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Wake Up Call: Universities Turn to Big Law to Fight Covid Class Actions

June 3, 2020, 12:45 PM

In today’s column, a California judicial committee voted to remove a state appeals judge who was accused of sexual harassment; Pryor Cashman suspended without pay the furloughed associate arrested on firebombing allegations in New York; litigation funder Validity Finance opened an office in Israel; KPMG Legal opened in Luxembourg; Hunton Andrews Kurth poached a three-lawyer Winston & Strawn energy and infrastructure team. Mayer Brown is representing a civil rights group suing over President Trump’s social media order.

  • Leading off, universities are hiring Big Law attorneys to defend them against class actions filed by students seeking tuition and fee refunds after their 2020 spring semester classes went remote because of the Covid-19 pandemic shutdown. Cooley; Orrick; WilmerHale; and Quinn Emanuel are among firms that’ve gotten work. (Law.com) Jones Day said it’s defending Pennsylvania State University in three class actions by students. (JonesDay.com)

  • Safety, access to funding, and employment disputes are some of the legal issues that universities and colleges have to consider as they decide on when to reopen or whether open at all this this fall, higher education partners at Big Law firms said. (Inside Higher Ed)

  • Those are some of the same issues that employers said they’re considering in a new survey by management-side worklaw firm Littler, which talked to 1,010 in-house counsel, human resources professionals, and C-suite executives about their companies’ return-to-work plans and concerns. (Littler.com)

  • The Senate confirmed White House lawyer Brian Miller to be the watchdog overseeing trillions of dollars in federal stimulus aid to revive the U.S. economy from its Covid-19 shutdown. (Bloomberg News via BLAW)

  • Lawyer assistance programs say they’re expecting more demand for their services as Covid-19 exacerbates mental health and substance abuse problems that existed before the pandemic. (BLAW)

  • As live events got canceled because of the pandemic, Ticketmaster is splitting with its general counsel and executive vice president of about a year, Karen Klein. (Corporate Counsel) (LinkedIn)

  • Pryor Cashman suspended without pay the furloughed associate who was arrested for alleged involvement in firebombing of an unoccupied NYPD vehicle. (New York Law Journal) Meanwhile, federal prosecutors are trying to get bail revoked for him and his alleged sidekick, also a lawyer. (New York Post)

  • Kobre & Kim launched a cross-border court tracking tool its says helps users to find jurisdictions around the world that are still active during the pandemic. (KobreKim.com)

Lawyers, Law Firms

  • A California ethics commission ordered appeals court judge Jeffrey Johnson removed from office over allegations that he sexually harassed women for years, including a colleague on the bench. Johnson, who was also a former federal magistrate, said through his lawyer that he plans to appeal. (The Recorder) (Associated Press via NYT) (L.A. Times)

  • Minnesota-based law firm Dorsey & Whitney will no longer lend its attorneys to help prosecutors in Minneapolis in misdemeanor cases, following the death of George Floyd. The firm said it will place a greater emphasis on pro bono work and diversity initiatives. (BLAW)

  • The Federal Circuit, already hit by Covid-19 slow downs, yesterday closed its offices early a second-straight day because of nearby protests over George Floyd. (BLAW)

  • The New York State Bar Association’s new president Scott Karson, who started the job on Monday, says one of his first priorities will be to examine police brutality against black New Yorkers. (BLAW)

  • Litigation funding firm Validity Finance opened its first international office in Israel. The office will be headed by international-disputes lawyer Eli Schulman, who, according to his LinkedIn, was previously an international affairs attorney in Israel’s Justice Ministry. (Validity-Finance.com)

  • KPMG Legal hired a three-lawyer team to open an office in Luxembourg. (The Lawyer)

  • Skadden Arps and others advised Australia-based Zip Co Limited on acquiring the remaining shares in the New York based “buy now, pay later” provider QuadPay Inc., advised by DLA Piper and others, to create a $1 billion global payments company. (Businesswire.com)

Laterals, Moves

  • Washington-based Ivins, Phillips & Barker, a tax, benefits and compensation, and estate planning firm, hired former Accudyne Industries general counsel Kevin McGlinchey as of counsel in its new Dallas office. McGlinchey, who started out at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius in the 1990s, said he’d worked with IPB as a client during his years in-house. (Businesswire.com)

  • Cozen O’Connor hired prominent corporate attorney Christian Moretti in New York, as a shareholder and vice chair of its international practice. He’s the 12th attorney to join the firm’s corporate group in the last two months. He arrives from Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis, where he was a partner and co-chair of that firm’s international group and has been a Venable partner and associate at other Big Law firms. (Cozen.com)

  • Hunton Andrews Kurth grabbed a three-lawyer Winston & Strawn team to expand its global energy and infrastructure team. James D. Simpson, Jr., a 35-year veteran of several Big Law firms recently co-chair of Winston’s project finance practice, and Jason Parker join as partners in London. Martin Skehill joins as special counsel in Dubai. Associates are also making the jump from Winston, Hunton AK said. (HuntonAK.com)

  • DLA Piper got employment lawyer Erin Sweeney, a former senior benefit law specialist at the Labor Department, in Washington as of counsel. She arrived most recently from Miller & Chevalier and advises on employee benefits related to health care. (DLA Piper)

  • Jones Day hired Assistant U.S. Attorney Amy Harman Burkart in Boston to be of counsel to its cybersecurity, privacy & data protection practice. (BLAW)

  • Civil defense firm Tyson & Mendes added former Wilson Elser insurance litigator Michael Coffey as a partner in New York and member of its national complex trial team. He arrives most recently from Wood Smith Henning & Berman. (TysonMendes.com)

In-house

  • The Washington-based Mortgage Bankers Association, a lobby for the real estate finance industry, hired as its new top lawyer veteran FDIC lawyer Michael Briggs, who’s also had in-house leader roles at financial institutions. (BLAW)

  • Card Factory, a U.K. chain of greeting card and gift stores, hired former DLA Piper corporate finance lawyer and legal director Ciaran Stone as general counsel and corporate secretary. He most recently worked as in-house leader at retail and other companies. (Law.com International)

Technology

  • Mayer Brown is representing the Center for Democracy and Technology in its First Amendment suit challenging President Donald Trump’s executive order targeting social media companies. (BLAW)

  • Legal tech company LinkSquares launched a system that could make it easier for staff to generate contracts without needing a lot of input from the legal department, until the approval stage. (Artificial Lawyer)

Legal Education

  • Law schools around the country are holding forums for students and staff to discuss legal issues stemming from recent police killings of minorities and systemic inequality. (Law.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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