Jackson Walker Adds ERISA, Wealth Planning and Real Estate Attorneys

Jackson Walker announced the addition of three partners and one senior counsel to its Dallas and Houston offices. Greta Cowart and Kal Grant join the firm as partners in Dallas, while the Houston office added Christian Triantaphyllis as partner and Catharine Yen as senior counsel.

In a release, the firm listed the new hires:

Greta E. Cowart joined the Labor & Employment, Employee Benefits, & Executive Compensation practice over 30 years of experience in counseling employers on human resources and employee relations issues related to benefits and executive compensation. She focuses on complex employee benefit plan issues – representing plans and plan sponsors before the various regulating government entities and in negotiations – and on resolving retirement plan issues through voluntary compliance programs.

“We are fortunate to welcome Greta to Jackson Walker. Her wide-ranging background in employee benefits and executive compensation lends valuable experience related to planning and audit representations,” said Austin partner Chuck Campbell, who chairs the firm’s ERISA practice.

Kal Grant joins the Wealth Planning, Probate, & Trust practice as a trust and estate strategist working with clients to counsel them through the optimal creation, use, and coordination of estate planning vehicles and techniques, including trusts, family-owned entities, charitable planning, and various disposition matters. In her practice, Grant regularly corresponds with and counsels clients on trust administration practices, including assisting co-trustees in carrying out fiduciary duties and assisting in trustee succession planning, governance processes, and trustee appointments and resignations.

“We are excited to work with Kal to provide our diverse clientele with strategies for building and transferring wealth to their family and to their community,” Wealth Planning Chair Sam K. Hildebrand said. “Her many connections, strong community involvement, and experience in the wealth planning industry will make a great addition to the firm.”

Christian A. Triantaphyllis, joining the Land Use & Real Estate practice, has experience in business and immigration matters, specifically related to assisting foreign nationals from around the world through the EB-5 visa program. Triantaphyllis advises regional centers and real estate developers in establishing projects nationwide and provides analysis from an immigration law perspective on financing structures. He also handles matters pertaining to USCIS, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and U.S. Department of State immigration requirements.

“We are proud to welcome such an accomplished attorney who brings a diverse set of skills and knowledge related to business and immigration law,” Houston Managing Partner Kurt D. Nondorf said. “In combining Christian Triantaphyllis’ international experience with Jackson Walker’s business acumen, we can further expand the services we offer our clients across the board.”

Also joining the Houston real estate group is senior counsel Catharine W. Yen, who brings particular experience in foreign investment and immigration matters. In her practice, Yen corresponds with and counsels individual investors, regional centers, agents, securities attorneys, economists, and business plan writers to help her individual investor clients and regional center clients accomplish their goals.

Houston Chair Vytas A. Petrulis said: “Christian and Catharine add solid experience in business immigration matters and have both worked outside the United States with clients around the world. We are fortunate to welcome two attorneys who bring such strong capabilities to the firm.”



Former Biglaw Chairman Dies in Manhattan Fire

The lawyer who led Sullivan & Cromwell in the 1980s and 1990s died from injuries he suffered in a fire in his Manhattan apartment.

John Merow, 89, was found near his wife, Mary, 85, after the fire broke out in their apartment about 5 a.m. on Jan. 12, reports Above the Law. His wife was dead at the scene with severe burns, while Merow later died at a hospital.

“Merow, a graduate of Havard Law School, worked for Sullivan & Cromwell for 60 years,” writes Above the Law editor Staci Zaretsky. “He first joined the firm in 1958, became a partner in 1964, became the firm’s vice chairman in 1986, and continued his leadership ascent to become the firm’s chairman and senior partner in 1987. Merow served as chair until 1994, but retained the senior partner title for more than two decades before his death.”

The New York Post reported that police sources believe the fire started when Mary allegedly fell asleep on the couch with a lit cigarette in her hand.

Read the Above the Law article.




Heidi Naasko Named Pro Bono Attorney of the Year by United Community Housing Coalition

Dykema’s National Pro Bono and Diversity Counsel Heidi A. Naasko was selected as the 2018 Pro Bono Attorney of the Year Award by the United Community Housing Coalition (UCHC). She was recognized at the UCHC annual meeting in November.

The firm said Naasko was selected for the honor in thanks for her support of the UCHC’s 36th District Court Eviction Defense Clinic. Not only did Naasko take cases directly in one of the busiest eviction courts in the nation, but she also encourages other attorneys from large and small firms, as well as corporations, to volunteer and take eviction cases. She also assisted in efforts to increase the right to representation for defendants in eviction proceedings to reduce homelessness in Detroit.

The UCHC is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that provides comprehensive housing assistance to Detroit’s low-income residents. Since 1973, the organization has worked with tenants, homesteaders, homeowners, the homeless and community organizations, rebuilding neighborhoods and providing affordable housing, religious, civil rights, labor and housing advocacy to improve, preserve and expand affordable housing opportunities for low-income Detroiters.

In addition to her role administering Dykema’s Pro Bono program and mentoring lawyers in various areas of public interest law, Naasko maintains a substantive poverty law practice. Her caseload includes representation of unaccompanied immigrant children who are child victims of human trafficking and have either been victims of crime in their country of origin or in the United States. She also represents domestic violence survivors in divorce, child custody, immigration matters, and personal protection orders.

She also works with Dykema’s business clients to create pro bono partnerships with a focus on identifying relevant, succinct and high-profile opportunities.

Naasko, who earned a J.D., cum laude, from Boston University and a B.A. from the University of Michigan, is also a past recipient of the Washtenaw County Bar Association’s Annual Pro Bono/Public Service Award, as well as the Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association Pro Bono Service Award.



Restructuring Attorney James Van Horn Joins Barnes & Thornburg in D.C.

Barnes & Thornburg has added James Van Horn as a partner in the firm’s Finance, Insolvency and Restructuring Department in Washington, D.C.

Van Horn works with senior management, investors, creditors and other stakeholders in matters ranging from out-of-court workouts and pre-packaged and pre-arranged Chapter 11 reorganizations to cram down plans of reorganization and sales of substantially all assets. He represents corporate debtors, secured creditors, asset purchasers, official committees of unsecured creditors, liquidating trustees, receivers, investors and other stakeholders in bankruptcy courts and other courts throughout the United States.

“Jim is a seasoned bankruptcy attorney with significant restructuring experience across the manufacturing, retail, energy and real estate industries,” said Karen McGee, managing partner of the firm’s Washington, D.C. office. “He’ll complement and expand our creditors’ rights and bankruptcy representation capabilities in the Beltway and nationally.”

Previously, Van Horn was a partner at McGuireWoods. He holds an MBA in finance, is a Certified Public Accountant, a Certified Insolvency and Restructuring Advisor, and a Certified Valuation Analyst. He was a senior consultant in the bankruptcy and restructuring services practice of FTI Consulting, Inc. and a senior associate in the business recovery services division of PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, as well as an adjunct professor at the University of Pittsburgh Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business teaching corporate finance and restructuring.

Van Horn earned his J.D. from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law and M.B.A. from the University of Pittsburgh Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business; and he received his B.A. from Pennsylvania State University.



Florida Law Partner Gail Serota Dies in Snorkeling Accident

Gail Serota, a partner in Florida’s Weiss Serota Helfman Cole & Bierman, died Sunday in a snorkeling accident in Biscayne Bay. She was 65.

The Miami Herald reported that her husband Joseph, one of the founders of the firm, said he and his wife loved to be on their boat and often spent days in the Ragged Keys. His wife, who loved the water, went snorkeling Sunday afternoon and got caught in a current, Serota said.

He said the two met while students at Princeton. Gail Serota turned down going to law school at Stanford to attend the University of Miami, where he was studying. The two married in 1980.

Read the Miami Herald article.



Former Biglaw Attorney Goes on Anti-Asian Racist Social Media Rant

A Facebook post by a former Jones Day lawyer included a racially charged rant, apparently set off by the movie Crazy Rich Asians.

Above the Law tells the story of Christina Ignatius, who railed “against Asians that ‘took over Orange County’ — propagating the trope of Asians as bad drivers and ridiculing her perception of a generically Asian accent — and calls dealing with Asians ‘one annoying thing after another.’”

“If you went to UCI like I did you probably went to school with a lot of rice rockets,” Ignatius wrote. “Asians flooded that school if they were smart and could get in. They went there to become doctors. They were raised by Tiger Moms who told them ‘to become docta,’ and then if they weren’t smart enough to become a doctor, ‘to marry docta.'”

Some of her Caucasian male lawyer friends “who married Asian women were completely poached for dollars and earning potential,” she added.

Read Above the Law’s article.




Aretha Franklin Dies Without Will or Trust in Place

Although she was facing a terminal illness, Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin died last week without a will or trust plan in place, according to news reports.

A post on the website of Androvett Legal Media & Marketing says she certainly isn’t the first high-profile person to die with a substantial estate and no will or estate plan. In fact, by most estimates, a majority of Americans may not have a valid will. In other cases, wills are out of date, poorly coordinated or self-prepared, according to Dallas estate planning attorney Sam Long of Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton, LLP.

“Planning in situations of progressive or life-threatening illness often becomes impractical and may give rise to contests and disputes,” says Long. “However, in one sense, everyone does wind up having a will – the state drafts it for them.

“Unfortunately, if left to the state, the heirs and fiduciaries under state law are not always as one would intend or assume. This can be an issue when there are minor or incapacitated beneficiaries. Among Ms. Franklin’s children is a son with special needs who will require financial and additional support throughout his life. A will or, more effectively, a trust is frequently used to insure those needs are met.

“Having no will also can cause additional expense and complexity, delay administration of estates, and sometimes cause a greater burden on heirs that could have been prevented with some planning. For many people, private wealth now is passed along by beneficiary designations, but wills still play a vital role in the succession of property at death.”

New ABA Membership Model Will Mean Lower Dues, Free CLE and Customized Content

The American Bar Association House of Delegates has approved a new dues structure that will result in a majority of members paying less in dues, with reductions of about $20 to more than $300.

The new dues structure will be put in place starting in September of 2019, reports the ABA Journal.

Under the new structure, there will be five price points for the basic level of dues-paying membership, ranging from $75 for new bar admittees, paralegals and lawyers through their first four years of practice, to $450 for lawyers in practice for at least 20 years.

Read the ABA Journal article.



Sidley Adds Private Equity Partner Jared Jensen in San Francisco

Sidley Austin LLP announced that Jared Jensen has joined the firm as a partner in its global Private Equity practice. He will be based in the San Francisco office. Jensen was formerly a partner with Goodwin Procter LLP.

In a release, the firm said Jensen has experience advising private equity and venture capital firms, their sponsored companies, and other clients on public and private M&A, tender and exchange offers, recapitalizations, management buyouts, going-private transactions, carve-out transactions and minority growth investments. He represents clients in industries including software, information technology, financial services, life sciences, consumer products, education and business services. Jensen also provides guidance on public company acquisitions.

The firm said Jensen is the fifth partner addition to Sidley’s private equity group globally in the last 12 months and follows on the heels of expansions of the private equity practice in California in Sidley’s Palo Alto and Los Angeles offices, and globally in its London and Munich offices.

“In recent years, Sidley has made a concerted effort to respond to client demand and robust market activity in the private equity arena, both regionally and globally,” said Sharon Flanagan, managing partner of the San Francisco office. “Jared’s addition demonstrates our commitment to delivering our clients premier service and well-connected counsel, particularly in the Bay Area’s booming tech sector.”



Ex-DOJ Counsel Sentenced for Shakedown Scam with Whistleblower Files

A former corporate-fraud prosecutor guilty of out the “most serious”  public corruption by a U.S. Department of Justice attorney in years has been sentenced to two and a half years in prison on two counts of obstructing justice and one count of interstate transport of stolen property, The Washington Post reports.

The former prosecutor and former Akin Gump partner stole more than 40 whistleblower fraud cases in 2016 and tried to sell the secret information to companies under federal investigation, prosecutors said.

Reporter Spencer S. Hsu explains: “The scheme was an attempt to woo potential clients and increase his earnings and standing in his new role as a defense lawyer for one of Washington’s most influential law firms, according to prosecutors and admissions by Jeffrey Wertkin at his sentencing Wednesday.”

Read the Post article.



Trust Helps Preserve Privacy Coveted by Author Harper Lee

The unsealing of Harper Lee’s will this week in Alabama yielded few insights into the life of the beloved author of the American classic novel “To Kill a Mockingbird,” according to a post on the website of Androvett Legal Media & Marketing.

Among the most frustrating details to those who had hoped to learn more about the notoriously private author was that she directed the bulk of her assets to a trust she established a few years prior to her 2016 death, says Dallas estate planning attorney Sam Long of ​Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton, LLP.

“Privacy concerns are among several factors that have increased the use of trusts as a mechanism to transfer property at death,” says Long, who also serves as an adjunct professor of wills, trusts and estates at UNT-Dallas College of Law. “In most cases, the terms of such a trust, such as the Mockingbird Trust here, and the nature of the assets conveyed to the trust during a person’s lifetime are not public information.”



Former Biglaw Lawyer, Son of Washington Post Publisher, Dies in Apparent Suicide

William W. Graham, a lawyer, investor and philanthropist who was a member of the family that owned and published The Washington Post for many years, died Dec. 20 at his home in Los Angeles, according to The Post. He was 69.

Reporter Matt Schudel writes that the cause was a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to Graham’s brother, Donald E. Graham, a former Post publisher and chief executive.

“Graham was a lawyer at the prominent Washington firm of Williams & Connolly in the 1970s before settling in Los Angeles, where he taught trial law at his alma mater, the University of California at Los Angeles,” the report says.

Fox News reports that the death was reminiscent of the suicide of Graham’s father more than 50 years ago.

Read the Post‘s article.




Lawyer Recounts His DWI Arrest, and Offers Some Advice

Former lawyer Brian Cuban writes that his 1992 arrest for driving while intoxicated should have been a learning experience, but the only lesson he learned at the time was that it would be better to take cabs to and from his drinking spots.

In a post on Above the Law, Cuban describes the humiliation he felt when he was hauled to a Dallas jail, followed by relief when his case was dismissed because the arresting officer didn’t show up for the trial.

“I high-tailed it out of the courthouse,” he writes. “No thought about how I’d gotten to that point. No thought of being in desperate need of treatment. Just relief that I had dodged a bullet. No hard consequences other than the few grand I gave my lawyer and getting my car out of impoundment.”

But the continuing slide into addiction would carry consequences he didn’t envision.

Read the Above the Law article.




From Virtual Reality to Harvey: Texas’ Top Legal Stories of 2017

Androvett Legal Media & Marketing has compiled its list of the Top 10 Texas legal news stories for the sixth consecutive year.

“In a year marked by so many changes from Washington, it was a challenge to keep the focus on issues directly related to state-based businesses or stories originating in the Lone Star state,” said Mike Androvett, founder and president of Androvett Legal Media & Marketing. “However, there is never a lack of provocative legal issues in a state as dynamic as Texas, and 2017 was certainly no exception.”

The complete Top 10 Texas Legal Stories of 2017 list can be found on the Androvett blog.

Highlights include:

· Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg came to North Texas to testify in an intellectual property case involving Oculus VR technology. Though the company was found liable on some counts, the jury awarded plaintiff ZeniMax Media a fraction of the $6 billion it had sought.
· Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones backed star running back Ezekiel Elliott through the protracted appeals process of his six-game NFL suspension, and then went to battle against the rest of the league over the proposed extension of the league commissioner’s contract. Neither case went Jones’ way.
· After more than a decade under federal investigation, Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price finally got his day in court – and walked out a free man.
· Massive rains related to Hurricane Harvey led the Army Corps of Engineers to release water from Houston reservoirs to protect dams. But it resulted in the flooding of hundreds of homes, leading to what is projected to be some of the most complex and costly litigation in history. The storm also literally swamped the Harris County criminal courts, as offices and courtrooms were left under water.



BigLaw Counsel Dies in Fall From Manhattan High-Rise Apartment

Kenneth Freeling, of counsel at Covington & Burling and former Dewey & LeBoeuf litigation partner, died in a fall from his ninth-floor New York apartment Thursday, according to reports.

The New York Post quoted police reports saying Freeling, 59, had a history of mental illness and reported that Freeling had jumped to his death. He lived on the ninth floor of the building and landed on a second-floor terrace in view of witnesses in the building’s gym.

Above the Law reports that Freeling’s son, Samuel, committed suicide in 2013.

Read the NY Post article.


Join Our LinkedIn Group


Lawyer Who Died in Parking Garage Fire Worked at BigLaw Firm

A badly burned body found on the floor of a Chicago parking garage early Tuesday has been identified as Louis S. Cohen, of counsel with Foley & Lardner LLP, reports The Chicago Tribune.

Police were investigating the death of the 60-year-old real estate attorney, officials said.

Cohen joined Foley & Lardner in Chicago eight months ago, after working with DLA Piper for the previous 27 years, Foley says on its website.

Reporter Rosemary Regina Sobol writes that an autopsy Wednesday was pending and did not determine a cause and manner for Cohen’s death, the Cook County medical examiner’s office said.

Read the Chicago Tribune article.


Join Our LinkedIn Group


Attorney Brian ‘Strong Arm’ Loncar’s Death Ruled Accidental Cocaine Overdose

Prominent Dallas lawyer Brian Loncar, known for his TV identity “The Strong Arm,” died last month due to an accidental cocaine overdose, officials said Thursday, according to a Dallas Morning News report.

Loncar’s cause of death was the “toxic effect of cocaine,” a spokeswoman for the Dallas County medical examiner. Hypertension and cardiovascular disease were also listed as secondary factors, she said.

“The personal injury lawyer, 56, was found dead in his new Rolls-Royce Wraith on Dec. 4, days after burying his youngest daughter, Grace Loncar, who had killed herself at age 16,” writes Dallas Morning News reporter Naomi Martin.

Read the Dallas News article.


Join Our LinkedIn Group


The Top Texas Legal Stories of 2016

From the legal debate over bathrooms, to the battle over renaming a Houston law school, to a billion-dollar-plus jury award, Texas was home to some of the nation’s most intriguing legal news of 2016.

The staff of Androvett Legal Media & Marketing compiled a list of the year’s top Texas legal stories.

Those stories included the death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in West Texas in February, the election defeat of Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson, the on-again-off-again charges against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, the fight for accreditation for the UNT Dallas College of Law, the Baylor sexual assault scandal, and more.

Read about the top 10 stories.


Join Our LinkedIn Group

Securing Assent: The Internet Twist of Electronic Contracts

Handshake with computersIf any area of the law could be shielded from the all-consuming influence of the Internet, it ought to be the age-old law of contracts, writes Mark Sableman in Thompson & Coburn’s blog, Internet Law Twists & Turns. He points out that basic elements of contract law, like requirements of offer, acceptance, and consideration, don’t change because of the Internet.

But courts have been struggling with one crucial point involving electronic contracts: “When and how does a user agree to a contract electronically? This crucial element of contract formation — manifestation of assent — is the Internet twist for contract making.”

“Getting clear assent in real time, however, isn’t always enough. You also may need to prove at a later date that consent occurred. Your ordering software should record customer activity, such as the click-through consents. And you should retain records of your past website forms and contract terms, so that you can recreate those that were in place at the time of any contested transaction,” Sableman writes.

Read the article.



Provost Umphrey Law Firm Attorneys Named to Best Lawyers in America

D'Juana ParksThe Best Lawyers in America has named 13 attorneys from Beaumont, Texas-based Provost Umphrey Law Firm, L.L.P., among the country’s best, including firm partner D’Juana Parks, who was named the city’s top lawyer for plaintiffs’ personal injury cases.

Provost Umphrey has represented people in cases involving serious personal injuries, wrongful death and unfair business practices for more than 40 years, the firm said in a release. Their clients include victims of toxic exposure, dangerous pharmaceutical drugs, defective products, unsafe workplaces, runaway 18-wheeler accidents, unfair payment schemes and many others.

In addition to Parks, Provost Umphrey partners Bryan O. Blevins Jr., Edward Fisher, Joe J. Fisher II, James E. Payne and David P. Wilson were named among the country’s best in their respective practice areas.

The firm’s release continues:

Firm attorneys Aaryn K. Giblin and Colin D. Moore earned selection based on their work in plaintiffs’ product liability litigation. Fellow firm attorney Christopher T. Kirchmer was named to the exclusive guide for his representation of plaintiffs in mass tort litigation, class actions, and personal injury and product liability litigation. Matthew C. Matheny earned high marks for his work on behalf of plaintiffs in mass tort litigation, class actions and personal injury litigation. Darren L. Brown was recognized for his work for plaintiffs in personal injury and product liability litigation. J. Keith Hyde earned a spot based on his work for plaintiffs in personal injury cases.

Firm founder Walter Umphrey also was named to Best Lawyers, marking the 25th year he has earned the prestigious honor. The 2017 Provost Umphrey honorees, including every equity partner in the firm, represent a combined 60 years of Best Lawyers recognition for excellence and success.

Best Lawyers is widely recognized as one of the leading guides to the U.S. legal profession by ranking the nation’s leading lawyers in various practice areas based on exhaustive peer-review surveys submitted by tens of thousands of the top attorneys from across the country.