Bloomberg News

Law Firm Satisfaction, Milbank, Goodwin: Business of Law (1)

June 28, 2013

Only 31 percent of clients who employ corporate counsel recommend their primary law firm, down from 36 percent last year and 42 percent two years ago, BTI consulting Group found.

“Secondary law firms providing better customer service and showing a willingness to adjust to client needs are gaining ground the fastest on primary law firm turf,” the consulting group said.

The conclusions of the survey, in its 13th year, resulted from 300 interviews with chief legal officers and general counsel at Fortune 1000 companies and large organizations.

Those surveyed reported their dissatisfaction with their primary law firm because of their inflexibility and unwillingness to do anything other than what is asked.

BTI found that 48 percent of corporate clients replaced one of their two primary firms in 2012, an increase from 39 percent in 2010. The new work went to a firm that had been in a secondary role, BTI said.

Firm News

Duane Morris Names Pittsburgh Office Managing Partner

Duane Morris LLP appointed Kenneth M. Argentieri managing partner of the firm’s Pittsburgh office. Argentieri succeeds George Medved, who has held the role since the office opened in 2003.

Argentieri, a litigation partner, has been vice-chairman of the products liability and toxic torts division of the trial practice group. He’s handled defamation, environmental, securities, class action and commercial law, the firm said.

The Pittsburgh office handles domestic and international clients in construction, products liability, commercial and bankruptcy litigation, as well as corporate legal matters.

“Since joining us in 2007, Ken has played an increasingly substantial part in shaping the Pittsburgh office’s strategic focus and has proven himself to be a talented and market-savvy lawyer,” Duane Morris chairman and Chief Executive Officer John Soroko said in a statement.

Duane Morris has more than 700 attorneys in 24 offices in the U.S., London and Asia.

Cuatrecasas Names Baena to Head Spanish Law Firm’s London Office

Cuatrecasas, Gonçalves Pereira, a Spanish law firm specializing in corporate clients with about 950 lawyers, named Antonio Baena to head its office in London.

Baena, who will focus on mergers and acquisitions and corporate finance, takes over from managing partner Inigo Rubio, who will return to the firm’s main office in Madrid, Cuatrecasas said in a statement.

Baena has worked in the securities markets and has been a legal adviser for Spain’s Frob bank bailout fund and for Sareb, its so-called bad bank that absorbed troubled assets from nationalized banks, according to the statement.

Moves

Transaction and Regulatory Lawyer John Williams Joins Milbank

Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP said John Williams, who focuses on complex transactional and regulatory work in the derivatives space, has joined as a partner in New York. He was formerly a partner in the New York office of Allen & Overy LLP, where he was head of its U.S. derivatives practice.

Williams advises clients on derivatives products and on the cross-border implications of U.S. derivatives regulations enacted in response to the financial crisis, the firm said.

“John saw the financial crisis as the game-changing event it was, and realized that a top-tier transactional practice would now depend on offering comprehensive regulatory counsel as well,” Milbank Chairman Scott Edelman said in a statement.

Among his past work, Williams was principal U.S. counsel to the International Swaps and Derivatives Association in its revisions to the credit derivatives product in 2009. He has also advised clearing members of ICE Clear Credit and ICE Clear Europe, as they have dealt with the derivatives clearing mandate under Dodd-Frank and the related regulation, the firm said.

“As the regulatory ground continues to shift within the derivatives industry, I looked for a firm with a premier financial practice that could provide the room for growth that the derivatives field demands,” Williams said in a statement about Milbank.

Milbank has 600 lawyers at 11 offices in the Americas, Europe and Asia.

Goodwin Procter Adds to Securities & White Collar Groups

Grant P. Fondo has joined Goodwin Procter LLP’s Silicon Valley office as a partner in the securities litigation and white collar defense group. He was previously with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California, where he was an assistant U.S. attorney in the criminal division for almost five years.

Fondo will focus on representing technology, life sciences and venture capital clients in litigation and investigative matters.

During his time as an AUSA, Fondo prosecuted white-collar crime -- including investment, bank and securities fraud -- as well as drug trafficking.

Goodwin’s Silicon Valley office opened in 2007 and has more than 50 attorneys who handle business law and litigation services in private equity, venture capital, technology and life sciences, intellectual property, SEC investigations, and labor and employment matters.

Goodwin Procter has 860 lawyers at nine offices in the U.S., Europe and Asia.

Davidoff Hutcher Adds Partner to Head International Practice

Davidoff Hutcher & Citron LLP said Judith Joan Sullivan joined the firm as a partner and chairwoman of its international practice group. She was formerly at Anderson Kill & Olick PC.

Sullivan will continue her New York/New Jersey corporate law practice which focuses on mergers and acquisitions counseling, commercial transactions, board governance, shareholder rights, securities law and private equity investments, the firm said.

Her past work has included handling matters for Emirates Airlines, Honeywell International, KPMG, Quest Diagnostics and TD Bank.

Davidoff Hutcher has over 50 attorneys at four U.S. offices.

Terance A. Gonsalves Joins Katten’s Litigation Practice

Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP announced that Terance A. Gonsalves joined the firm in Chicago as a partner in the litigation practice. He was formerly vice-president and deputy general counsel of litigation for Career Education Corp., an educational services company that provides post-secondary education options.

Gonsalves will focus his practice on complex litigation, regulatory and compliance matters.

Katten has more than 600 attorneys at offices in the U.S., London and Shanghai.

Litigation

BP Has Buyer’s Remorse Over Spill Accord as Law Firms Circle

Until this year, Tampa attorney Kevin McLean specialized in suing nursing homes for neglecting patients. In January he switched the focus of his practice to a fund BP Plc (BP/) established to compensate business losses from the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Bloomberg Businessweek’s Paul Barrett reports

In its attempt to dilute a legal and public-relations mess of epic proportions, BP began paying claims within weeks of the disaster and has so far spent more than $25 billion for cleanup and compensation. That hasn’t stemmed demands for more.

The installation last year of a particularly generous claims administrator prompted scores of additional plaintiffs’ attorneys to swarm onto the scene, signing up a new wave of clients, many located far from the once-sullied shoreline. Just five months after his pivot, McLean’s three-attorney firm has 260 clients with claims ranging from $20,000 to $4 million each.

“The craziest thing about the settlement,” he wrote in a solicitation letter, “is that you can be compensated for losses that are UNRELATED to the spill.”

One of McLean’s clients, a real estate agent in Brandon, Florida, an hour from the Gulf of Mexico, wants $80,000 from London-based BP, reflecting a revenue dip in 2010 that “had nothing to do with the spill,” the attorney candidly admits. The culprit was the bursting of the Florida real estate bubble. Under the settlement, though, “that’s a good claim,” McLean said, “and we’re going to get paid.”

He has millions of reasons to be confident. A construction company in northern Alabama, 200 miles from the coast, was recently awarded $9.7 million, even though it does no work near the Gulf, according to court records. Attorneys are submitting claims on their own behalf. A law office in central Louisiana that actually enjoyed improved profits in 2010 collected $3.3 million. The compensation process is confidential, so claimants’ identities aren’t a matter of public record, though the amounts are.

The blowout of the Macondo well cost 11 men their lives and, according to the government, spewed 4 million barrels of oil into the Gulf. It shut down fisheries and despoiled beaches. Oystermen and charter boat captains lost months and, in some cases, years of work. While much of the Gulf economy has recovered, degraded oil remains in coastal marshes in Louisiana. Some ruined small businesses never reopened.

For more, click here.

Video

Lawyers Say They’ll Keep Defending California’s Prop 8

Senior counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, Austin Nimocks, and Andrew Pugno, general counsel for ProtectMarriage.com speak about the Supreme Court’s ruling on California’s Proposition 8, which bars same-sex marriage.

With a 5-4 procedural ruling, the court reinstated a trial judge’s order allowing some gay marriages there. Nimocks and Pugno speak outside the Supreme Court in Washington.

For more, click here.

MacEwen: Weil Gotshal Layoffs Start of Wave

Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP’s announcement this week it is firing 60 associates and 110 support staffers, and cutting the pay of about 30 partners, is the start of a wave of such downsizings, according to law firm consultant Bruce MacEwen, publisher of the blog Adam Smith, Esq. The cuts put Weil in a stronger position, he says, but that’s not always the case. He discusses how to tell if a firm is making cuts from a position of strength or from a position of weakness.

This is a Bloomberg podcast. To download, watch or listen click here.

News

Global Cartel Fines Dip Before Libor, Car-Parts Penalties

Global criminal cartel fines dipped during the first part of the year in a pause before hefty penalties are likely to be imposed in probes of Libor and car parts, law firm Allen & Overy LLP said.

The penalties so far this year have totaled $677 million, less than a fifth of the more than $5 billion levied during 2012, Allen & Overy said in a report yesterday. The drop-off was most pronounced at the two biggest antitrust regulators, the U.S. and European Union.

Allen & Overy partner John Terzaken said the EU is likely to levy large fines later this year in probes of car parts and the London interbank offered rate, where it lags behind its U.S. colleagues. The U.S. and U.K. have already fined three banks about $2.5 billion in the Libor probes and almost $1 billion in fines have been issued in the U.S. and Japan in the investigation of auto-parts makers.

“There will be some judgments by the end of the year,” said Terzaken, a former director of criminal enforcement at the U.S. Department of Justice’s antitrust division. “They want to show some momentum and keep the cases moving along.”

U.S. criminal antitrust fines in the first six months of the year were $192 million, compared with $1.1 billion in all of 2012. The EU fines so far this year totalled $72 million, compared with $2.3 billion in 2012, according to London-based Allen & Overy.

While the U.S. and EU fines have slowed, regulators in China, Australia, Brazil and South Africa are “coming into their own,” Terzaken said. The South African regulator this week issued a 1.46 billion rand ($146 million) penalty against 15 construction companies and China prosecuted an international cartel for the first time, leading to a 353 million yuan ($57.4 million) fine against makers of liquid-crystal display panels.

“The antitrust practice has been global for a long time, but it has become more global as the years have gone by,” Terzaken said.

California Regulator’s Top Lawyer Recuses Himself From PG&E Case

California Public Utilities Commission General Counsel Frank Lindh recused himself as chief advisory attorney in investigations into a PG&E Corp. (PCG:US) pipeline explosion that killed eight people in 2010.

Lindh will be replaced by retired CPUC assistant general counsel Arocles Aguilar, according to an e-mailed statement from the agency. Some CPUC lawyers working on the probes and proposed penalties for PG&E had asked to be reassigned, the regulator said June 5.

To contact the reporter on this story: Elizabeth Amon in Brooklyn, New York, at eamon2@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net.


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