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Wake Up Call: Law Firms Exit Qatar, Enter Texas

Feb. 7, 2017, 1:35 PM

• With energy industry regulation about to get a lot friendlier under the new Trump administration, a pair of Big Law firms Monday announced new offices in Texas. Winston & Strawn LLP said it is hiring 23 partners from eight different law firms, with most going to its new Dallas office. ( BLB )

• Meanwhile, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP announced a new Houston office, with a team initially numbering eight partners, specialized in energy transactions in the oil and gas sector. ( BLB ) Drinker Biddle & Reath said last month that its new office in Dallas will have a focus on business litigation, products liability, class action, and insurance. ( Drinker Biddle )

• Two Big Law firms are pulling out of Qatar. Citing a decline in demand, U.K. law firm Clifford Chance said it is closing in Qatar about six years after opening there, and moving its office head, Jason Mendens, to Dubai. ( Am Law Daily ) Another British firm, Herbert Smith Freehills, said it is also decamping from Qatar. ( The Lawyer )

• Weil, Gotshal & Manges posted big increases in revenue and profits in 2016. But executive partner Barry Wolf noted in particular that demand rose 2.5 percent at Weil in 2016, despite flat-lining for the legal industry in general. The firm’s revenue increased by nine percent, to $1.27 billion, and profits per partner rose more than 22 percent to $3.1 million. ( Am Law Daily )

• A San Francisco court awarded $7.9 million to the former general counsel of biotech company BioRad, who sued his ex-employer for whistleblower retaliation. ( The Recorder )

• Cozen O’Connor has hired away two Pepper Hamilton lawyers who conducted the University of Virginia’s investigation into Rolling Stone Magazine’s later-retracted allegations of sexual misconduct on the campus. Cozen O’Connor said the lawyers will lead its new practice group dedicated to improving institutional responses to child abuse, sexual and gender-based harassment and violence. ( BLB )

Legal Market

• A federal judge said lawyers may have to pay up to $2 million for an investigation he wants into charges that their law firms in Boston and New York puffed up legal bills by millions of dollars in a class-action lawsuit against State Street Bank. ( Boston Globe )

• A last-minute campaign by law deans and diversity advocates against tougher bar passage rules has paid off, as ABA delegates Monday rejected a measure that would have tightened the standard for accredited institutions. But tougher rules could still come later, in response to continued concerns that some law schools admit students unlikely to pass the bar. ( National Law Journal )

• Venable said gross revenue rose nearly 5 percent and partner profits almost 4 percent in 2016. ( Am Law Daily )

• The U.S. Army may decide by week’s end whether to approve construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline across North Dakota’s Lake Oahe and lands claimed sacred by Sioux Indian tribes. A Justice Department lawyer outlined the planned timeline for the Army’s decision to a federal judge in Washington who is hearing a three-way dispute over the planned path of the Energy Transfer Partners LP-led project. ( Bloomberg )

• U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May warned rebels in her own Conservative Party not to “obstruct” the British people’s desire to leave the European Union as she sought parliamentary backing to trigger Brexit negotiations. ( Bloomberg )

President Trump’s First 100 Days

• President Trump’s pick to lead the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai, has aggressively moved to roll back consumer protection regulations created during the Obama presidency, including net neutrality rules designed to ensure equal access to content on the internet.( New York Times )

• Google parent Alphabet Inc. is working with Washington, D.C.-based law firm Mayer Brown LLP as the tech giant organizes funding of the legal brief signed by more than 120 companies that oppose President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration, according to people familiar with the arrangement.( Bloomberg )

• As a San Francisco appeals court mulled whether to reinstate the ban, President Donald Trump said the immigration controls are needed to protect Americans from “radical Islamic terrorists.” ( Bloomberg via BLB )

• Trump filed his final arguments asking a San Francisco appeals court to reinstate his executive order implementing a ban on refugees and travel from seven majority Muslim countries. Video. ( Bloomberg ) The legal battle that the order has set off: quicktake Q&A. ( Bloomberg via BLB )

• Attorneys general have become Democrat-held states’ legal “bulwark” against Trump’s travel ban order. ( New York Times )

• Opinion: Despite Trump’s sketchy ethics plans, concerns remain over the many potential conflicts of interest linked to his vast business holdings, as well as Ivanka Trump’s links to them. ( Bloomberg View )

• Trump has claimed that regulations written to prevent bank meltdowns and bailouts, particularly the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010, have made it next to impossible to start or expand a small business in the U.S. What’s the real situation? ( Bloomberg )

• In a recent private letter to his investors, the head of a hedge fund that manages about $30 billion warned that Trump’s “high volatility” and “erratic” decisions are a menace to their money, and to the U.S. and global economies. ( New York Times DealBook )

Happening in SCOTUS and Other Courts

• About three dozen former Harvard Law School students are raising questions about Trump Administration claims that Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch worked for two legal defense groups while he was a law student at the school. The students, who participated in the programs, said they don’t recall Gorsuch’s involvement in them.( Wall Street Journal )

• Trump’s immigration ban is likely heading to the Supreme Court: Greg Stohr, Bloomberg Supreme court reporter, discusses. ( Bloomberg Radio )

• Editorial: by trying to discredit federal judges, Trump is threatening the constitutional order of the United States. ( New York Times )

• When Seattle U.S. District Judge James Robart announced his nationwide block on Trump’s travel ban, the event was televised. That’s because his Western District of Washington was one of three federal district courts that extended a cameras-in-the-court pilot program, which expired for other districts in 2015. ( National Law Journal )

Laterals and Moves

• Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP partner Rowan D. Wilson was confirmed on Monday to serve as an associate judge of the New York State Court of Appeals. ( BLB )

Technology

• A Big Law associate has gotten 540,000 “likes” for his Facebook post showing himself and other subway riders using hand sanitizer to scrub swastikas and anti-Semitic graffiti from a New York subway train. ( Am Law Daily )

• Although few tech workers come from the seven countries affected by Trump’s travel ban, the 97 U.S. companies, most from the tech sector that joined the state of Washington’s lawsuit aiming to block Trump’s executive order, have good reasons to fight it every step of the way. ( Bloomberg View )

• Facebook Inc. told a German court it doesn’t have a “wonder machine” to monitor all of its customers’ posts for racist language. ( Bloomberg )

• Jawbone Inc. isn’t backing down in its legal fight with Fitbit Inc., asserting in a court filing that its rival maker of wearable activity trackers is under investigation by a criminal grand jury for theft of trade secrets. ( Bloomberg )

Legal Education

• Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Gorsuch has argued that the third year of law school should be optional. That’s something that former President Barack Obama has also said he favors, while the late conservative Justice Antonin Scalia opposed the idea. ( National Law Journal )

Miscellaneous

• U.S. prosecutors who recently busted a Ponzi scheme centered on marked-up tickets to the hit Broadway musical “Hamilton” discovered that victims included several big-name billionaires. ( Bloomberg )

Compiled by Rick Mitchell and edited by Casey Sullivan.