Former Dewey CFO Released From Jail After His Current Firm Pays His $1M Fine

The former chief financial officer of Dewey & LeBoeuf spent a night in jail after missing the first of three payments on a $1 million fine, but was released early Friday morning when his current law firm paid the entire $1 million, reports the ABA Journal.

“[Joel] Sanders was sentenced in October 2017 to 750 hours of community service and ordered to pay the $1 million fine over a three-year period,” reports the Journal‘s Debra Cassens Weiss. “Sanders did not get any jail time, but Stolz had said failure to pay the fine would land Sanders in jail until he pays up, for up to one year.”

He was convicted for misleading lenders and bond buyers about the firm’s finances before its 2012 collapse.

Sanders missed his first payment and asked for resentencing because of “dire financial circumstances” and also alleged the fine was unconstitutionally excessive. A New York judge ordered Sanders to jail.

The next day, his current law firm paid the entire $1 million.

Read the ABA Journal report.



Legal Departments Sending Less Cash to Big Law, Survey Says

Bloomberg Law is reporting that corporate law departments are spending more, but less of that that money is landing in Big Law coffers, according to a new survey.

Altman Weil’s 19th Annual Chief Legal Officer survey revealed that most companies increased their spending between 2017 and 2018. But about a third of legal officers shifted work to lower-priced alternatives, the data indicated.

Survey participants said they received quality work and service at considerable reductions in cost with shifts to smaller firm, reports Bloomberg’s Elizabeth Olson.

Read the Bloomberg Law article.



Be Unique for Better Law Firm Marketing

When your marketing efforts are met with obstacles based on time, money or other factors, one of the best and most-underutilized ways to make sure you are seen and heard is to be unique, advises Bruce Vincent of Muse Communications.

In an article on the Muse website, Vincent offers three major pieces of advice.

First, start by setting yourself apart. “But before revising your website or email newsletter to include your unique position, your first move should be to make sure that you stay within the rules that govern lawyer communications,” he cautions.

Second, listen to your clients. “Did your clients come to you after working with a different firm or lawyer? If so, ask them why they decided to hire you instead. What you hear may well determine exactly what it is that others think make you unique.”

And finally, make your delivery unique. “Once you have determined what to say about why you are unique, it is time to figure out how to best communicate in a way that will be as noteworthy as your message itself.”

Read the article.





Biglaw Widow Says Firm Bears Some of the Blame for Husband’s Suicide

The widow of Sidley Austin partner Gabe MacConaill has some harsh words for the stress that her husband endured while working at the firm before he took his own life with a self-inflicted gunshot in October.

Above the Law, referring to an American Lawyer article by the widow, Joanna Litt, describes her feeling of helplessness as she saw her husband’s mental and physical condition decline while he was working on a big case:

“He told me his body was failing him. I picked him up and we decided he should go to the emergency room. He actually said to me on the way there, “You know, if we go, this is the end of my career.”

She said that she knows Biglaw didn’t directly kill her husband, but his condition was influenced by “a high-pressure job and a culture where it’s shameful to ask for help, shameful to be vulnerable, and shameful not to be perfect.”

Read the Above the Law article.




Law Firm Associate Signing Bonuses Take a Dive, Recruiter Finds

Bloomberg Law reports that average signing bonuses for law firm associates have dropped by $10,000 since 2017 partly because salaries have gone up and women are getting less, according to client data compiled by a legal staffing and recruiting company.

The company, Special Counsel, found that the average signing bonus this year so far is about $17,000. One Special Counsel client topped the list with $60,000, compared to a record $90,000 last year, report Bloomberg reporters Sam Skolnik and Madi Alexander.

The vast majority of those receiving signing bonuses were law firm associates. The others were in-house attorneys or law firm counsel or partners, the report adds.

Read the Bloomberg Law article.



Suit Claims Competitors Lured Away Legal Clients With Payments From ‘Briefcase Full of Cash’

The ABA Journal reports that a $30 million lawsuit alleges a personal injury firm had its clients stolen by two competitors who sent case runners to a pain clinic where they enticed the patients to switch firms.

Reporter Debra Cassens Weiss writes: “The law firm Ginarte Gallardo Gonzalez & Winograd, with offices in New York and New Jersey, alleges its clients were lured away with promises of payments of about $2,000 or $3,000, which were paid from a ‘briefcase full of cash’ by lawyer William Schwitzer.

The suit names Schwitzer and his firm, William Schwitzer & Associates in New York City, as defendants, along with some other lawyers associated with the firm.

Read the ABA Journal article.



New Survey Rates Big Law Policies to Build Gender Equality

A new survey aims to move forward the conversation about equality in Biglaw by examining which firms are taking key steps to close persistent gender gaps.

Bloomberg Law reports on the survey, which was conducted by Diversity Lab, an incubator for diversity and inclusion in the law, and ChIPs, a nonprofit organization focused on advancing and connecting women in technology, law and policy.

Top scoring firms were Brooks Kushman and Sheppard Mullin.

Read the Bloomberg Law article.



New Law Firm Study: 4 Tips for Maximizing Value from Law Firms

Exterro has published its 2018 Law Firm Benchmarking Report, in which more than 100 law firm professionals supplied advice and tips for getting more out of a law firm.

This is the third annual edition of the Exterro report.

The report includes:

  • In-depth analysis of how law firms are working with their clients around e-discovery issues
  • New techniques for improving how you communicate and work with your law firms
  • Survey responses from over 100 law firm respondents on 25+ questions

Download the report.




LinkedIn is Boring – But Lawyers Should Be There Anyway

LinkedInLinkedIn is the least popular of all the big social media channels, but it’s still considered a must for companies looking for business and individuals looking for work, writes Amy Boardman Hunt for Muse Communications.

She explains that “it’s one of the first places employers, recruiters and prospective clients go to vet potential hires. So if you’re interested in beefing up your firm’s or your personal online presence, LinkedIn is what we in the marketing business call low-hanging fruit.”

The article covers some of the best practices for using LinkedIn, including: using a professional photo, how to write a headline and a summary, making full use of various profile sections, using links to your articles and blog posts, keeping the profile updated, using recommendations, and sharing articles and updates.

Read the article.




Access to Law Firm Data ‘Just Too Easy,’ Worrying Clients

Hacking - cybersecurity - phishingA cybersecurity scare at Foley & Lardner has drawn new attention to a debate over data security at top law firms, and some clients and outside organizations are taking matters into their own hands, according to a Bloomberg Law report.

Bloomberg’s Sam Skolnik writes that general counsels’ offices have been expressing renewed concern about whether even the biggest law firms are adequately protecting highly sensitive data.

“Cyber incursions into law firms clearly appear to be on the rise. According to a December 2017 American Bar Association legal technology report, just over a third of law firms with between 10 and 49 attorneys reported experiencing some sort of data-related security breach in the previous 12 months,” according to Skolnik.

Read the Bloomberg Law article.



Paul Hastings Faces Malpractice Claims Over Cleanup Advice

A California appellate court has given Tokai Intl. Holdings Inc. the go-ahead to proceed with cleanup cost-related malpractice claims against law firm Paul Hastings LLP, according to a Bloomberg Law report.

“The firm allegedly failed to properly advise the Delaware-based company about environmental cleanup costs taken on by a subsidiary when it bought a holding company in 2005. Paul Hastings provided advice during the acquisition,” writes Bloomberg reporter Peter Hayes.

Tokai alleges an agreement in a contract for the purchase of a holding company left it, rather than the seller, with $2 million or more in reimbursed cleanup costs related to contamination at a former manufacturing site in California.

Read the Bloomberg Law article.



Foley & Lardner Hit With Cybersecurity Incident

CybersecurityBloomberg Law is reporting that Foley & Lardner LLP experienced a cybersecurity incident earlier this month, but said there was “no unauthorized access to client data.”

Jill Schachner Chanen, external communications manager at Foley & Lardner, told Bloomberg Law in an email that the incursion occurred earlier this month.

She said the firm has security safeguards in place designed to protect the IT system and data and that no client data was exposed to the cyber intruders.

Read the Bloomberg Law article.



Biglaw Firm Settles Racial Discrimination Lawsuit That Alleged Attorney Called Assistant ‘Our Slave’

Above the Law reports that the Biglaw firm of Drinker Biddle & Reath has settled a racial discrimination case filed against them earlier this year. In that case, Syneetra Hill, an African-American legal assistant in their Princeton office, alleged pay discrimination and that she was subjected to a hostile work environment and retaliation.

Editor Kathryn Rubino writes that Hill’s lawsuit alleges several problematic examples of the work environment, including a former supervising attorney who kept a collection of Confederate memorabilia throughout the office, and an of counsel who referred to Hill as “our slave” in front of a client.

Read the Above the Law article.



Taking Your Legal Marketing into Your Own Hands

Unless your name is on the door or you’re already a major rainmaker, it’s a safe bet that your law firm’s marketing team isn’t spending much time helping you achieve your personal marketing goals, writes Amy Boardman Hunt in a post for Muse Communications.

She offers some advice for any attorney who is looking to take their marketing matters into their own hands.

Her post covers such issues as how to get clients, using content marking, building a contact list for your professional network, keeping your online presence up to date, and checking on your other online profiles.

Read the article.



Vexed by Budget Uncertainty? When – and How – to Use Fixed Fees

Lurking in every legal department budget is a giant uncertainty: the outside counsel spend, warns a post on the website of Xakia. According to Altman Weil’s Chief Legal Officer Survey, law firms account for 49.3 percent of legal budgets – the single largest category.

“As consumers of legal services know, when the outside counsel spend is governed by hourly billing, it’s inherently hard to predict, as it can vary with the phase of a project, the demands of the other side, even the habits and styles of the lawyers involved,” according to the post.

Much has been written about the philosophies behind alternative fee arrangements and efforts to align law firms and their clients on value. Instead, because it’s budget season, the paper takes a look at the most popular (and budget-friendly) fee structure and how to implement it for greater success in 2019.

According to Norton Rose Fulbright, the most popular alternative fee arrangements are:

Fixed/flat fee – 77 percent
Capped fee – 53 percent
Blended rate – 42 percent
Performance/success fees – 21 percent
Contingent fees – 25 percent

Read the article.

Download a legal budget white paper and budget template.


Former Foley & Lardner Partner Suspended for Falsifying Documents in IRS Audit of Wealthy Clients

A former Foley & Lardner partner was suspended two years by the state Supreme Court for lying to the IRS during an audit of two wealthy estates connected to a major area business, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

“The firm fired Adam Wiensch, 55, in 2016 when it learned he had falsified documents related to the transfer of wealth from the owners of Carma Laboratories to their children, a move that attempted to save the family millions in taxes,” writes the Journal Sentinel‘s Bruce Vielmetti.

The court’s opinion recounts Wiensch’s earlier testimony that he had been facing “several highly disruptive and personal” issues at the time of his offenses, and was dealing with depression and alcoholism.

Read the Journal Sentinel article.



Nov. 8 Live Event: General Counsel and Experts Share New Drivers of Diversity

Bloomberg Law’s 4th annual Talent and Diversity Forum brings together industry leaders to share insights on what can actually increase diversity in the legal industry.

The event will be November 8, 2018, 8 a.m. to noon, in the offices of Bloomberg Government, 1101 K Street, NW, Washington, DC 2005.

With the emergence of new technologies and increased data analysis, the industry has seen significant shifts in recruiting and retention strategies and the emergence of an operations and value-driven business model, Bloomberg says on its website.

The half-day program will bring together corporate diversity champions, general counsel, and industry experts to offer up the newest ideas for bridging the ongoing diversity gap, from using technology to analyze data on prospective attorneys to ways to adapt an organization’s overall diversity initiatives to best suit an in-house legal team.

Key topics will include:

  • Harnessing diversity in the changing business of law
  • Using data and technology to increase diversity
  • Workshopping scenarios to tackle diversity issues

Request an invitation.




Biglaw Firm Admits It Botched Handling of Sexual Assault Allegation Against a Partner

Above the Law reports that Baker McKenzie released a joint report last week that admits the way the firm handled the alleged sexual assault by a partner at the firm involved “a number of shortcomings … which we very much regret.”

A partner in the firm’s London office was accused of assaulting an associate after a firm event six years ago, recalls Above the Law editor Kathryn Rubino. “The associate reported it to the firm, and they investigated. But instead of getting rid of the offending partner, the firm just sanctioned him and reached a settlement with the associate who was victimized. It was only after the story became public that the firm bowed to pressure and the accused partner left the firm.”

Read the Above the Law article.



Dallas Firm Named Tops in U.S. Law for Business Disputes

Loewinsohn Flegle Deary SimonDallas business trial law firm Loewinsohn Flegle Deary Simon won the No. 1 spot for the Elite Trial Lawyers award, based on research by VerdictSearch, The National Law Journal and

Three of the firm’s co-founders, Alan Loewinsohn, Craig Simon, and Matt Ray, accepted the award during a reception at the Las Vegas Bellagio Hotel on October 5.

The firm’s recent litigation includes a trial victory that resulted in a $6 billion verdict – the largest verdict of 2017 and one of the Top 10 verdicts in U.S. history.

Read details about the honor.



Legal Fight Erupts Over Lawyer’s Advertising Slogan

The ABA Journal reports that a Florida attorney is suing San Antonio lawyer Heather Clement Tessmer for using “Ever Argue With A Woman?” on billboards, the internet and business cards to pitch her legal services.

Florida lawyer Melissa Wilson claims in a federal lawsuit that Tessmer and her Tessmer Law Firm are infringing her trademark by using a confusingly similar slogan.

Journal reporter Debra Cassens Weiss explains: “Wilson says she has been using the slogan since at least September 2007, and she sent an email telling Tessmer to stop after she learned of the infringement from confused consumers around April 2014. Her lawyers also tried to contact Tessmer, but Tessmer never responded, the suit says.”

Read the ABA Journal article.