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Wake Up Call: Surge in Covid Litigation Work in View, Survey Says

June 9, 2020, 12:52 PM

In today’s column, top U.K. law firms are increasingly relying on a government furlough scheme to reduce drain on their cash during the Covid-19 crisis; as Kirkland out-bills everybody for Covid-related bankruptcy and restructuring work, firms are competing to hire bankruptcy expertise; demand is also hot for data privacy and security lawyers; the D.C. Bar decided to make its next bar exam a pared-down, online-only test given in October, with no refunds possible for people who’d rather not take it in that form; in Wisconsin, a white woman lawyer got arrested for spitting on a black teenager during George Floyd protests.

  • Leading off, law firms around the world can expect a surge in Covid-19 fueled litigation work in the next three months or so, according to a survey of 435 senior legal officials, including general counsel, heads of legal, and top executives, across a range of countries and industries. The survey also found that about half of in-house teams have hit pause on M&A transactions since the Covid-19 crisis started. And the most common type of extra work in-house legal departments are getting because of the pandemic is contracts, followed by worklaw. (International Financial Law Review)

  • The U.K.'s top 50 law firms are increasingly using the governments’ furlough scheme as a cost-cutting tool as they seek to protect their cash balance from the economic crisis stemming from Covid-19, a report says. (The Lawyer)

  • As the pandemic has pushed retailers and other large, public companies into the red, Kirkland & Ellis’ bankruptcy practice is out-billing its rivals for work advising those companies, bringing in nearly $100 million this year. The Chicago-founded firm’s clients include J.C. Penney, Neiman Marcus, Pier 1 Imports, and Stage Stores, among others. (BLAW)

  • DLA Piper advised one of the first U.S. companies pushed into bankruptcy by the pandemic, medical device developer Valeritas Holdings Inc. The company yesterday got a Delaware federal bankruptcy court’s okay for a Chapter 11 exit plan that has the company selling itself for $23 million. Valeritas filed for bankruptcy in February after manufacturing of its wearable insulin delivery device was hampered by Covid-19 shut-downs in China and elsewhere. (Bloomberg Law)

  • Meanwhile, bankruptcy and restructuring specialists continue to be among the most coveted lateral hires during the crisis. Yesterday Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison grabbed Latham & Watkins’ restructuring partner Andrew Parlen for its New York office. Parlen joined Latham in 2018 after nearly 12 years at O’Melveny (BLAW)

  • In the last week , O’Melveny, Faegre Drinker, and Ropes & Gray, have announced restructuring hires. (American Lawyer)

  • The District of Columbia delayed its bar exam again because of Covid-19. It now says the test will be a pared-down, online-only test administered October 5 and 6. (BLAW) As with Indiana and Michigan’s online exams, the scores won’t be transferable. But in DC’s case, the bar is not refunding fees for people who don’t won’t to take the online version, Above The Law says. (Above The Law)

  • At the New York State Trial Lawyers Association’s virtual ceremony to swear in new chair Edward Steinberg, Steinberg announced his law firm will sponsor membership dues for up to six months for association members who were financially hit by Covid-19. (New York Law Journal)

The Legal Profession Reacts to George Floyd Protests

  • Leaders of 30 major law firms that have offices in New York are urging “swift repeal” of language in the state’s civil rights law that they say keeps police misconduct records hidden from the public. Larren Nashelsky, chair of Morrison & Foerster, led the group in signing a letter to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and leaders of the state Legislature, which convened yesterday to consider a response to unrest that has hit the state, and the country, since George Floyd was killed while in Minneapolis police custody. (BLAW)

  • The New York State Bar Association yesterday said it is creating a task force on racial justice and police brutality. (BLAW)

  • Kirkland & Ellis offered $5 million to support the fight against racial injustice, and other firms are also offering money, but not as much as big corporations. Law firms’ pro bono help also has an impact, this report says. (American Lawyer)

  • Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton said it formed a new task force on race, inclusion, and equality, to which it is initially committing $400,000. (SheppardMullin.com)

  • A small L.A. law firm started a pro bono alliance of about 100 civil litigators to give legal help to protesters. (The Recorder)

  • A white lawyer in Wisconsin was arrested for spitting on a black teenager during George Floyd protests, then got arrested again the same day in another tussle. (The Hill)

Lawyers, Law Firms

  • Washington state is shutting down its access-to-justice program that lets nonlawyers provide limited legal services. The decision by the state’s supreme court comes as other states are considering creating similar programs. (BLAW)

  • Thanks to recent privacy regulations demand is outstrippping supply for in-house data privacy and cybersecurity lawyers. (Legaltech News)

  • Jones Day, two of its lawyers, and Michigan State University’s former football coach are getting sued by a former team staff member over their investigations into alleged sexual assaults involving MSU football players. (BLAW)

  • Fenwick & West represented distance learning company Chegg, Inc. on its acquisition of math solver Mathway for about $100 million. (Businesswire.com)

Pro Bono

  • The Virginia-based nonprofit All Muslim Association of America Inc., represented by Muslim Advocates, Milbank, and others, is suing a county in the state over a recent ordinance the association says is blocking it from expanding its religious cemetery. The association, which provides low-cost burial services to Muslims, said the ordinance is biased in favor of Christian cemeteries. (MuslimAdvocates.com) (Milbank)

Laterals, Moves

  • Former Big Law partner Robert Mercer started his own bankruptcy and insolvency firm, Mercer Law, based in Atlanta, aimed at representing fiduciaries, creditors, borrowers and other non-bank parties. (Daily Report)

  • Jenner & Block said partner David Robbins rejoined the firm from Crowell & Moring to be co-chair of Jenner’s government contracts group, based in Washington. Robbins, a former Air Force general counsel’s office senior lawyer, began his legal career at Jenner as an associate. (Jenner.com)

  • Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp said L.A.-based litigation partner Alesha M. Dominique took over June 1 as practice chair for the firm’s trademark prosecution practice. The National Black Lawyers recently named her to its “top 100" for California. (MSK.com)

In-house

  • Applied Materials Inc. poached a top lawyer from rival semiconductor equipment maker KLA Corp., getting Teri Little as its new senior vice president and chief legal officer. Plus other in-house hires in the sector. (BLAW)

Technology

  • A consortium including London elite firm Linklaters, Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan and Barclays has invested about $27 million in a digital platform used to create and analyze documents, according to a report. (Artificial Lawyer)

  • Saudi Arabia’s new official e-litigation service got off to a good start, according to a report. (ArabNews.com)

Legal Education

  • Dechert is holding a July 10 webinar on assessing antitrust risk vertical mergers with a view to boost their prospects for success. (Gotowebinar.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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