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Wake Up Call: Freshfields Posts Flat Profits Amidst Big Push Into U.S.

July 24, 2020, 12:15 PM

In today’s column, New York said it will hold its bar exam online in October; with start dates on hold for first-year associates this fall, Big Law firms in Atlanta are considering sending the new lawyers to legal aid organizations temporarily; the Covid-19 pandemic doesn’t seem be slowing U.S. antitrust merger reviews; top real estate lawyers say struggling retailers can’t get out of their leases; Cahill and chemical giant BASF agreed to pay $72.5 million to resolve claims they hid evidence to avoid talc-asbestos litigation; a federal judge ordered prison authorities to let ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen out of prison again.

  • Leading off, London elite firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, which has been expanding recently on both U.S. coasts through some big lateral hires, posted revenues up 3%, to 1.5 billion pounds ($1.91 billion) for the fiscal year that ended April 30. The firm’s profits per equity partner slipped slightly from last year’s 1.84 million pounds, to 1.82 million pounds, according to reports. (Global Legal Post) (Legal Business)

  • With Georgia’s bar exam put off to October, Big Law firms’ Atlanta offices are postponing start dates for their first-year associates to January. Greenberg Traurig and Kilpatrick Townsend are sending associates to Atlanta Legal Aid Society in the fall to let them get some hands-on experience, while other firms may make similar arrangements, a report says. (Daily Report)

  • Top real estate industry lawyers say retailers trying to get out of leases because the pandemic has slammed their business are going to run into judges that have to enforce contracts, but the retailers might be able to work something out with their landlords. (The Real Deal)

  • Covid-19 hasn’t slowed antitrust merger reviews on either side of the Atlantic, a report by Dechert says. Among its observations, the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice concluded 70% more “significant investigations” in 2020’s first half compared with the same period in 2019. Healthcare and pharmaceuticals sector accounted for about one-third of the significant investigations, continuing about a decade-long trend, but the agencies concluded no significant investigations in the technology sector, it said. (Dechert.com)

  • A federal judge yesterday ordered former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen to be released from prison, again. The judge found that prison officials’ decision to end Cohen’s Covid-19 furlough was retaliation because Cohen is writing a book about his experiences working for Trump. (NYT)

Lawyers, Law Firms

  • Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher’s “elite litigators” have represented Uber Technologies Inc. and other big Gig Economy companies in about 80 lawsuits in California in existential fights over workers’ rights. (BLAW)

  • President Trump’s reelection campaign launched “Lawyers for Trump,” whose advisory board includes 11 current or former attorneys general. (Texas Lawyer)

  • New York-based Cahill, Gordon & Reindel joined BASF SE, the world’s biggest chemical maker, in agreeing to pay a combined $72.5 million to resolve claims they hid evidence that certain talc products contained asbestos. With legal fees and other costs, the settlement’s total value is near $100 million, according to filings in New Jersey federal court. (Bloomberg News via BLAW)

  • Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer and a staffing agency will pay a $56,500 civil penalty and other fines to settle a Justice Department claim that they refused to allow non-U.S. citizens to work on a document review project. (BLAW)

  • DLA Piper, Fox Rothschild, and Davis Wright Tremaine are facing separate federal securities suits. (BLAW)

  • A vice president of legal affairs at the luxury goods company LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton can sue the company for sexual harassment even though she signed an employment agreement that included an arbitration clause, a court ruled. (New York Law Journal)

  • A judge said a Tennessee lawyer went too far with his “colorful insults” of opposing counsel in an antitrust suit. (National Law Journal)

  • Ford and ALD Automotive agreed to create a company called Ford Fleet Management, which will offer an integrated leasing and fleet management solution for European customers. Ford was advised by Hogan Lovells, while ALD Automotive was represented by Shearman & Sterling, with Linklaters advising on antitrust aspects of the deal. (Automotive World)

  • The Ohio Supreme Court okayed a plan to recruit attorneys to serve as volunteer poll workers during the Nov. 3 election. (Cincinnati.com)

Laterals, Moves, In-house

  • Alston & Bird recruited Cooley trial lawyer Eric Kuwana as a partner in its New York and Washington offices. He earlier spent nearly 12 years as a partner at Katten Muchin Rosenman, including as national co-chair of its securities litigation & enforcement practice and 11 years at Patton Boggs as partner and deputy global chair of litigation. He served in President George H.W. Bush’s White House, and in the U.S. Department of Transportation. (Alston.com)

  • The U.K. Gambling Commission hired as its new general counsel the operations director and former legal chief of the country’s regulator for vocational qualifications. Natalie Prosser replaces Oliver Sweeney, who left the commission in January to join the Solicitors Regulation Authority as head of legal and enforcement. (Law.com International)

  • Health care startup Verily Life Sciences, a subsidiary of Google parent Alphabet Inc., hired biopharmaceutical industry in-house veteran Cynthia Patton as general counsel. Patton was most recently senior vice president and chief compliance officer at Amgen Inc. (Corporate Counsel)

  • Switzerland-based oil and gas giant Weatherford International plc named a veteran energy industry in-house leader, Scott Weatherholt, to be its general counsel and chief compliance officer. Energy companies Summit Midstream and Contango Oil & Gas also made legal team changes. (BLAW)

Promotions

  • Michael Best promoted six attorneys (one woman) to partner, across its corporate, litigation, and labor & employment practice groups, in the firm’s offices in Colorado and Wisconsin. (MichaelBest.com)

Legal Education

  • New York said it will hold its upcoming bar exam online in October, joining several other large states that are moving their tests online because of health concerns. (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