Wake Up Call: Ex-Pierce Partners Launch Black-Owned Firm

Oct. 1, 2020, 12:46 PM

In today’s column, the Covid-bonus train may be at risk of derailing after O’Melveny became the third Big Law firm to say it won’t offer them to associates; Microsoft named Perkins Coie and Latham for “special recognition” in its program aimed at boosting diversity of its outside law firms. It also said its expanding the program’s “bonus pool”; Arnold & Porter is closing its office in Germany; Mintz is the latest firm to launch a new practice aimed at advising companies looking to tap into the $12 trillion market for sustainable and socially responsible investments; a judge said five former Nixon Peabody partners must arbitrate their bonus dispute with the firm; a judge temporarily blocked South Carolina’s $75 million payment to two firms who worked on a plutonium cleanup settlement.

  • Leading off, three former Big Law lawyers have launched a new Black-owned firm, Bradford Edwards & Varlack, whose “explicit” mission, they say, is to eliminate barriers to advancement of diverse attorneys, while also providing high-quality legal service. The new firm’s founding partners Patrick A. Bradford, Denver Edwards, and Camille Joseph Varlack were all most recently at Pierce Bainbridge, where Bradford and Edwards were partners and Varlack was chief operating officer. Bradford was the first Black lawyer elected partner at Davis Polk. Edwards was formerly a senior counsel in the SEC’s enforcement divisions, while, Varlack was chief risk officer and special counsel for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. (Businesswire.com) (BradfordEdwards.com)

  • Microsoft Corp. said Perkins Coie for a second-straight year was the top performing law firm in its diversity program for outside counsel. It said Latham & Watkins was the firm’s most “innovative” firm. The tech giant also said it’s expanding the “bonus pool” and number of law firms that can participate in the program, which aims to boost diversity of outside attorneys working on its matters, as well within firms’ partnership and executive management. (Blogs.Microsoft.com)

  • Minority associates are leaving big firms because they’re not getting enough professional development, a report says. (American Lawyer)

  • Big firms are splitting on the issue of fall bonuses. Several firms in September matched the $7,500 to $40,000 Covid-bonus scale set by Davis Polk, after Cooley started things off early in the month, but now three major firms are sitting out. (BLAW)

  • O’Melveny & Myers yesterday became the latest major firm to opt out of the Big Law trend of firms paying associates fall bonuses to show appreciation for their work during the Covid-19 pandemic and other crises this year. Cravath, Swaine & Moore, and Kirkland & Ellis have also told associates they’ll have to wait for their bonuses at year’s end. (American Lawyer)

  • According to reports, O’Melveny said it will offer “enhanced” bonuses for select associates and counsel in February 2021, which is when the firm normally pays out bonuses. (Above the Law)

  • Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer will be saying “auf wiedersehen” to its only office in Germany, Frankfurt, in 2021, the latest firm to shutter an international office as the Covid-19 pandemic hits business. A report says the office currently has 16 lawyers, including nine partners. (GlobalLegalPost)

Lawyers, Law Firms

  • Hughes Hubbard & Reed, which was already losing lawyers and revenue before the pandemic made things worse, is rebuilding. (American Lawyer)

  • There’s a new top five firms for M&A deals so far this year, as overall deal value is down 21% through the year’s third quarter, according to a report. (American Lawyer)

  • Orrick is entering the nascent market for automated legal products this week. (BLAW)

  • A judge temporarily blocked two law firms from getting $75 million from South Carolina for helping the state negotiate a settlement with the federal government over a clean-up of nuclear material. (Associated Press via ABC News4.com)

  • Latham and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law are asking a judge to sanction the U.S. Census Bureau and Department of Commerce for failure to comply with a court order prohibiting them from ending the census count early. (The Recorder)

  • A New York state court judge ruled that five former Nixon Peabody partners, now at DLA Piper, must arbitrate their dispute with their former firm over bonuses distributed before they left. (American Lawyer)

  • Liberty Tax Inc., represented by Willkie Farr & Gallagher, beat a #MeToo-linked securities lawsuit on appeal. (BLAW)

Laterals, Moves

  • Mintz is the latest firm to launch a new practice aimed at advising companies looking to tap into the $12 trillion market for sustainable and socially responsible investments. The Boston-based firm said it created an environmental, social, and corporate governance practice focused on helping existing and prospective clients to navigate complex, rapidly-evolving ESG concerns and priorities. (Mintz.com)

  • Greenberg Traurig grabbed a three-lawyer data privacy and security team from Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, including the chair of BCLP’s global data privacy and security practice, David Zetoony. Zetoony, who joins as a shareholder in Denver, and Jena Valdetero, joining in Chicago as a shareholder, will serve as co-chairs of Greenberg’s U.S. data, privacy & cybersecurity practice. Associate Jessica Pederson joins in Chicago. (GTLaw.com)

  • Akerman said real estate litigator Massimo D’Angelo joined the firm as a partner in New York. According to his LinkedIn, he was previously a partner at Adam Leitman Bailey. (Akerman.com)

  • California real estate firm Miller Starr Regalia hired business litigator James L. Swearingen in Walnut Creek as an associate. (MSRLegal.com)

  • DLA Piper said it re-hired Lima-based intellectual property lawyer Ana Teresa Barreto as of counsel and head of the firm’s industrial and IP practice in Peru. Barreto was at DLA Piper earlier in her career and returns after five years as CEO and general director at ClarkeModet Peru, a company that manages IP. (LinkedIn.com)

  • Distributed firm FisherBroyles said patent litigator Adam Yowell joined the firm in Reno, Nevada, as a partner. He arrives from Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck. (FisherBroyles.com)


  • Fall hiring of in-house attorneys is mostly on pace with last year despite the pandemic. (Corporate Counsel)


  • Health benefits company Anthem reached a $39.5 million settlement with 43 states over a data breach. (BLAW)

  • E-signature company DocuSign Wednesday launched DocuSign Analyzer, its automated contract review solution designed for incoming agreements, and based on Seal Software, which it acquired earlier this year. (Artificial Lawyer)

Legal Education

  • Minnesota is the latest state to test a paraprofessional limited licensing scheme to help low income residents afford legal help in civil matters. (BLAW)

  • The National Conference of Bar Examiners said its recent survey found a majority of Americans support in-person bar exams during the Covid-19 pandemic and also think they should continue after the pandemic. (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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