Wake Up Call: Dentons Makes U.S. Move by Adding Salt Lake Firm

Aug. 11, 2020, 1:09 PM

In today’s column, Houston-based Susman Godfrey, whose founding partner and longtime managing partner died of Covid-19 last month, named its first female managing partner; business at some major law firms is better than last year, while other big firms are struggling in the Covid economic crisis; average legal demand is down but average billing rates are up; California’s top court rejected a petition to make a recent reduction in the bar exam pass score retroactive and Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court rejected a petition to grant diploma privilege to recent law grads.

  • Leading off, the world’s biggest law firm by head count, with about 10,000 lawyers, just got a little bigger. Dentons today announced it is adding 100-lawyer Salt Lake City firm Durham Jones & Pinegar to its Swiss-verein style network, in its first merger since it announced plans to expand in the U.S. last year. It said the new firm, Dentons Durham Jones Pinegar, will extend its reach to 188 locations in 76 countries. That includes 37 locations in the U.S. (Dentons.com) Dentons last fall announced Project Golden Spike, which calls for it to become one of the largest U.S. firms by linking smaller firms into a national legal entity. (BLAW)

  • Some major firms, including Milbank; Weil, Gotshal & Manges; and Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, are doing better than last year, even as other big firms struggle in the Covid-19 crisis. Their contrasting performances reflect the recession’s divergent effects on big firms, and how practice mix has an impact on that, a report says. (American Lawyer)

  • Overall demand for legal services shrank 5.9% in the year’s second quarter but the average rate billed surged 5.2%. That indicates that a contracting pool of work is increasingly getting done by partners at partner-level rates, says another report. (American Lawyer)

  • Katten Muchin is reversing salary cuts by 50% for attorneys and business professionals, Above The Law reported. (Above the Law)

  • California’s highest court yesterday rejected requests to retroactively apply a recent 50-point reduction in the passing score for the state’s bar exam, reputed to be one of the toughest in the U.S. (BLAW)

  • And in more bad news for recent law grads, Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court rejected a petition to grant them diploma privilege. The school’s online bar exam is set to be held Oct. 5-6. (Legal Intelligencer)

  • An Austin, Texas, court will begin what it says is the first U.S. virtual criminal jury trial today, with potential jurors who lack their own hardware to get court-issued iPads. (BLAW)

  • Crowell & Morning is working to secure the release from Florida prison of its pro bono client Crosley Green. Nearly two years after his murder conviction was overturned, Green remains in jail, quarantined in a dormitory that has had a positive Covid-19 test, his lawyer said. (CBSNews.com)

Lawyers, Law Firms

  • Houston-based litigation firm Susman Godfrey, whose founding partner and longtime managing partner Steve Susman died last month after a battle with Covid-19, named L.A.-based partner Kalpana Srinivasan, who started her legal career at the firm, as its first woman managing partner. Srinivasan joins the firm’s longtime Houston-based managing partner Neal Manne and will continue to be a member of the firm’s executive committee. (BLAW)

  • A Houston-based legal recruiting firm, hit by several unfavorable rulings, agreed to drop its Texas state court lawsuit against two Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton partners over a search fee related to a 13-lawyer lateral hire. (Texas Lawyer)

Laterals, Moves

  • Arnold & Porter hired M&A lawyer Ben Fackler, a former Wachtell corporate attorney who later worked as an investment banker, as a partner in San Francisco. He arrives most recently from Allen Matkins. (BLAW)

  • Willkie Farr & Gallagher recruited Morrison & Foerster finance lawyer Ed Downer as a partner in London in its business reorganization & restructuring department. According to his LinkedIn, he was at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer earlier in his career. (Willkie.com)

  • Faegre Drinker said bankruptcy litigator Brett Fallon joined the firm’s finance and restructuring group as a partner in Wilmington, Delaware. He arrives from Morris James and is the ninth attorney to join the group since June 1. (FaegreDrinker.com)

  • Venable poached the Washington-based co-chair of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr’s privacy and data security practice, D. Reed Freeman. Freeman, has been a Morrison & Foerster partner and staff attorney at the Federal Trade Commission, among other roles. (National Law Journal)

  • Distributed firm FisherBroyles poached a Big Law partner, getting Wilmington, Delaware-based Fox Rothschild litigator Carl Neff as a partner for New York, Washington, and Princeton, New Jersey. (FisherBroyles.com)

  • Virtual firm Culhane Meadows grabbed two partners from Fox Rothschild: bankruptcy and financial restructuring attorney Mette Kurth and New York-based litgator Caroline Morgan, a former claims manager at global reinsurer Scor. (CulhaneMeadows.com)

  • Alston & Bird added financial disputes partner Paul Morris as a partner in London to broaden its cross-border banking and financial services litigation capabilities. He joins from Norton Rose Fulbright, where he had been a partner since 2010. (Alston.com)

  • Holland & Knight recruited veteran securities and capital markets attorney Robin Feiner as a partner in New York. Most recently, she was a partner at Winston & Strawn. She’s a former investment banker and was previously a partner at Proskauer Rose and an attorney at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius. (HKLaw.com)

  • Cozen O’Connor Public Strategies hired Pittsburgh-based lobbyist Kevin Kerr to lead the firm’s western Pennsylvania expansion. He was previously a public policy and government affairs leader at Uber Technologies Inc. (Cozen.com)


  • Mr. Cooper Group Inc., the largest nonbank mortgage servicer in the U.S., hired Topgolf International Inc. general counsel Eldridge Burns Jr. to lead its in-house legal group. Burns has been an in-house leader at auto finance company Santander Consumer USA Inc., senior corporate counsel at Blockbuster Inc., and associate at Vinson & Elkins. (BLAW)

  • Luxury watchmaker Bovet Fleurier hired recent law grad Audrey Raffy as its first-ever general counsel and vice president. Raffy, daughter of owner Pascal Raffy, will work out of the Switzerland-based company’s North American office. (BLAW)

  • Florida-based building materials company TopBuild Corp. hired veteran in-house leader Luis Machado as its new general counsel and vice president. (BLAW)


Legal Education

  • After Colorado and North Carolina recently went ahead with their in-person bar exams, some test-takers came away with safety worries. (ABAJournal.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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