Wake Up Call: Ropes Offers ‘Voluntary’ Deferral for Associates

Sept. 11, 2020, 11:47 AM

In today’s column, Big Law firms will likely see lower revenues for 2020, but many will still manage to post profits, an analysis says; the U.K. legal services sector had a strong July for revenues, new data show; Big Law firms, corporate counsel, and a pro bono group are teaming up on a new racial justice initiative; New Jersey’s state supreme court gave a thumb’s up for law firm trade names; a lawyer known for spurring the antitrust investigation into Microsoft says the DOJ will need outside lawyers and a new strategy to go after tech giants; France’s biggest law firm settled its suit accusing accounting giant KPMG of unfair competition.

  • Leading off, Ropes & Gray started two “completely voluntary,” one-year deferral programs for its incoming first-year associates, who are due to start in January. Incoming Ropes associates opting for a fellowship year at a public interest organization or approved government entity can get a stipend of $80,000. Those taking a sabbatical year can get $38,800. In both cases, they can get health insurance through the firm. (Above the Law)

  • Ropes said the program, also available to current associates, is not motivated by business problems but aims to give associates more options amidst the “uncertainty and turmoil” of 2020, including the Covid-19 pandemic. The program, a possible first in Big Law, could lead to other firms offering similar programs, a report says. (American Lawyer)

  • Big Law firms will likely see lower revenues for 2020, but many will able to maintain their profitability by making a range of expense cuts, according to this analysis. (American Lawyer)

  • Meanwhile, the U.K. legal services sector apparently had its second-best July revenue figure ever, according to government data. (Global Legal Post)

  • As the pandemic forces federal judges and courts to alter their clerking programs, the remote “Zoom” clerkship poses the biggest challenge to what many consider the best part of the experience: intimate face-to-face contact and mentorship on the job. (BLAW)

  • Brooks Brothers general counsel Rachel Barnett has steered the company through its covid bankruptcy and sale to a new owner. An interview. (Corporate Counsel)

Lawyers, Law Firms

  • Big Law firms including Kirkland & Ellis, corporate counsel from Bank of New York Mellon Corp. and other major companies, and a national network of pro bono lawyers are teaming up in a new initiative to fight for racial justice. (Corporate Counsel)

  • Wall Street firm Davis Polk & Wardwell is moving away from its strict-lockstep model, which compensates partners based on seniority, to a more flexible compensation structure for partners as it looks to grow in an increasingly competitive legal market. (BLAW)

  • Attorney Ben Crump said he gets death threats for defending Black clients in civil rights cases, but he shows up to work the next day anyway. Interview. (BLAW)

  • Saint Louis circuit attorney Kim Gardner, who this summer brought felony charges against that white couple who became famous for pointing guns at Black Lives Matter protesters, is one of several Black female prosecutors across the country fighting for reform, this article says. (ABAJournal.com)

  • France’s biggest law firm, Fidal, said yesterday that it has settled its dispute with KPMG Avocats over KPMG’s mass hiring of 130 Fidal lawyers in 2019. (Law.com International)

  • The U.S. Senate confirmed veteran Manhattan federal prosecutor Diane Gujarati, ex-Davis Polk associate, as a federal judge in New York’s Eastern District in a 99-0 vote. (New York Law Journal)

Laterals, Moves

  • Kirkland & Ellis recruited Boies Schiller Flexner litigator Byron Pacheco as a partner in its New York office. (Kirkland.com)

  • Carlton Fields added two Florida-based, Spanish-speaking international insurance regulatory and transactional attorneys from Kaufman Dolowich & Voluck. Former Holland & Knight partner Thomas F. Morante was chair of Kaufaman’s insurance regulatory & transaction practice. He has offices in Miami and Washington, arrives as special counsel and will lead his new firm’s international insurance regulatory team. Yani R. Contreras, licensed in in Mexico, joins as a consultant in Miami, and has expertise in several insurance areas. (CarltonFields.com)

  • Irell & Manella lost another partner, this time to Milbank, which added prominent trial lawyer Alex Romain as a partner in its litigation & arbitration team in L.A. According to his LinkedIn, earlier in his career, Romain spent over 17 years at Williams & Connolly in Washington, including as a partner. He’s a a classically trained pianist. (Milbank)

  • Former Berkshire Hathaway tax counsel and Big Law partner Don Griswold joined L.A.-based tax boutique Dakessian Law as a partner in Washington. (DakessianLaw.com)

  • Alternative dispute resolution services provider JAMS said retired federal appeals court judge Allyson K. Duncan joined its panel in Washington. (JAMSadr.com)

  • Lawyer Christopher Ballod, a former partner and vice chair of data privacy and cybersecurity at Lewis Brisbois, joined risk consultant firm Kroll as an associate managing director, based in Philadelphia. (Kroll)


  • Major pharmaceutical companies announced hires of top lawyers and executives. (BLAW)

  • San Francisco-based Bank of the West, a subsidiary of French multinational BNP Paribas, hired in-house veteran Hope Mehlman as general counsel and corporate secretary. She’ll also be corporate secretary for BNP Paribas USA. (PR Newswire)

  • The Environmental Protection Agency’s top lawyer, Matthew Z. Leopold, is leaving the agency after a nearly three-year stint and a mixed record in the courtroom. (BLAW)

  • The American Bar Association hired a legal executive recruitment firm to find a senior associate executive director/general counsel who will report directly to ABA executive director Jack Rives. (HuntScanlon.com)


  • Antitrust lawyer Gary Reback, known for getting the government to start its successful antitrust case against Microsoft 20 years ago, says in a recent interview that, although the Justice Department is capable of conducting antitrust investigations into Apple, Google and other tech giants, it doesn’t have the lawyers in-house, or the right strategy, to litigate the cases. (Business Insider)

Legal Education

  • Four women state supreme court justices, from Arkansas, Michigan, Texas and West Virginia, are starting a podcast. Lady Justice: Women of the Court is scheduled to start Sept. 17. (Law.com)

  • Fordham Law announced it will offer fully online Master of Laws (LL.M) program. in U.S. Law, starting in January. (Fordham)

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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