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Wake Up Call: Drop in Trademark Litigation Hints at Impact of Covid-19

April 28, 2020, 12:11 PM

In today’s column, an analyst says Big Law firms that don’t cut staff and lawyer salaries now may risk devastating partner exits later after Covid-19 takes their profits; BakerHostetler poached the U.S. head of Norton Rose Fulbright’s data protection, privacy and cybersecurity practice in San Francisco; Snell & Wilmer hired the head of McDermott Will and Emery’s trademark litigation group as a partner; Kickstarter hired an Uber in-house attorney to be its top lawyer; a former in-house lawyer at Apple Inc. said his prosecution for insider trading is unconstitutional.

  • Leading off, the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on law firms’ trademark practices could follow a pattern seen in the 2008 financial crisis when preparation work shrank, as product launches were dropped or postponed, but litigation work increased, as brand owners bore down on enforcing their rights. However, a drop in U.S. trademark litigation in March hints that the Covid crisis effect on practices might be different, according to a report. (World Trademark Review)

  • Yesterday, Baker Botts announced temporary partner compensation reductions, salary cuts for lawyers and staff, and a delayed start date for new associates, but the firm said it’s avoiding layoffs. It’s among the latest of over 60 law firms that have announced some combination of layoffs, furloughs, and pay cuts as a way to mitigate the financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. (BLAW)

  • Other firms making recent austerity moves include Sheppard Mullin, which said it’s furloughing 17 more staff members after the 33 it furloughed last week, and it’s making more salary cuts. (Above the Law) Davis & Gilbert, a midsize New York City firm, said its temporarily cutting salaries. (Above the Law) Ashurst became the first London-based firm to delay partner promotions. (The Lawyer)

  • Law firms are running out of time to make salary cuts to save their 2020 profits, according to an analysis by a former Ropes & Gray COO and Boston Consulting Group senior partner. He calculates that as many as 10 to 15 Big Law firms could “go under” because of snowballing partner departures at firms whose profits are erased by the Covid-19 crisis. (American Lawyer)

  • Federal courts are considering gradually restarting operations that were shut down because of the pandemic. (BLAW)

  • As the top scorer on the most recent Texas bar exam, Case Towslee was supposed to give a speech at a swearing-in ceremony for hundreds of new lawyers in Austin. Instead, he and the others recently got sworn in remotely via Zoom, which was fine with Towslee, because he doesn’t like giving public speeches. He’s now an oil and gas associate at Locke Lord. (Houston Chronicle)

  • New York’s state attorney general told Amazon.com it may have violated federal safety standards for providing protections to warehouse workers. (NPR)

Lawyers, Law Firms

  • The U.S. Solicitor General’s Office, which has faced criticism for a shortage of female advocates, added two assistants yesterday, hiring Paul Weiss counsel Masha Hansford and a former law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, Nicole Frazer Reaves, who arrives most recently from Washington litigation boutique Cooper & Kirk Nicole Frazer Reaves. (National Law Journal)

  • Utah’s Supreme Court is seeking comment on its proposed reforms that would open the state’s legal marketplace to nonlawyers, including allowing them to own or invest in law firms. (ABA Journal)

  • Apple Inc.'s ex-head of corporate law Gene Levoff, whose job at the iPhone maker included being a watchdog to prevent insider trading, told a judge his 2019 insider-trading indictment is unconstitutional because no specific criminal law bars such conduct. (Bloomberg News via BLAW)

  • A Virginia State Bar proposal to ban lawyers from initiating sexual relations spurred debate, with some commenters calling it unnecessary and others calling it insufficient. (Virginia Lawyers Weekly)

  • The U.S. Virgin Islands attorney general suing Jeffrey Epstein’s estate on behalf of his sexual abuse victims says she’s getting a run-around from the estate and its lawyers. (NYT)

  • Faegre Drinker helped client Saskatchewan Mining and Minerals, of Canada, beat an antidumping case at the U.S. International Trade Commission. (USITC.gov)

Laterals, Moves

  • Snell & Wilmer hired the head of McDermott Will and Emery’s trademark litigation group, John J. Dabney, as a partner in Washington in its intellectual property and tech group. Two members of his team moving with him from McDermott are former trademark examining attorney Richard Y. Kim, and Mary Hallerman. (SWLAW.com)

  • BakerHostetler grabbed the U.S. head of Norton Rose Fulbright’s data protection, privacy and cybersecurity practice, Jeewon Kim, in San Francisco. Kim, whose earlier roles include chief privacy officer for Fannie Mae and head privacy executive of RELX Group, joins as a partner and co-lead of BakerHostetler’s new digital transformation and data economy team. (Bakerlaw.com)

  • Weil, Gotshal & Manges added former Federal Trade Commission assistant director Michael Moiseyev as a partner. Moiseyev, who in his 30 year career at the agency oversaw hundreds of merger reviews, joins Weil’s global antitrust and competition practice. (BLAW)

  • As Covid-19 wrecks companies’ finances, Big Law bankruptcy and restructuring practices are competing for leading talent. For example, Latham & Watkins hired the former chair of O’Melveny & Myers’ U.S. restructuring practice, Suzzanne Uhland. (BLAW)

  • And Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, looking to rebuild its insolvency and restructuring practice, added two lawyers in San Francisco. Joshua Morse joins as partner from DLA Piper, and Jonathan Doolittle, joined from Reed Smith as senior counsel. (The Recorder)

  • Morrison & Foerster added private funds lawyer Leonora M. Shalet as a partner in New York, continuing the firm’s drive to bolster its corporate practice. She arrives from Schulte Roth & Zabel. (BLAW)

  • Chicago-founded Sidley Austin picked up Shearman & Sterling investment funds partners Nathan Greene and Jay Baris in New York. (BLAW)

  • Dechert hired an L.A.-based team of former Kirkland & Ellis product liability and mass torts litigators led by Kimberly Branscome, who will manage Dechert’s L.A. office. The team, which also includes partner Jay Bhimani, counsel Benjamin Sadun, and associate Alli Ozurovich, won a major California jury trial for Johnson & Johnson last December. (BLAW)

  • Bressler, Amery & Ross named insurance defense litigator Hope Zelinger managing principal of its Miami office, making her the first woman and youngest lawyer to manage one of its offices. (Bressler.com)

  • DLA Piper added Southeast Asian corporate and finance lawyers Samata Masagee and Waranon Vanichprapa as partners in its Bangkok office. Vanichprapa was previously at Baker McKenzie. Masagee, a Columbia Law School grad, joins from Thai firm Werrawong Chinnavat & Partners. (Asia Business Law Journal)

In-house

  • Medical waste management company Stericycle Inc. got back its former general counsel, former Big Law partner Kurt Rogers, who returns after losing his job as top lawyer at XPO Logistics Inc., where he’s been about a month. (BLAW)

Legal Education

  • The California Supreme Court yesterday, citing the Covid-19 pandemic, said the state’s bar exam will be delayed until the fall and likely administered online. (BLAW)

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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