Bloomberg Law
Sept. 17, 2020, 12:38 PM

Wake Up Call: Firms Bill 11% Less but Show ‘Resilience': Report

Rick Mitchell
Rick Mitchell
Freelance Correspondent

In today’s column, ALSP UnitedLex said it’s investing $100 million to upgrade its cloud platform, which it says is aimed at speeding up “digital transformation” of corporate legal departments; Milbank joined the “Covid bonus wars,” prompting a columnist to wonder if other big firms will want to follow; another female lawyer who once sued her former Big Law employer for gender bias has started her own law firm; Blank Rome launched a biometric privacy team; five former Nixon Peabody partners are fighting that firm’s effort to claw back their bonuses; two big New York firms advised as a hedge fund titan made a deal to buy baseball’s New York Mets.

  • Leading off, law firm billing volumes shrank about 11% in August compared with their August 2019 level, however a steady increase in new casework could bode for an upturn in billing in September, according to a new report. The report, by practice management platform Clio, is based on data from tens of thousands of firms and lawyers using its platform and survey data. It says that despite a steady number of new U.S. coronavirus cases, “there are signs the legal industry is continually adapting and showing resilience to the challenges posed by Covid-19,” with technology playing an essential role in managing those challenges. (

  • Speaking of tech, U.K.-based legal services provider UnitedLex said it is investing $100 million in a new version of its flagship cloud-based platform UnitedLex Vantage, which it said aims to speed the “digital transformation” of corporate legal departments. The company said it expects version 2 of the platform, which makes “key improvements to customer experience,” to launch in the year’s fourth quarter. (

  • Meanwhile, a report says alternative legal services providers’ expertise in tech hasn’t yet inspired law firms to rush to adopt new technology. And it gives a few more reasons it says law firms haven’t budged much on tech. (Legaltech News)

  • Milbank yesterday joined the “Covid bonus wars,” matching the associate bonuses announced by Davis Polk & Wardwell a day earlier. Milbank also said it will raise bonuses by 50% for lawyers who have worked extra long hours during the virus crisis. Cooley, which fired the first Covid associate-bonus salvo earlier in the week, said via email from its press representative that it will be also distributing “appreciation” bonuses to professional staff, based on job title. The bonuses will apply to all non-partner employees employed by the firm and in good standing as of September 30, 2020, it said. (BLAW)

  • In his latest column, Bloomberg Law’s Roy Strom wonders if this week’s Covid bonus competition, and other recent changes in associate pay, may force some firms to back away from their “prestige driven” strategies when it comes to recruiting talent. (BLAW)

  • Quarles & Brady cited a need to adapt to the pandemic for its decision to divide its leadership role into two. (American Lawyer)

  • Most of Atlanta’s biggest law firms started re-opening in June, but they aren’t requiring lawyers and staff to return to in-person work. (Daily Report)

  • U.S. Supreme Court justices will again hear arguments remotely when the court opens its new term Oct. 5. They will also continue to provide livestreamed audio of proceedings, the court announced. (BLAW)

  • A group of federal judges shared best practices and guidelines for civil, criminal, and grand jury trials in the Covid era. (National Law Journal)

Lawyers, Law Firms

  • Former Buchalter shareholder Dawn Knepper, perhaps best known for the $300 million gender bias suit she filed against her penultimate firm, Ogletree Deakins, just launched her own small firm. The former management-side worklaw attorney now plans to represent plaintiffs in employment litigation. Knepper is the latest of three women who founded their own firms after suing their former Big Law firms for gender bias. (The Recorder)

  • Five former Nixon Peabody partners who left for DLA Piper are fighting what they call Nixon Peabody’s effort to claw back their 2019 bonuses, which they say were worth over $100,000 each. (American Lawyer)

  • Jenner & Block said it is promoting five female attorneys into practice leadership roles. (American Lawyer)

  • With Facebook, IBM, and other tech companies facing lawsuits over their use of biometric technology, Blank Rome yesterday formally launched a multidisciplinary biometric privacy team to help clients deal with risks associated with biometric privacy regulatory compliance, enforcement, and litigation. The team is led by Philadelphia-based business litigation partner Jeff Rosenthal (

  • Debevoise & Plimpton represented hedge fund mogul Steven Cohen in his deal to buy Major League Baseball’s New York Mets for over $2.4 billion. The team, owned over 30 years by real estate investor Fred Wilpon’s Sterling Equities Inc., is advised by Davis Polk & Wardwell. (BLAW)

  • A federal judge ordered all federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York to read her ruling that lambastes prosecutors for their handling of evidence in a criminal case involving alleged violations of sanctions against Iran. (

  • Retired Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz is suing CNN for $300 million for alleged defamation. (Above the Law)

  • Cleary Gottlieb is representingVerizon Communications Inc. on a $1 billion “green” bond offering for which Verizon said minority- and women-owned firms are acting as lead underwriters. (

Laterals, Moves

  • Distributed firm FisherBroyles said employment lawyer Jamie Hamnett joined the firm as a partner in London, arriving from Addleshaw Goddard’s Manchester office, where he was employment team head. (

  • Barnes & Thornburg’s San Diego office added veteran federal prosecutor Andrew P. Young as a partner in its litigation department. According to his LinkedIn, earlier in his career he spent time as an associate at Kirkland & Ellis and Schiff Hardin. (

  • Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr hired Northern California-based securities litigators Susan Muck and Kevin Muck, founders of Fenwick & West’s securities litigation practice, as partners. They’d been at Fenwick since 2004 and said they were attracted by WilmerHale’s Washington, D.C., presence. (The Recorder)

  • DLA Piper said its Brazilian partner firm Campos Mello Advogados opened an office in Brasilia and launched a government affairs office, for which it recruited two partners. (


  • Discord, a fast-growing instant messaging app company until recently mainly known among gamers, said it hired veteran tech industry in-house leader Clint Smith as its first chief legal officer. (


  • Troutman Pepper’s legal technology and eDiscovery affiliate, eMerge, launched a new website. (

  • Companies haven’t yet found tools to help deal with the increased risk of email cyber risks stemming from the shift to remote work, a survey finds. (Legaltech News)

Legal Education

  • New York’s state legislature looks unlikely to pass a bill that would allow recent law grads to practice law without passing the bar exam, but a group of lawmakers is still urging the state’s Court of Appeals to adopt the so-called diploma privilege. (New York Law Journal)

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