Bloomberg Law
Oct. 5, 2020, 12:15 PM

Wake Up Call: Former EPA Top Lawyer Joins Hunton Andrews Kurth

Rick Mitchell
Rick Mitchell
Freelance Correspondent

In today’s column, the recently hired top lawyer at a California-based patent licensing firm agreed to pay $25,000 to settle SEC allegations stemming from actions she allegedly took while at her prior employer; U.K.-based law firms are seeing premiums prices spike for their professional indemnity insurance; California’s two-day online bar exam looks set to go on as scheduled starting today despite last-minute efforts to get it canceled or altered; Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination shindig at the White House last month turned out to be a “spigot” of Covid-19 infections.

  • Leading off, Hunton Andrews Kurth said in an emailed statement that it has hired the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s recently departed general counsel, Matthew Z. Leopold. He joins the firm as a partner based in Washington and will focus his practice on advising clients on high stakes environmental litigation, emerging environmental policy and regulations, navigating federal and state permitting, and chemical licensing, the firm said. (

  • When Leopold left the EPA in September after a nearly three-year stint and a mixed record in the courtroom, he didn’t say where he was going. The agency said then that principal deputy general counsel David Fotouhi would serve as acting general counsel. (BLAW)

  • According to his LinkedIn profile, Leopold earlier spent close to three years at Carlton Fields as of counsel. Before that, he was general in Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection and previously was an environmental attorney in the U.S. Justice Department. In Hunton Andrews Kurth’s e-mailed statement, firm managing partner Wally Martinez called Leopold “a welcome addition whose knowledge and insight will benefit the firm and our clients.” (

  • U.K.-based law firms, already dealing with Covid-19’s impact on their business, are getting hit by steep price hikes for their professional indemnity insurance, with rates for some lines of coverage more than doubling, and average increases at around 20%, according to a report. (Financial Times)

  • Kirkland & Ellis pulled ahead of competitors advising on M&A through 2020’s first three quarters, notching 356 deals worth $190 billion, new data show. Global M&A activity for the third quarter reached $2.1 trillion, down 23.6% the same time period last year, which is not as bad as the 50% year-on-year plunge in the first half. (BLAW)

  • The legal sector gained a modest 3,100 jobs in September after a flat August, as the economic turmoil from the Covid-19 pandemic continues. (BLAW)

  • New York state officials have reported a surge in Covid-19 infections in areas of downstate New York to levels not seen since June, but for now it doesn’t look like law firm offices will get orders to shut down again, a report says. (New York Law Journal)

  • As the pandemic exacerbates mental health problems for lawyers and law firm staff, it could also be contributing to improved empathy in the industry for people suffering anxiety, depression, and other problems, according to this report. (American Lawyer)

  • California’s two-day online bar exam looks set to go on as scheduled starting today, after the state Supreme Court rejected a last-ditch request by 15 law school deans to make the test open book. The court also denied an emergency petition seeking provisional licenses for recent law school graduates without taking the exam. (The Recorder)

Lawyers, Law Firms

  • The new general counsel at patent licenser Acacia Research Corp., Meredith Simmons, agreed to pay $25,000 to settle allegations that she backdated and withheld U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission records related to an insider-trading investigation while she was top lawyer at New York-based hedge fund Mason Capital Management, according to a report. (Corporate Counsel)

  • Freshfields first woman chair, Georgia Dawson, said she sees her new role as a opportunity to bolster the industry’s diversity efforts, continue her firm’s expansion in the U.S., and shake up some traditional law firm views following the pandemic. (BLAW)

  • Big Law firms have become a small but important pipeline for female advocates before the Supreme Court. (BLAW)

  • The White House nomination ceremony for President Trump’s latest Supreme Court pick, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, turned out to be a “spigot” of Covid-19 infections. (Above the Law)

  • Top aides to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton accused him of bribery, improper influence and other potential criminal offenses. (Bloomberg News via BLAW)

  • Both political parties are enlisting New York lawyers to go into so-called swing states to monitor voting, procedures, and possible recounts in the upcoming presidential election. (WSJ)

  • Morrison & Foerster and Ropes & Gray represented San Francisco-based Altamont Capital Partners on its investment in Cornerstone Advisors, Inc., a leading provider of advisory services to banking institutions. Snell & Wilmer advised Cornerstone for the transaction, for which no terms were revealed. (

Laterals, Moves

  • Transatlantic firm Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner expanded its Paris real estate practice, hiring partner Pierre Popesco, who arrives from CMS Francis Lefebvre Avocats with a team of six lawyers, including three counsel. (

  • San Diego-headquartered insurance-defense firm Tyson & Mendes said it launched new offices in Norwalk, Connecticut, and Jersey City, New Jersey, which, with its existing New York office, give it 10 attorneys in the tri-state area, and 15 offices across the country. (

  • Lathrop GPM hired law firm marketing pro Jasmine Trillos-Decarie for the new role of chief client officer, making Lathrom one of the latest firms to add the position, aimed at managing marketing initiatives and client feedback. (American Lawyer)


  • Investment giant Pacific Investment Management Co. LLC hired Big Law bankruptcy attorney Jennifer Opheim as senior counsel and global head of anti-financial crime compliance for the financial services firm. She previously spent over eight years at Schulte Roth & Zabel, where she was special counsel in New York. (BLAW)

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