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Wake Up Call: New Legal Work Down 40% Since Covid-19, Report Finds

May 5, 2020, 12:49 PM

In today’s column, more law firms made austerity cuts to protect their cash flow amidst a Covid-19 downturn; Weil and two other Big Law firms are advising J. Crew on its bankruptcy filing; car-rental company Hertz, on the verge of bankruptcy, has hired more lawyers; three Big Law firms have signed $650,000 contracts to advise the Treasury Department on its Covid-19 relief effort for air carriers; Cozen O’Connor added nine corporate and tech lawyers from a boutique in Philadelphia that advised emerging startups.

  • Leading off, a new report from Clio finds that, despite continued need for legal services in some practice areas during the Covid-19 shut-down, weekly openings of new U.S. legal matters are down 40% compared with their level in late February. Clio said it based its report on data taken from tens of thousands of legal professionals using its legal practice management software, as well as data from a survey of legal pros. (ABA Journal) (Clio.com)

  • Meanwhile, Hunton Andrews Kurth’s lawsuit tracker has so far identified some 800 lawsuits filed over Covid-19, and more than 230 of them dealing with prison conditions. (ABA Journal)

  • J. Crew’s Weil, Gotshal & Manges lawyers filed for bankruptcy in Virginia, making the casual clothing chain the first big retailer to go bankrupt in the time of Covid-19. Hunton Andrews Kurth is the company’s local counsel, while Milbank is counsel to members of an ad hoc lenders’ committee, according to a report. (American Lawyer)

  • J. Crew is likely just the first of many retail bankruptcies to come, with Neiman Marcus Group Inc., J.C. Penney Co, and others expected to follow. (BLAW)

  • Florida-based car rental company Hertz Global Holdings is moving toward a bankruptcy filing and getting advice form White & Case and FTI Consulting, reports say. (WSJ) (Fortune) (Bloomberg News via BLAW)

  • Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton; Davis Polk & Wardwell; and Sullivan & Cromwell have all signed six-week, $650,000 contracts to advise the U.S. Treasury Department on its Covid-19 relief effort for air carriers, a report says. (National Law Journal)

  • Latham & Watkins said it will host virtual summer programs for second and first-year law students, making it the latest firm to adapt its program to the pandemic. (BLAW)

  • The next District of Columbia bar exam will take place in September, putting the district in line with several states that have delayed their tests because of the pandemic. (BLAW)

  • The U.S. Supreme Court’s first try at livestream audio of arguments delivered by phone went relatively smoothly yesterday, considering all that could have gone wrong. (BLAW)

Lawyers, Law Firms

  • Professional services, including law firms, are apparently in phase two of New York Governor Cuomo’s four-step plan to re-open the economy. (New York Law Journal)

  • Dentons, the world’s biggest law firm by head count, is now also Argentina’s biggest firm after a combination with a firm in that country, and its 24 offices across Latin America and the Caribbean are also the most of any firm, a report says. (Law.com International)

  • King & Spalding landed Jamieson Greer, who was most recently chief of staff in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, as a partner on its international trade team in Washington. Earlier in his career, Greer worked at Skadden Arps, and Kirkland & Ellis. (BLAW)

  • Hogan Lovells client Intel Corporation acquired Moovit, a mobility-as-a-service solutions company, for about $900 million, in a step toward Intel’s plan to have a fleet of robo taxis. (Businesswire.com)

Pro Bono

  • ALM Media released its “hot list” of top pro bono firms for 2020. (Law.com)

  • A White & Case partner possibly wishes he had not used “reply all” to send his email complaining about the firm’s pro bono work for a climate change organization. (Above the Law)

Laterals, Moves

  • Cozen O’Connor got nine corporate, technology, data privacy and security lawyers from closing Philadelphia boutique Baer Crossey McDemus, including its name partners. Andrew Baer joins Cozen as a shareholder and will chair its expanded technology, privacy & data security group. Michael Crossey and Christopher McDemus also join as shareholders and will co-chair the firm’s emerging business & venture capital group and oversee its program for assisting and onboarding startups and entrepreneurs. (Cozen.com)

  • London elite firm Allen & Overy hired the Washington-based co-chairman of Jenner & Block’s international arbitration practice, Patrick Pearsall, as a partner as part of its plans to expand its own U.S. practice. Pearsall is former chief of investment arbitration at the State Department. (National Law Journal)

  • Reed Smith got corporate and competition law specialist Ross Mackenzie as a partner in its London office. He arrives from Ashurst, where he’d been over 20 years. (ReedSmith.com)

  • Morrison & Foerster added tax lawyer Sophie Allen as a partner in London. She’s previously been a partner at EY and Kirkland & Ellis. (Mofo.com)

  • Detroit-based Clark Hill said tax and estate planning lawyer John Klees joined the firm as a senior counsel in Grand Rapids, Michigan. (ClarkHill.com)

  • Alternative dispute resolution services provider JAMS added retired California superior court judge John H. Sugiyama to its panel in Walnut Creek, California. It also added retired New York federal chief magistrate judge James “Jay” C. Francis to its New York panel. (JAMSadr.com)

  • BakerHostetler said veteran trial litigator David Aronoff joined the firm as a partner in Los Angeles. He arrives from Winston & Strawn, where he was a former L.A. chair of litigation and a member of the firm’s compensation and finance committees. (BakerLaw.com)

In-house

  • Albertsons Cos. Inc., the Idaho-based grocery giant, hired food business in-house veteran Juliette Pryor to succeed its retiring general counsel Bob Gordon in mid-June. Pryor, a former Skadden Arps counsel, was most recently general counsel and corporate secretary at Atlanta-based Cox Enterprises Inc. and earlier served as an attorney adviser to former International Trade Commission vice chair Janet Nuzum. (BLAW)

  • The Guardian Life Insurance Co. of America recruited the top lawyer at insurer AXA Equitable, Kermitt Brooks, to replace Eric Dinallo as its in-house legal chief. Brooks and Dinallo, who in early March returned to Debevoise & Plimpton’s New York office, to lead the law firm’s insurance regulatory practice, previously worked together at New York State’s insurance regulator. (BLAW)

  • New York employment boutique Wigdor, known for representing plaintiffs with #MeToo-era claims, added two “high-stakes” litigation partners from rival firms. (New York Law Journal)

Promotions

  • Fox Rothschild promoted 18 lawyers (five women) to partner and one to counsel. (FoxRothschild.com)

Technology

  • Legal tech writers debated recently whether there should there be a hyphen in “eDiscovery.” (Legaltech News)

  • Virginia’s Supreme Court approved a rule change to require that every lawyer in the state have an email “address of record.” (Virginia Lawyers Weekly)

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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