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Wake Up Call: Nonlawyer-Owned Legal Firms Launch in Arizona

March 19, 2021, 12:24 PM

In today’s column, Simpson Thacher and Reed Smith steered as private-equity firm Silver Lake invested in e-discovery software company Relativity; Mintz had 33.5% PEP growth in 2020 while WilmerHale got big revenue growth in its transactional work; a Nigerian-born woman who worked full-time and raised children through law school passed the California bar exam after 12 tries.

  • Leading off, the Arizona Supreme Court this week approved the first two licenses under the state’s new rules—the first in the U.S.—that allow nonlawyers to co-own law firms and other legal service operations. Both Trajan Estate LLC, which provides estate-planning services, and Payne Huebsch PLC, which provides transactional, tax and accounting services, have lawyer and nonlawyer co-owners. (Phoenix Business Journal) Earlier this week, a Utah-based registered agent company said it’s launching the first “entirely nonlawyer-owned” law firm in the United States; Meanwhile, Big Four accounting firms are using artificial intelligence to make themselves more competitive in the legal industry. (Lawyer Monthly)
  • Simpson Thacher & Bartlett is advising private-equity firm Silver Lake on its investment in e-discovery software company Relativity ODA LLC, while Reed Smith is advising Relativity, according to a statement. The Wall Street Journal reports that the deal values the legal tech company at $3.8 billion. Relativity said the partnership will allow it to accelerate growth, innovation, and technology differentiation of its e-discovery business, while also letting it steer more resources to its artificial intelligence-powered communication surveillance platform, Relativity Trace. (PR Newswire) (WSJ)
  • WilmerHale’s $1.24 billion in gross revenues in 2020, up 5% from 2019, were powered by 20% revenue growth in its transactional practices. The Washington-based firm’s profits per equity partner climbed 9.6% to $2.54 million, according to this report based on preliminary data. (National Law Journal)
  • Boston-founded Mintz, whose fiscal year 2020 started April 1, projects 9.1% revenue growth for the year to $502.1 million, powered by strong performances by its core life sciences, intellectual property litigation, and corporate practices. Its PEP soared 33.5% to $1.9 million. (American Lawyer) Philadelphia-based Blank Rome’s gross revenues edged up 2% to $483.4 million, while cost reductions, a diverse practice line-up, and use of tech helped push its PEP up 8.2% to $1.1 million. (Legal Intelligencer)

Lawyers, Law Firms

  • A Florida judge in an insurance lawsuit disqualified law firm Akerman and a litigation partner at the firm for alleged conflict. (Daily Business Review)
  • A woman who came to the U.S. from Nigeria passed the California Bar Exam after taking it 12 times. Evelyn Uba says she worked full time and raised children through law school, so that was her No. 3 priority. She says she tells her kids, now grown, to never give up on their dreams. (USA Today)
  • Esquire magazine has an interview with disbarred human rights lawyer Steven Donziger, who’s been under house arrest in New York for over 580 days. He’s awaiting trial on a misdemeanor charge stemming from the fraud allegations Chevron filed against him after he won a $9.8 billion environmental verdict against the company in Ecuador. (Esquire)

Laterals, Moves, In-House

  • Jones Day said former Deputy Assistant Attorney General David Morrell, who among other things was earlier a White House associate counsel and law clerk to Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, is returning to the firm as a partner in its government regulation practice Washington; Norton Rose Fulbright said it got four litigators from Greenspoon Marder in Los Angeles, including partners James Turken and Rebecca Lawlor Calkins. (
  • Willkie Farr & Gallagher brought on Jenner & Block executive compensation & employee benefits partner Sarah Haddy as counsel in Chicago; Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr hired employment litigator Steven Kerbaugh as counsel in Minneapolis. He arrives from Jackson Lewis. (
  • Cannabis and hemp company Plus Products Inc. said its chief risk officer and general counsel, Jennifer Tung, who helped steer the company’s 2018 IPO, is leaving her roles April 15 but will stay on as special adviser to its board of directors. According to her LinkedIn profile, before joining Plus Products in 2018, Tung had senior legal roles at Uber Technologies Inc. and Facebook Inc.; Deloitte Legal hired the head of legal at KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Rozemarijn Bloemendal, to co-lead its corporate team in Amsterdam; Hogan Lovells hired corporate lawyer Steve Argeris, the former top lawyer of Tepper Sports & Entertainment, which owns the NFL’s Carolina Panthers and Major League Soccer team Charlotte FC, as a sports counsel in its corporate & finance practice in New York and Washington. (Hogan Lovells)

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