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Wake Up Call: Legal Employers Eye Fewer Bonuses, More Hiring

Oct. 28, 2020, 12:37 PM

In today’s column, Latham and Skadden Arps advised on a $35 billion merger of chip makers; a law firm’s survey of M&A pros found the highest level of optimism in the 16-year history of the survey, but also concerns about Covid and next week’s elections; the Lawyers’ Committee For Civil Rights says the number of legal volunteers for its election protection program is up five-fold from 2016.

  • Leading off, two-thirds of hiring decision-makers at law firms and in-house legal departments responding to a recent survey said they might not pay bonuses to employees this year because of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. But most of the respondents to the survey by staffing firm Adecco Group also said they expect to rehire for jobs eliminated during the pandemic. (Business Insider)
  • After news this week of “stealth” layoffs of staff at Kirkland & Ellis, legal recruiters say “quiet” reductions of staff are probably happening, or will happen, at most firms, as the legal profession continues to reset to a new normal post-Covid. (American Lawyer)
  • A report from London says Dentons plans to postpone annual performance reviews until next year. (The Lawyer)
  • Detroit-based Dykema said its latest annual market outlook survey of M&A professionals found the highest level of optimism in the survey’s 16-year history, with 71% of the 225 respondents expecting the market to strengthen over the next 12 months, up from 33% in 2019. While 63% of respondents cited the pandemic as the biggest threat to the market, 48% said the election of Joe Biden as president would be the biggest threat, and 31% said Donald Trump’s re-election is the biggest threat. (

Lawyers, Law Firms

  • Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher launched a new judgment and arbitral award enforcement practice group, led by co-chairs Robert Weigel, a commercial litigation partner, and litigation partner Matthew D. McGill. (
  • A trustee for LeClairRyan accused UnitedLex Corp. of fraud and getting paid before creditors when a joint venture with the defunct law firm unraveled. (BLAW)
  • And a former attorney for another defunct law firm, Dickstein Shapiro, convinced a federal appeals court to revive her lawsuit seeking disability benefits from Unum Life Insurance Co. of America. (BLAW)
  • Simpson Thacher said it advised Blackstone Group on the final closing of its private equity strategy that raised a record $8 billion for a fund that aims to hold companies for longer periods than its typical investments. The firm’s second “vintage” private equity fund will be more than 70% larger than its first, which closed in 2016, Blackstone said. (Bloomberg News via BLAW)
  • Latham & Watkins advised Advanced Micro Devices Inc. on its $35 billion deal to buy Xilinx Inc. in a merger to create a chip maker to take on Intel Corp. Skadden Arps advised Xilinx. (Bloomberg News)
  • Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who graduated from Notre Dame’s law school and returned there to teach for more than a decade, could help break elite law school graduates’ lock on Supreme Court clerkships. (BLAW)
  • Mayer Brown launched a blog with news and analysis on energy industry developments worldwide. (
  • A federal judge rejected a Justice Department bid to stand in as defendant for President Trump in a defamation suit brought by a New York advice columnist who accuses Trump of rape. (Bloomberg News via BLAW)


  • As the 2020 presidential campaign winds down, Republicans and Democrats are getting ready for the prospect of an ugly post-election courtroom fight. (Financial Times)
  • The Lawyers’ Committee For Civil Rights says the number of legal volunteers for its election protection program is up five-fold from 2016. (American Lawyer)
  • K&L Gates posted a comparative, two-column chart of possible policy impacts of the coming presidential election, with one side listing possible impacts if Trump is re-elected and the other side if Democratic challenger Joe Biden wins. (

Laterals, Moves

  • Baker McKenzie recruited Frankfurt-based economist Florian Gimmler away from auditing giant PwC, giving the firm three non-lawyer tax partners in Germany. The hire is part of Baker’s plans to expand its tax practice in Germany to compete with the Big Four. ( International)
  • Barnes & Thornburg grabbed Reed Smith patent attorney Matthew Gibson in Dallas as a partner in its intellectual property department. (
  • Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp added partners on both coasts. Entertainment industry labor and employment attorney Ann Calfas, a former executive vice president in charge of labor relations and negotiations at Fox Group, joined in Los Angeles. Corporate and securities partner Andrea Cataneo joined as a partner in New York, arriving most recently from Sheppard Mullin, where she was a partner. (
  • New York-based Warshaw Burstein expanded its copyright and trademark law group, adding former Kilpatrick Townsend associate Kristin G. Garris as counsel, while patent attorney John Laurence, who also has his own IP law firm, joins as of counsel. Garris and Laurence both previously worked at business law firm Scarinci Hollenbeck, though not contemporaneously. (
  • Technology lobbyists Michael Drobac and Greg Walden left McGuireWoods Consulting to join Dentons’ public policy practice. (Politico)


  • Houston-based legal tech company ThoughtTrace, Inc. released an artificial intelligence-powered platform that it says allows rapid discovery of contract data using a combination of self-organizing document management with contract analytics and contextual search. (
  • DLA Piper said it launched a mobile app, “Compliance Atlas,” that enables clients’ employees to quickly access policy documents and related resources to prevent compliance breaches. (DLA Piper)

Legal Education

  • The District of Columbia joined six states that have announced they will be holding their February 2021 bar exams online, after the National Conference of Bar Examiners gave jurisdictions a choice of offering an in-person or online exam Feb. 23 and Feb. 24. Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee have also opted for online versions. (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