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Wake Up Call: Virus Gets Lawyers Back in ‘Big Picture,’ Dentons Boss Says

April 15, 2020, 12:41 PM

In today’s column, newly merged firm Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath said it’s slashing partner pay but pushing on with integration. Ballard Spahr, Duane Morris, and Husch Blackwell also announced cost-cutting moves. Husch Blackwell elected a former U.S. attorney and Missouri House speaker to become its first female leader. When Above the Law founding editor David Lat left the hospital after weeks of treatment for Covid-19, he found a legal profession turned upside down.

  • Leading off, the Covid-19 pandemic is reviving demand for lawyers as companies look for advice on big moves they’re contemplating, such as bankruptcy, contract changes, and dealing with litigation brought on by the crisis, says Dentons Global Chairman Joe Andrew, in an audio interview. “Before the crisis, lawyers across the globe were perceived as a bit of a commodity, something that was a necessary evil. Now, for the first time in a long time, they’re having big picture strategic conversations with their clients about these clients’ future,” Andrew said. (Bloomberg News)

  • Business may be good for some practices, but Dentons is also among firms that have had to make cost-cutting moves to protect their finances during the crisis. Other firms recently announcing austerity measures include Duane Morris, which cut associate and special counsel salaries by 15 percent, effective May 1, and eliminated its 401k matching program for the rest of the year. (AbovetheLaw.com)

  • According to reports, New York-headquartered Kelley Drye & Warrenis cutting equity partner draws 20% and making firm-wide 10% salary cuts for other lawyers and employees earning above $100,000, starting May 15. Ballard Spahr is cutting partner draws 25%. It is cutting pay by 10% for all employees making above $75,000 and by 15% for non-partner employees making above $250,000. Both firms are canceling pay hikes scheduled for July 1. (AbovetheLaw.com)

  • The Covid-19 crisis hit the U.S. just weeks after Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath was formed out of the February merger of Philadelphia-based Drinker Biddle & Reath and Minneapolis-based Faegre Baker Daniels. The firm said it’s slashing partner pay but is pushing on with integration. (American Lawyer)

  • Davis Polk & Wardwell and Gibson Dunn & Crutcher are the latest big firms to delay their summer associate programs because of the pandemic, while others have canceled their programs. (BLAW)

  • Above the Law founding editor David Lat recently got released from a New York hospital after 17 days fighting Covid-19, including days intubated on a ventilator. “I went into the hospital when things were booming, and now a month later, it’s a time of uncertainty,” Lat said, adding, “but it’s not in freefall.” (BLAW)

  • Bankruptcy judges across the country have pushed off non-urgent cases, while major law firms are gearing up for a wave of multibillion-dollar cases. (Bloomberg News via BLAW)

  • And firms are expecting a surge of work for their bankruptcy and restructuring practices, from energy and mining companies. (S&P Global)

  • As court proceedings go virtual, and casual, a Florida judge had to remind lawyers that they need to get out of bed and put on a shirt for their hearings via conferencing app Zoom. (BLAW)

Lawyers, Law Firms

  • Husch Blackwell elected former U.S. Attorney Catherine Hanaway to be chairwoman starting next year, when the litigator is set to become the Kansas City, Missouri-based firm’s first female chief. Hanaway, also a former speaker of the Missouri House, takes over from current chair Greg Smith, who’s due to return to his real estate practice. The firm also reduced equity partners’ draws and cut executives pay by 10 percent. (BLAW)

  • Because of Covid-19, the American Bar Association’s antitrust law section is holding its annual spring meeting virtually this year, April 17 through May 1. (Americanbar.org)

  • Hunton Andrews Kurth developed a tool that tracks federal and state litigation involving claims related to COVID-19. (HuntonAK.com)

  • An outside lawyer for Anheuser-Busch who’s recovering from the virus asked a federal court to reschedule his oral argument in a case against MillerCoors over a Bud Light Super Bowl ad campaign. (BLAW)

  • A Delaware judge yesterday strongly encouraged TransPerfect Global Inc. and Skadden Arps to take their nasty legal fees fight to a mediator. (BLAW)

  • Williams & Connolly lawyers for former Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes want a California federal judge to delay the start of her criminal fraud trial, which is now set for August. (The Recorder)

Laterals, Moves

  • Simpson Thacher & Bartlett appointed New York-based tax partner Nancy Mehlman as head of its tax practice. She’s been with Simpson Thacher for more than 20 years. (STBLAW.com)

  • Faegre Drinker lost a Philadelphia-based co-leader of its white collar and investigations practice, Mary Hansen, who moved to Duane Morris as a partner. Hansen, a former assistant director of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s enforcement division, spent seven years as a partner at Drinker Biddle & Reath. (Legal Intelligencer)

  • Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton grabbed Kirkland & Ellis restructuring partner Justin R. Bernbrock for its finance and bankruptcy practice group as a partner in Chicago. (SheppardMullin.com)

  • Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr hired former federal prosecutor and police officer Natashia Tidwell as a litigation partner in Boston. Arriving most recently from Hogan Lovells, she leads internal investigations for education industry clients in matters involving racial discrimination, Title IX and other federal and state constitutional issues. (Saul.com)

  • King & Spalding added life sciences and health care litigator Eva Canaan as a partner in its trial and global disputes practice group in New York. She arrives from Phillips Lytle. In addition to a law degree she has a master’s in epidemiology. (KSLaw.com)

  • Alternative dispute resolution services provider JAMS added former Baker McKenzie employment partner Abby B. Silverman to its San Diego panel. (JAMSadr.com)

In-house

  • Comcast Corp. hired a veteran in-house lawyer and compliance professional, Candy Lawson, as head of its international compliance operations. She’s had in-house counsel and compliance roles at 21st Century Fox, News Corp., and Morgan Stanley. (Corporate Counsel)

Technology

  • A San Antonio judge plans to appeal after getting publicly sanctioned for using Facebook to congratulate lawyers who won jury verdicts in her courtroom. (Texas Lawyer)

  • The Covid-19 crisis has hit the eDiscovery sector with layoffs, furloughs, and pay cuts. But it’s had some upsides, too. (Legaltech News)

Legal Education

  • California’s main bar exam should be paused until September or provisional diploma privileges should be granted to law graduates, the California Bar’s Board of Trustees recommended. (BLAW)

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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