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Wake Up Call: Macy’s Hires Kirkland for Advice After Virus Hits Hard

April 14, 2020, 12:39 PM

In today’s column, Baker McKenzie announced 15% pay cuts and warned they could last through year’s end, depending on unforeseen economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic; Venable had strong financial results last year, but the firm still had to make cost cuts to protect itself during the crisis; DLA Piper named new U.S. co-managing partners; the Securities and Exchange Commission named a former Cravath litigator as chief counsel, office of the chief accountant.

  • Leading off, Macy’s Inc., which has had to close all its physical department stores because of the Covid-19 pandemic, has hired Lazard bankers for financial advice and Kirkland & Ellis lawyers for debt-restructuring advice, according to reports. (Bloomberg News) (Seeking Alpha)

  • Restructuring and health care are among law firm practices that are getting a bost from the Covid-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, other practices are getting hit hard. For example, lawyers that advise on M&A deals and initial public offerings are seeing work dry up as transactions get canceled or postponed. (BusinessInsider.com) Some firms have also canceled or adjusted their summer associate programs. (AbovetheLaw.com)

  • Baker McKenzie, one of the world’s biggest law firms, announced 15% cuts to salaries of U.S. lawyers and staff earning more than $100,000 per year, with the biggest cuts to hit equity partners. The cuts, aimed at helping avoid layoffs, start May 1 and could extend to as late as year’s end, the Chicago-founded firm warned. (BLAW)

  • L.A.-based Sheppard Mullin said it is temporarily furloughing 33 staffers—receptionists, support services workers, and file center employees—for about two-to-three months, because they’re unable to perform their jobs from home. The firm said it’s considering other cost-cutting moves, but not layoffs. (BLAW)

  • Washington-based Venable’s 15.2% growth in gross revenues in 2019 wasn’t enough to avoid pay cuts and furloughs to adjust its staffing to Covid-19’s new economic reality. The firm also said it has informed its summer associate program participants that its program will not start May 18 as scheduled. (National Law Journal)

  • Atlanta-based Smith Gambrell & Russell said it will defer partner draws by 20% and cut pay for all employees, including associates, by 10%. It hasn’t yet decided about its summer associate program. (Daily Report Online) Atlanta-based worklaw firm Ogletree Deakins decided to cancel its summer associate program. (Daily Report Online)

  • Client data confidentiality is paramount while lawyers and law office staffers work remotely during the coronavirus pandemic, the Pennsylvania Bar Association said in its opinion aimed at addressing ethical concerns voiced by lawyers ordered to close their offices during the Covid-19 shut-down. (BLAW)

  • The U.S. Supreme Court for the first time will hear arguments by telephone and allow live audio broadcasts, bowing to the pandemic by announcing a special May session including rescheduled clashes over subpoenas for President Trump’s financial records. (BLAW)

  • Law students across the country are seeing their lives disrupted by Covid-19. (BLAW)

Lawyers, Law Firms

  • DLA Piper named new co-managing partners for the United States. Chicago-based Richard Chelsey and Los Angeles-based Jackie Kim Park. They take over from Stasia Kelly, who has served as U.S. managing partner since 2013 and who will now move into the role of executive director for client relations. (DLAPiper.com)

  • The Securities and Exchange Commission named former Cravath, Swaine & Moore litigator Natasha Guinan as chief counsel, office of the chief accountant. A veteran securities and audit regulator attorney, she has among other things been a senior counsel in the SEC’s enforcement division. (Bloomberg Tax)

  • Arizona-based Snell & Wilmer said it’s adding a third California office, in San Diego, to advise on biotech intellectual property and associated matters, in particular. IP and tech partner Jeffrey D. Morton, from the firm’s Phoenix office, and trust and estate planning partner Steffi Gascón Hafen, from its Orange County and L.A. offices, have relocated to San Diego to staff the new outpost. (SWLaw.com)

  • The top in-house lawyer at Ascena Retail Group Inc., the owner of Ann Taylor and Lane Bryant clothing brands, has left shortly after the company furloughed most of its employees. (BLAW)

  • Beyond Meat Inc., which had one of 2019’s top-performing IPOs, gave its first-year legal chief, former Latham & Watkins lawyer Teri Witteman, total compensation package worth nearly $21.94 million in 2019. (BLAW)

  • A Delaware court disqualified Cozen O’Connor from a life insurance trust case because of the firm’s “conflicts.” (BLAW)

  • Lawyers from Sidley Austin, an ACLU branch, and the Immigrants Rights Clinic at Stanford Law School won a California federal court order requiring Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials to revise their Covid-19 policies for a processing center to allow confidential conversations between detainees and attorneys. (ACLUSocial.org) (Los Angeles Times)

  • Harvard Law School professor Lawrence Lessig dropped his federal defamation lawsuit against The New York Times. (New York Law Journal)

  • Willkie Farr & Gallagher and Ropes & Gray advised Blackstone Group Inc. on its deal to invest up to $2 billion into Alnylam Pharmaceuticals Inc. in exchange, among other things, for half of the the Massachusetts-based biotech company’s royalties on a cholesterol drug. Goodwin Procter advised Alnylam. (BusinessWire.com) (FierceBiotech.com) (WSJ.com)

Laterals, Moves

  • Mintz said former two-term Republican Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld returned to the firm’s public relations arm after dropping his bid to run for president. A former federal prosecutor and assistant U.S. attorney general, Weld specializes in government strategies, corporate governance, and compliance, and white collar litigation. (Mintz.com)

  • With Covid-19 expected to spur plenty of health care litigation, K&L Gates added health care reimbursement lawyer Stephen Bittinger as a partner, working from its Charleston, South Carolina, and Washington offices. (KLGates.com)

Legal Education

  • The National Conference of Bar Examiners warned that letting law graduates skip the bar exam because of Covid-19 disruptions could cause problems, such as exposing the public to unqualified new lawyers. (Law.com)

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

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