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Wake Up Call: United Airlines Appoints Former DOT Top Lawyer as New GC

Feb. 25, 2019, 12:45 PM
  • United Airlines has a new top lawyer who will start the week of March 18. The company named veteran transportation industry attorney Robert S. Rivkin as its new senior vice president and general counsel. Rivkin will report to Brett J. Hart, the airline’s chief administrative officer and executive VP, who has also served as its GC since May 2017. A Stanford Law grad, Rivkin’s previous roles include deputy general counsel for Delta Air Lines from 2013 to 2016, and GC at the U.S. Department of Transportation from 2009 to 2013. Among his legal challenges, the company faces lawsuits that include a pilot pay-and-benefits class action, a passenger inflight sex assault complaint, and a former NBA player’s $10 million suit accusing a flight attendant of “race baiting.” ( (Hub.United.Com) Rivkin’s most recent job is as Chicago’s deputy mayor. (Chicago Business Journal)

  • Hinshaw & Culbertson elected litigator Peter D. Sullivan as its newest chairman, the firm’s top leadership role. (BLAW via BLB)

  • There’s momentum in Big Law firms, corporate legal departments, and technology companies towards creating a data-tracking system that measures quality of outcome against legal costs. The system, along the lines of the one that has led to big changes in professional baseball, could have radical consequences for the entire legal industry, according to a report. (American Lawyer)

  • The founder and executive chairman of legal services firm Elevate Services Inc., Liam Brown, said his new GC, Steve Harmon, recently convinced him to use the company’s own software for a high-pressure M&A, and in the process to cut legal costs by about $340,000, or by some 85 percent. Harmon, who also serves as vice president and deputy GC of legal at Cisco Systems Inc., says it was “a classic example of eating my own dog food.” (Corporate Counsel)

  • As corporations and their legal departments face pressure to shrink legal costs but maintain service quality, some are looking at using platforms like InCloudCounsel, Lawclerk, and others, which connect corporate legal departments with freelance attorneys for more of the time-consuming and repetitive tasks. (Corporate Counsel)

  • Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., advised by Jones Day, must defend a lawsuit alleging it stole self-inflating tire technology from Coda Development S.R.O., a federal court ruled. Steptoe & Johnson represents Coda. (BLAW)

  • Gross revenues at Philadelphia-based Pepper Hamilton shrank 2.2 percent, to $334.36 million, while profits per equity partner inched down 0.8 percent, to $830,000. Nevertheless, the firm’s managing partner, Thomas Cole, called the year a success, pointing to its goal of increasing lawyer productivity. (Legal Intelligencer)

  • Snell & Wilmer’s gross revenues squeaked up less than 1 percent in 2018, to $262 million, and PEP grew 7.5 percent, to $860,000, as partner head count fell by two to 87. A firm representative attributed the financial gains to the firm’s presence in western U.S. states, where it could offer a significantly lower cost structure that its peers. “That has allowed us to take on and make money on work that some firms can’t touch,” the representative said. (American Lawyer)

  • Legal finance is an important solution, but is also trending as a tool for business development. Burford Capital’s Greg McPolin explains five opportunities for law firms to build their businesses using legal finance. And more from BLAW’s Weekend Read’s newsletter. (BLAW)

Lawyers, Law Firms, Deals

  • About eight months after several Big Law firms offered “special” summer bonuses for associates, Cooley gave out lockstep winter bonuses based on the same scale, with something extra for extraordinary performance. (

  • St. Louis-based Armstrong Teasdale said it elected corporate services attorney David Braswell as its new managing partner, to succeed the late John Beulick, who died in December 2018. (Legal Intelligencer)

  • Shearman & Sterling client Frostkrone Tiefkühlkost GmbH, a German manufacturer of frozen “finger foods” and snacks owned by Munich private equity firm EMERAM Capital Partners GmhH, acquired Idaho-based company Rite Stuff Foods Inc., which specializes in making potato snacks. ( (

  • Milbank advised Athens International Airport S.A. in connection with a bond issuance linked to the 20-year extension of the concession agreement granting AIA the right to manage and operate Athens International Airport. ( (

  • DLA Piper represented private equity firm Abry Partners in its acquisition of Dr. Dental, one of the largest regional dental management service organizations in the northeastern U.S. (

  • Mayer Brown’s structured finance practice launched a blog, “Retained Interest,” with news on recent developments and other issues impacting structured finance transactions or other monetizations of financial assets. (

  • After finishing top of Columbia Law School’s class of 1945, Carmel Ebb went on to land a job clerking for a federal appeals court judge, apparently the first woman to achieve that, but she was later snubbed for a U.S. Supreme Court clerkship. Ebb, who later worked as a labor attorney, died earlier this month in Maryland at age 94, according to a report. (New York Law Journal) (ABA Journal)

Legal Actions, Bankruptcies, Decisions

  • An Ohio attorney who failed to pay $3.37 in court costs related to earlier discipline can’t practice law until a court reinstates him, the Ohio Supreme Court said. (BLAW)


  • Major smartphone health and financial apps are sending users’ personal data to Facebook without getting their permission, the Journal reports. (WSJ)

To contact the correspondent on this story: Rick Mitchell in Paris at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rebekah Mintzer at; Molly Ward at

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