheme it implemented in the U.K. earlier this year as a cost-cutting measure it said was aimed at preserving jobs during the pandemic. (The Lawyer)

  • Clifford Chance said it’s halting client events for the rest of the year. (The Lawyer)

  • Growth in profit per equity partner slowed across the U.K.’s 50 biggest law firms in their most recent fiscal year, weighed down by Brexit, the pandemic, and other problems. ( International)

Lawyers, Law Firms

  • Bayer AG settled thousands more U.S. lawsuits over its Roundup weed killer, after getting accused of failing to uphold the $11 billion settlement it announced in June. (Bloomberg News)

  • K&L Gates name partner William H. Gates Sr. died Monday in Seattle at age 94. Among other things, he helped his son, tech billionaire Bill Gates, set up and run what became the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, one of the world’s biggest private philanthropies. (WaPo)

  • Hunton Andrews Kurth said its new labor and employment emerging technology practice aims to help employers navigate artificial intelligence, process automation, and technological advancements that is changing the way companies interact with their employees. (

  • Steptoe & Johnson LLP said it launched a supply chain team, headed by Jeff Weiss, co-leader of its international trade policy practice and former port and supply chain policy lead for the Commerce Secretary. (

  • The U.S. Senate confirmed Milbank intellectual property litigator Mark Scarsi, the firm’s L.A. office managing partner, to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. (The Recorder)

  • The public would gain free access to the electronic database of federal court records known as PACER under bipartisan legislation approved Tuesday by the House Judiciary Committee. (BLAW)

  • Paul Weiss advised the Kraft Heinz Company on its agreement to sell its Natural, Grated, Cultured and Specialty cheese businesses to a U.S. affiliate of Groupe Lactalis for $3.2 billion. Dentonsadvised Lactalis. (

  • Skadden is advising Social Capital Hedosophia Holdings Corp., a so-called blank check company, on its merger with Opendoor Labs Inc., a digital platform for sales of residential real estate. The deal values Opendoor, which was advised by Latham & Watkins, at about $4.8 billion. (Bloomberg News)

  • Legal spend management firm Quovant helps in-house leaders find savings on their outside counsel bills. (Corporate Counsel)

Laterals, Moves

  • Hunton Andrews Kurth said former Environmental Protection Agency enforcement and compliance counsel Gregory Walljoined the firm as counsel in its environmental practice group in Richmond, Virginia. (

  • Clark Hill added 40-year veteran corporate lawyer Randolf (Randy) Katz as a member in Los Angeles. He was previouslya partner at Baker & Hostetler, and earlier at Bryan Cave. (

  • Transactional lawyer Ari Edelman joined Reed Smith’s global corporate group as a partner in New York. He was a partner at Ellenoff Grossman & Schole practices primarily in the areas of securities and capital markets and M&A. (Reed Smith)

  • Kessler Topaz Meltzer & Check added former federal prosecutor Jamie McCall as a partner in its securities litigation practice. McCall, who had a 12-year Justice Department career, is a former Morgan, Lewis & Bockius associate and U.S. Marine Corps defense counsel. (

  • Plaintiffs litigation firm DiCello Levitt Gutzler hired 23-year DOJ veteran senior counsel Frank Amanat as a partner in New York and former DOJ trial attorney Bruce Bernstein as a partner in Washington, to expand the firm’s securities & financial fraud and health care & pharmaceutical fraud practices. (

  • McGuireWoods recruited DLA Piper leveraged finance counsel Linn Mayhew in London as a partner in its global debt finance practice. (McGuireWoods)

  • Distributed firm FisherBroyles said health and safety and business crime attorney Anne Davies joined the firm in London as a partner. She was earlier at Withersworldwide and Crowell & Moring and most recently was a partner at gunnercooke LLP. (

  • Buchalter recently added two shareholders to its tax and estate planning practices. Tax and corporate lawyer Joseph Fletcher joined in Los Angeles from Glaser Weil, where he was co-chair of the tax department. Laura Lamb Nichols joined in San Diego from Seltzer Caplan McMahon Vitek and is a California certified legal specialist in estate planning. (Buchalter)

  • Blank Rome got tax associate Timothy P. McGurrin in Philadelphia. According to his LinkedIn, he arrives from PwC, where he was a tax manager. (Blank Rome)


  • Law firms, including Blank Rome and Greenberg Traurig, have developed apps in-house to help manage their return to in-person work, while other firms, including Faegre Drinker, have adapted outside apps to help. (Legal Intelligencer)

Legal Education

  • Plans for disabled law school graduates to take the California bar exam in-person puts them at special risk of contracting Covid-19, according to a new lawsuit. (BLAW)

  • The D.C. Court of Appeals is moving toward joining a small number of jurisdictions that allow certain law school graduates to become licensed without taking the bar exam. (BLAW)

  • A 2020 law school graduate in Florida claims he’s being retaliated against because he criticized the bar exam. (Daily Business Review)

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