Biglaw Firm Pushing Out Senior Associates

Above the Law reports that Cahill Gordon sources say that the overwhelming majority of senior litigation associates in a particular class are being asked to leave the firm before they’ve had the chance to go up for partnership.

Senior editor Kathryn Rubino explains:

“Multiple sources report the associates were told they weren’t partner or counsel material, given only a portion of their bonus and told they had six months to get out of Dodge. And even though pushing out these associates is being framed as connected to their inability to make the leap to the next level, sources say most of them weren’t even able to hear any reviews of their work.”

Read the Above the Law article.

 

 




Another N.Y. Lawyer Censured After 60 Minutes Sting Report

Bloomberg Law reports that a second New York attorney caught in a money-laundering sting operation reported by 60 Minutes has received public censure.

The CBS program reported on an undercover probe by anticorruption advocacy group Global Witness in which lawyers in 13 different New York law firms met with an investigator posing as a German lawyer who represented a West African mining minister.

Even though the “minister” wanted to make some big purchases with money of questionable origin, only one lawyer immediately declined representation. Others were willing to discuss it and even offer suggestions, according to Bloomberg’s Martina Barash.

Read the Bloomberg Law article.

 

 




Biglaw Firm to Pay $4.6 Million in Case Tied to Manafort and Ukraine

New York-based law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom has agreed to pay $4.6 million to settle a Justice Department investigation into whether its work for a Russia-aligned Ukrainian government violated lobbying laws, reports The New York Times.

“As part of the settlement, the law firm agreed to register retroactively as a foreign agent for Ukraine in addition to paying the government $4.6 million, representing the money it earned from its work in Ukraine,” write the TimesKenneth P. Vogel and Matthew Goldstein.

The firm should have disclosed its lobbying activity for Ukraine under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which covers both lobbying and public relations on behalf of foreign political interests, the Justice Department said.

Read the Times article.

 

 




Big Law Partner Fired After Accusations of Overbilling

A former partner at Neal Gerber & Eisenberg has confessed to overbilling clients by small increments over seven years, starting in 2011 and lasting until August, when he confessed his actions to a practice group leader, according to a disciplinary complaint.

Christopher C. Anderson also previously worked at Kirkland & Ellis. Neal Gerber has refunded $150,000 to a group of more than 100 clients, and Kirkland & Ellis also decided to refund fees, reports Crain’s Chicago Business.

Crain’s reporter Claire Bushey explains how the alleged overbilling worked:

“On days he felt he hadn’t billed enough time, Anderson increased it if he didn’t think the client would object, the complaint said. The increments were small: He might record 30 minutes for legal work he completed in 18.

Read the Crain’s article.

 

 

 




Opioid Overdoses Overtake Car Accidents on List of Preventable Deaths

Pills - medicineThe National Safety Council’s recently released report on preventable injury and fatality statistics, reveals that accidental opioid overdoses have overtaken car accidents as a leading cause of deaths among Americans, according to a post on the website of Androvett Legal Media & Marketing.

“For the first time since the early 1960s, the life expectancy of Americans is consistently decreasing. Irrespective of all the advances in medicine that have occurred since the early 1960s, Americans are actually living shorter lives than they did only 10 years ago. The primary reason for this decline is the opioid epidemic, which was created in substantial part by the irresponsible marketing and distribution of these drugs by major drug companies,” notes Dallas attorney Jeffrey Simon of Simon Greenstone Panatier, P.C.

Simon Greenstone and co-counsel collectively represent more than 50 counties in Texas as well as other states in opioid litigation, seeking to recover economic damages caused by the reckless and negligent spread of highly addictive opioid drugs in communities across the U.S.

“The fact that the risk of death from accidental overdose of opioid drugs now exceeds the death risk from motor vehicle crashes, fire, drowning or even gun assault is another grim testament to the fact that corporate misconduct can, and has, destroyed many innocent lives. On behalf of our clients, we will hold those companies accountable for the harm they’ve done.”

 

 




Ex-Lawyer Gets Nearly 4 Years in Prison for Embezzling From Clients and Law Firm

A former Oregon lawyer who stole money from her clients and used it to pay her mortgage, do landscaping projects at her home and subsidize lavish vacations and plastic surgery was sentenced Thursday to nearly four years in federal prison, reports The Oregonian.

“[Pamela S.] Hediger worked from 2010 to 2017 as an attorney, president and managing shareholder at Evashevski, Elliott, Cihak & Hediger law firm, focusing on personal injury cases. While at the firm, she embezzled money from the firm’s client trust and business operating accounts, according to prosecutors,” explains The Oregonian‘s Maxine Bernstein.

In addition to the prison sentence, Hediger also was ordered to pay $1.9 million in restitution, $471,399 in outstanding federal income tax and forfeit her Corvallis home.

Read the Oregonian article.

 

 




A Banner Year for Law Firms? A Different Take on the 2019 Citi Report

A Forbes contributor has a an alternative take on the results of a recent annual survey of law firm fiscal performance that touted firms’ “strongest growth in a decade.”

Legal consultant Mark A. Cohen takes a close look at the 2019 Citi Hildebrandt Client Advisory.

“While the 6.3% revenue growth of Citi’s surveyed firms is impressive, it is offset by the 5.9% increase in firm costs,” Cohen points out. “That yields a miniscule 0.4% increase in profits. Longer collection cycles, declining realization, and ‘dispersion’— the near even split between firms that see demand increase and firms that see demand decline year-to-year– tell a different story than the Report’s bullish headline.”

He writes that the report also reveals several ominous trends for firms.

 Read the Forbes article.

 

 




To Market Your Legal Practice, Think Like an Editor and Publisher

Amy Boardman Hunt of Muse Communications has some advice for lawyers: If you want to promote your legal practice, think like an editor and publisher.

“By this, I mean think about your business objective (as a publisher would do) and then come up with a concrete schedule of content that helps you meet those objectives,” she explains in a post on the Muse website.

She points out that a daily newspaper isn’t just filled with breaking news about fires and car chases. It’s filled with analysis, untold stories, trend pieces, and intimidating household maintenance checklists. She follows with some examples of how lawyers and law firms can use their blogs, social media and newsletters for effective marketing.

Read the article.

 

 

 

 




‘The Dark Overlord’ Didn’t Hack Systems, Husch Blackwell Says

Cybersecurity - hacking - hackerA hacker group calling itself “The Dark Overlord” threatened to release documents relating to insurance litigation over the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center that it stole from Husch Blackwell, but now the firm says its systems weren’t hacked.

The group says it has 18,000 documents that include emails and nondisclosure documents sent and received by two insurers and a Husch Blackwell predecessor firm, according to a report in the ABA Journal. The group is seeking a ransom paid in bitcoin.

In a statement, Husch Blackwell said: “After a thorough review, Husch Blackwell can confirm that no documents were obtained from Husch Blackwell, and that there was no unauthorized access to Husch Blackwell systems, client files, documents or data.”

Read the ABA Journal article.

 

 

 

 




Chicago Alderman Charged in Alleged Extortion to Get Business for His Law Firm

Image by Kate Gardiner

A federal criminal complaint unsealed Thursday charged Chicago alderman Edward Burke with attempted extortion for allegedly using his position as alderman to try to steer business to his private law firm from a company seeking to renovate a fast-food restaurant in his ward, the Chicago Tribune reports.

The charge carries a maximum of 20 years in prison on conviction.

“The complaint details Burke’s repeated attempts to pressure the executives into hiring his law firm, Klafter & Burke, including during a June 2017 lunch meeting at the swanky Beverly Country Club at 87th Street and South Western Avenue. The FBI had the meeting under surveillance,” writes the Tribune‘s Jason Meisner.

Read the Chicago Tribune article.

 

 




Munck Wilson Mandala Opens LA Office

Munck Wilson MandalaMunck Wilson Mandala, with three offices in Texas, and The Hecker Law Group of California have joined forces to create a larger law firm with a Los Angeles office, the firm announced.

Gary Hecker and his team add more than 36 years of West Coast legal experioence to the newly opened MWM LA office.

The combined firm will provide legal services in technology, intellectual property, corporate and securities, M&A, entertainment, labor and employment, and commercial and complex litigation, the announcement said.

Read more about the firm.

 

 

 




Trial Attorney Dick Sayles Joins Bradley Law Firm to Open Dallas Office

Texas trial attorney Richard A. “Dick” Sayles has joined Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP to lead the firm’s new Dallas office. Sayles, along with eight members of the Sayles Werbner team, will make up the firm’s first office in North Texas.

It is the firm’s 10th location nationally and second in Texas.

“We could not have asked for a better attorney to help introduce Bradley to North Texas,” said Jonathan M. Skeeters, Bradley’s Chairman of the Board and Managing Partner. “Dick Sayles is a legendary trial attorney with impeccable courtroom skills. We are excited to add him and his team of experienced trial lawyers and look forward to a collaboration that will greatly benefit our clients.”

Sayles co-founded Sayles Werbner in 1994, building the firm into one of the most honored and respected litigation boutiques in the nation and compiling an impressive list of verdicts and settlements for its business, commercial, personal injury and patent litigation clients. Eight Sayles Werbner attorneys are joining Mr. Sayles at Bradley.

“Bradley’s core values of client service, ethics and professional excellence align with those I have always had for my practice.” says Sayles. “The firm will make us stronger and better and, as far as I’m concerned, the sky is the limit. I’m excited that so many of my colleagues with whom I’ve worked for so long are joining me in this move.”

Board Certified in both Civil Trial Law and Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, Sayles has tried more than 150 jury trials, earning more than a dozen verdicts in excess of $1 million, including a $1.67 billion patent infringement verdict in 2009. At the time, it was the largest patent verdict in U.S. history. He also has numerous significant defense wins.

Honored as the 2018 Dallas Bar Association Trial Lawyer of the Year, Sayles has also been recognized by Chambers USA, Benchmark Litigation and Best Lawyers in America. In addition, he is a Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers, International Academy of Trial Lawyers and International Society of Barristers. Recently, Sayles was featured in the Texas Lawbook publication, “Lions of the Texas Bar.” His peers have selected him seven times to the list of the Top 10 lawyers in Texas, as named by Texas Super Lawyers.

Joining Sayles as founding members of Bradley’s Dallas office are former Sayles Werbner attorneys William S. Snyder, Mark E. Torian, Shawn C. Long, Robert L. Sayles, Sawyer Neely, Mark D. Strachan, Samuel T. Acker and Stacy D. Simon.

Snyder has an active practice in state and federal courts and in arbitration. He represents clients in a broad spectrum of business litigation, including prosecuting or defending breach of contract claims, business torts, claims between partners or members of closely held companies, securities fraud claims, legal malpractice claims, and ultra vires claims against officers and directors.

ncluded in The Best Lawyers in America and named a Texas Super Lawyer for the last 10 consecutive years, Mr. Snyder frequently handles disputes arising from transactions related to securities, asset purchases, private equity investments, real estate, oil & gas, and intellectual property. In addition to his trial court practice, he has argued cases before the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and the Texas appellate courts.

Torian is an experienced litigator who has argued more than 20 criminal and civil lawsuits to verdict. He has successfully represented plaintiffs in a multimillion-dollar business fraud and breach of fiduciary duty and commercial bribery case. His business and white-collar practice includes representing businesses and individuals in disputes over misappropriation of trade secrets, securities violations, civil theft, shareholder derivative rights, partnership breakups, oil and gas disputes, personal injury and wrongful death. Mr. Torian’s white-collar work includes representing clients in state and federal white-collar criminal investigations brought forth by the Texas Department of Justice, Internal Revenue Service, Securities and Exchange Commission and U.S. Department of Justice. As a Marine in the United States Marine Corps, he was assigned to Diplomatic Security with the U.S. State Department at U.S. embassies and consulates.

Long’s practice focuses on a wide range of issues, including defending attorneys and law firms against professional negligence claims, breach of fiduciary duty claims and fee disputes. Honored in The Best Lawyers in America listing for 2018 and 2019, and in D Magazine’s list of Best Lawyers in Dallas for 2017 and 2018, she represents clients in federal and state court for business litigation matters, including energy litigation, complex commercial disputes, product liability, and securities and financial fraud.

Rob Sayles represents plaintiffs and defendants in the areas of commercial litigation, products liability, premises liability, personal injury and wrongful death, and employment. He has earned significant defense wins, including a recent summary judgment on a covenant not to compete claim in which his client faced more than $3.6 million in claims. He also defended the city of Dallas in several high-profile lawsuits filed by firefighters and police officrs claiming billions of dollars in back pay. Mr. Sayles has been included in the Texas Super Lawyers Rising Stars list since 2012 and the 2017 edition of D Magazine’s list of Best Lawyers in Dallas.

Neely represents businesses and individuals in litigation and arbitration involving complex business disputes, breach of contract, physician and business noncompete agreements, trade secret and copyright, fraudulent transfer, wrongful foreclosure, direct and derivative shareholder and securities claims. Neely also guides businesses with independent internal investigations regarding workplace safety, sexual, gender or racial discrimination and/or harassment and environmental compliance. Neely is regularly named to the list of Texas Super Lawyers Rising Stars and to D Magazine’s Best Lawyers in Dallas.

Strachan has 37 years of trial experience with a focus in patent and commercial litigation. His clients include farmers, doctors, engineers, welders, pharmaceutical companies, financial entities, and technology firms. Recognized in Texas Super Lawyers for IP litigation since 2011, Strachan has tried patent cases to verdict in the Eastern and Northern Districts of Texas as well as argued at the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. A native of East Texas, he has served at East Texas Baptist University in Marshall, Texas, as an adjunct professor. He is Board Certified in Civil Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and is an associate of the American Board of Trial Advocates.

Acker’s practice focuses on business, commercial and securities litigation and arbitration and white-collar criminal defense. He represents plaintiffs and defendants in state and federal court actions involving contracts, partnership and corporate governance disputes, investment products and securities industry sales practice violations, as well as fraud and breach of fiduciary duty allegations.

Simon represents business clients in complex commercial disputes in arbitration and in state and federal courts. Her expertise includes antitrust claims, contract disputes, breach of fiduciary duty claims, fraud and negligent misrepresentation claims, trade secret and non-competition issues, securities and transactional fraud, FOIA requests, partnership and shareholder disputes, as well as libel defense.

The Dallas office is located at 1201 Elm Street, Suite 4400, in Dallas, Texas.

 

 




Stewart Law Group Will Host DYOB Workshop With Kate Burda & Co.

Stewart Law Group will host a complimentary D.Y.O.B (Drive Your Own Business) workshop on Tuesday, January 22, 2019 with Kate Burda & Co. focused on helping women-owned businesses succeed. It will be followed by a mix and mingle with light refreshments.

Kate Burda, principal of Kate Burda & Co., will share her company’s approach to business development, digital marketing, process and customer engagement, meta-trend, and quick-to-apply strategies to become more effective and successful.

The event will be from 5 to 7 pm. Those interested in attending should rsvp to info@stewartlawgrp.com by January 17. It will be at One Arts Plaza, 1722 Routh Street, Suite 100, Dallas, Texas 75201

 

 




Top 5 Things Corporate Counsel Want for Free from Law Firms

By Matthew Prinn
RFP Advisory Group

In most request for proposals that deal with the overall client-law firm relationship (as opposed to a matter-specific RFP), you will see questions asking law firms about “value-added” services. By value-added, they mean free.

In the 2018 Buying Legal Council Survey, the responses were particularly interesting to the question, “What are your preferred value-added services being provided from law firms and legal service providers?” Here’s my analysis of the top five answers, and some things for law firms to consider before agreeing to these conditions.
—–
Hotlines or access to experts for quick questions

This is not a surprising one, as corporate counsel always have found value in the ability to get ad-hoc quick advice without running up a bill. It’s a feature that most firms agree to provide, usually a certain number of hours a month, assuming a certain volume of work from the client.

Most firms don’t have a formal process in place, and often are very reactive to this type of request. What typically happens is the firm notes in the RFP response that it’s willing to do this, and if called upon has a partner take the calls and write-off the time.
This offers a perfect opportunity for firms to separate themselves from competitors by proactively creating an innovative, best-in-class hotline program. They can then arm their lawyers with talking points on how to sell this feature to clients. Firms should consider the most efficient way to structure these hotlines, have a clear understanding of which topics they cover (and which are billable) and identify the most cost-efficient way to service the lines. Just writing off the time isn’t a strategic plan.
—–
Seminars and business-level training

This is another easy one for firms to agree to, as most already have a repository of content online or that they distribute via email. The firms that separate themselves in this area are willing to provide more customization.
Corporate counsel prefer when firms offer to come in and present on topics specific to their industry and business. A firm that is willing to offer four in-person programs a year will stand out compared to one that just points the client to their website of more generic content.

These live or webinar trainings can be great cross-selling opportunities for the law firm if you can strategically introduce lawyers to the client in areas beyond your current work. Firms often respond in an RFP with what they “could do,” but many fail to follow up and implement a program unless pushed by the client.
—–
Secondments

We are seeing more and more RFPs that ask for the law firm’s approach to secondments. Secondments are arrangements in which a firm puts a lawyer “in-house” at the client for anywhere from three months to two years at a significantly reduced rate or for free.

Secondments benefit the client, who gets a dedicated legal resource to develop a deeper knowledge of the company’s business at a bargain price. They also can benefit the firm in leading to better client service and increasing the potential to grow the business with the client.

However, firms need to be careful not to get burned financially. There is no business case to be made for providing a client a “free” lawyer unless you’re certain the short-term financial commitment will result in a positive return in your long-term relationship with the client.

Be careful not to agree to blanket terms in the RFP process, and then be faced with a difficult conversation with a client who thinks it can use a secondment on a senior partner in a complex area of work on any matter. Firms need to ensure they have the flexibility to negotiate secondments on a case-by-case basis with cost dependent on factors such as duration, type of work, and overall fees collected annually.
In short, tread carefully before agreeing to a secondment and be sure it makes business sense for the firm.
—–
Pre-matter planning sessions

The evolution of procurement in the purchase of legal services has driven law firms to provide a project management strategy to clients. Almost every RFP will ask what resources firms have for project management.

Firms must be able to say not just that they have software, but be able to give specific examples and show screenshots of how it’s used. Some firms can even offer non-billable project management staff as a competitive advantage in the bidding process.
Firms should be ready to get involved in the pre-matter planning and partner with the client to best manage the matter. Particularly if working off a fixed fee structure, both the firm and the client should want to keep this value-added piece a priority.
—–
Internal call participation

My understanding of this item is that corporate counsel want firms to be able to join business phone calls or meetings without billing time for the service. It seems fine to agree to this, provided it’s a reasonable amount of time and the expectations are agreed on in advance, including what level of seniority is expected on the calls.
Firms need to be careful not to over-promise and then under-deliver. When negotiating the outside counsel guidelines, firms should be wary of blindly agreeing to such requests and should include language that provides a detailed description of what and whom they would be willing to offer.
—–
Matthew Prinn is a principal with RFP Advisory Group, a consulting company that specializes in the RFP process for corporate counsel and law firms. He can be contacted at mattprinn@ RFPag.com.

 

 




Court Rules Law Firm’s Arbitration Provision Unconscionable

A California appellate panel determined that a law firm’s arbitration agreement with a partner was unconscionable, reversing a trial court’s grant of a motion to compel arbitration in an employment dispute, according to a post on the website of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips.

In the case, a litigator who had been employed at Winston & Strawn sued the firm, asserting claims of discrimination, retaliation and wrongful termination. A trial court granted the firm’s motion to compel arbitration.

“The arbitration provision in the employment agreement signed by [the plaintiff] failed to meet the standard of Armendariz v. Foundation Health Psychcare Services, Inc., the court said, and was unconscionable. Further, the taint of illegality could not be removed by severing the unlawful provisions without altering the nature of the parties’ agreement, leading the panel to void the entire agreement and send the case back to Superior Court.”

Read the article.

 

 

 




Thinking Like a Reporter to Promote Your Legal Case

Promoting a legal case requires a different set of skills and tactics compared to defending a client in the court of public opinion, writes Bruce Vincent of Muse Communications. His blog post focuses on cases that lawyers and their clients want reported, rather than those that should remain below the media’s radar.

First, he advises, ask: “Is my case media-friendly?”

“Being honest with yourself and your client on the front end is crucial. No one wants to waste time or money promoting a story that honestly has little chance of generating positive coverage,” Vincent explains.

He also gives advice on thinking like a reporter and acting like a news producer.

Read the article.

 

 

 




Study Finds Top Law Firms’ Male Partners Make 53% More Than Female Partners

The difference in average compensation for male and female partners at top U.S. law firms amounts to a 53 percent pay gap, according to a Major, Lindsey & Africa survey.

The ABA Journal summarizes the findings:

Average compensation for male partners responding to the survey was $959,000, which is 53 percent more money than the average of $627,000 paid to female partners, according to the partner compensation survey from Major, Lindsey & Africa. Average compensation for all partners was $885,000.

Most male partners don’t perceive a problem with pay differences, according the new survey.

Read the ABA Journal article.

 

 




Supreme Court Suggests Forcing Lawyers to Pay Bar Association Dues Violates Their Free Speech

The U.S. Supreme Court may be on verge of upsetting the longstanding system of states requiring lawyers to pay dues to bar associations, reports the Los Angeles Times.

At least 30 states require the dues, in most cases with bar associations regulating the legal profession by licensing lawyers and disciplining those who violate the rules. Lawyers in turn are required to pay dues to cover the cost, explains the TimesDavid G. Savage.

Savage writes:

“In a brief order on Monday, the court overturned a ruling last year by the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals that had upheld mandatory bar dues in North Dakota and sent the case back “for further consideration in light of Janus.”

In Janus v. AFSCME, the court last June struck down state laws in California and elsewhere that required teachers and other public employees to pay fees to support a union.

Read the LA Times article.

 

 




Multitask Your Legal Marketing

Amy Boardman Hunt of Muse Communications offers some advice in a new post on how to combine “helping organizations I care about” with marketing and business development.

“Whatever your favorite cause is – whether it’s sports, politics, animals, social issues, children’s issues, or the arts – there are countless ways to indulge that passion while building your professional network,” she writes.

She provides some real-world examples of lawyers who have found impressive ways to combine their personal passions with business development.

Read the article.

 

 




Firms Match Biglaw Associate Bonuses, But One Firm Raises the Bar

pay-salary-income-statisticsAbove the Law has put together a collection of reports on Biglaw’s generosity for associates, with firm after firm matching Cravath‘s season-end scale of $100,000 for top associates.

It’s still early in bonus season, but one firm is already exceeding Cravath’s bonuses by quite a bit. Kaplan Hecker & Fink, a firm that’s existed for less than two years, has a bonus scale ranging from $25,000 for class of 2017 to $130,000 for class of 2011. Those numbers are $10,000 and $30,000 better than Cravath’s, respectively.

Some other Above the Law reports cover MilbankDebevoise & PlimptonProskauer RoseSkadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, and Holwell Shuster & Goldberg.