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Wake Up Call: Trump Lawyer Said to Get NSA General Counsel Job

Nov. 10, 2020, 1:46 PM

In today’s column, as Covid bit their business in the year’s third quarter, Big Law firms cut hiring and other spending. But now many firms are looking at new profitability, a report says; data breaches this year have hit a vendor for a Big Law firm and bar associations in New York City and Chicago; Zoom, represented by Cooley, agreed to settle allegations it misled users.

  • Leading off, the Post reports that the Pentagon, under pressure by President Trump, on Monday named White House lawyer Michael Ellis to be general counsel of the National Security Agency, the biggest and most technically advanced U.S. spy agency. The man who most recently held that job, former longtime Milbank partner and D.C. office managing partner Glenn Gerstell, retired after about five years at the NSA. Gerstell told the Post that the job has “a deep tradition of being nonpartisan.” The Post said Ellis, a Yale Law grad and former Republican “political operative,” among other things was a chief counsel to Congressman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), a Trump loyalist. (WaPo)
  • Trump’s campaign has launched a legal blitz against 2020 election results that led major media outlets to project Joe Biden as president-elect. For now, it doesn’t look like Trump has the numbers for a successful case. (Bloomberg News via BLAW)
  • Meanwhile, Attorney General William Barr yesterday authorized Justice Department officials to investigate potential irregularities in the election, while acknowledging there’s no conclusive evidence. Richard Pilger, who led the department’s election crimes branch, resigned Monday night. (Bloomberg News via BLAW)
  • Some lawyers at Jones Day and Porter Wright, law firms working on Trump’s election lawsuits, say they are worried they could be undermining the electoral system, the Times reported. (NYT)
  • According to a Forbes report, many of the leaders of Trump’s nationwide legal fight against the election results are not lawyers, suggesting the effort is focused on “public relations” rather than court wins. (Forbes)
  • Industry experts and law firm leaders said they expect a Biden administration to bring additional work in tax, regulatory and enforcement, state attorneys general, M&A and white-collar practices. (American Lawyer)

Lawyers, Law Firms

  • Big Law firms reduced lateral hiring and continued to cut other spending, as demand for legal services shrank another 2.4% in the year’s third quarter. But now firms are “lucratively” positioned to be “more profitable than ever,” according to a new report. (American Lawyer)
  • Brooklyn law firms could soon be able to reopen their offices, as New York state officials say recent Covid restrictions that forced nonessential businesses in the area to shut down will be eased. (New York Law Journal)
  • Covid exposures forced week-long courthouse closures in a California county. (The Recorder)
  • Deloitte’s partnership with workplace law firm Epstein Becker Green has gained new momentum from the Covid-19 pandemic. (BLAW)
  • Goldman Sachs’ new Kaplan Hecker & Fink lawyers are pushing for arbitration in a retaliation suit brought by a former in-house lawyer. (Corporate Counsel)
  • A California federal judge restarted dozens of Roundup cases that Monsanto did not manage to settle after its earlier announcement of agreements totaling up to $10.9 billion over the weed killer product. (The Recorder)

Laterals, Moves

  • Hunton Andrews Kurth poached the head of Shearman & Sterling’s global nuclear power practice, George Borovas, as its new Tokyo managing partner and chair of its nuclear energy practice. (
  • Eversheds Sutherland hired Faegre Drinker M&A corporate partner Theodore H. Cominos Jr. in Chicago as a partner. Cominos has previously been head of international private equity at Locke Lord and CMS Cameron McKenna, as well as private equity leader for Central and Eastern Europe at Linklaters. Eversheds Sutherland also said Faegre Drinker corporate lawyer Cristina Audran-Proca joined as counsel in Paris. (
  • Venable said it re-hired the former head of its Congressional investigations practice, Erik Jones, who has served as chief Congressional investigator and Illinois assistant attorney general. He is rejoining the firm as a partner in the eCommerce, privacy, and cybersecurity practice in Washington. (Venable)
  • Pillsbury hired David Ingles, former co-leader of Skadden Arps’ financial institutions group, and a partner at that firm, in New York. Ingles joins Pillsbury as a partner in its M&A and private equity group. (BLAW)
  • Morgan, Lewis & Bockius grabbed Dechert securities and commercial litigation partner Michael Kichline as a partner in Philadelphia. ( Morgan Lewis also said finance lawyer Tori Weir rejoined the firm as a partner in London, arriving from Akin Gump, which she joined two years ago from Morgan Lewis as senior counsel. (
  • Troutman Pepper said finance and restructuring, real estate and corporate governance attorney Annette Michelle (Shelli) Willis, who earlier spent over 23 years at the firm, is returning as a partner in Atlanta. She arrives after spending over six years in-house at the bank Truist, previously SunTrust. (
  • Haynes and Boone added Seyfarth Shaw real estate transaction partner J. Kelly Bufton as senior counsel in Chicago. (
  • Reed Smith hired aviation partners Christopher Jackson and Adam Longney from London firm REN Legal. Jackson previously worked in-house at the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi and Rolls-Royce and was earlier at Allen & Overy, while Longney previously worked at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner and Norton Rose Fulbright. (
  • Fox Rothschild got litigator Paul Bowles in New York as a partner in its aviation and litigation departments. He was previously a partner at Fitzpatrick & Hunt, Pagano, Aubert. (
  • Pittsburgh-headquartered Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney added veteran commercial litigator Lloyd Freeman as its new chief diversity & inclusion officer, based in Philadelphia. He was previously chief diversity officer and partner at Archer & Greiner. (


  • West Pharmaceutical Services, Inc. said it hired former Novartis in-house leader Kimberly Banks MacKay as senior vice president, general counsel, and corporate secretary, effective Dec. 8. She’s replacing current top lawyer George L. Miller, who’s retiring. According to her LinkedIn, MacKay’s previous roles include, among others, counsel at Metropolitan Life and Lucent Technologies Bell Labs Innovations, and she started her legal career at Milbank. (
  • FirstEnergy Corp. dropped its two top in-house lawyers a week after the Ohio-based utility terminated its former CEO in the wake of a federal corruption scandal. (BLAW)


  • Zoom Video Communications Inc., represented by Cooley, agreed to boost its security to settle claims it misled users about access to online meetings and other issues, the Federal Trade Commission said. (Bloomberg News via BLAW)
  • Data breaches this year hit the New York City Bar Association and the Chicago Bar Association and a vendor for Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, according to reports. (American Lawyer)

Legal Education

  • New York-headquartered Wilson Elser said it’s collaborating with eLearning company MindMeld Studios to produce online legal compliance training videos to help clients satisfy regulatory requirements. (

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