Dentons, McKenna to Put Merger to a Vote: Business of Law

Dentons LLP, the 2,600-lawyer global law firm, and McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP, a 575-lawyer firm, will put their proposed merger to a vote of partners in the next two weeks, both firms confirmed in an e-mail.

“The boards of Dentons and McKenna Long & Aldridge have recommended to their partners that the firms combine, subject to the approval by their respective partnerships,” the firms said. “The voting procedures will follow the protocols of each firm and will be completed no later than Nov. 14, 2013.”

Both firms have experience combining with others. Dentons was formed by a merger with Fraser Milner Casgrain, Salans and SNR Denton, completed in March. McKenna Long undertook a major combination last year by acquiring the California law firm Luce Forward Hamilton & Scripps, giving it lawyers at 15 offices in the U.S., Brussels and Seoul.

U.S. law firms have entered 58 mergers so far this year, compared to 60 in all of 2012, according to legal consultant Altman Weil Inc.’s MergerLine.

Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP and Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP said last week that they are in talks about merging the San Francisco-based law firms.

Cooley LLP, a firm with a strong technology practice, announced that it is combining with Dow Lohnes PLLC’s Washington office earlier this month.

A merger of Dentons and McKenna Long would give a combined firm approximately 3,175 lawyers, making it the third-largest by numbers, after DLA Piper LLP and Baker & McKenzie LLP, both with more than 4,000 lawyers last year, according to the American Lawyer magazine. Jones Day, currently third in TAL rankings, is listed as having 2,363 lawyers.

Both firms declined to disclose further information.

Alan Hoffman Elected Chairman, Managing Partner of Blank Rome

Blank Rome LLP co-chairman Alan J. Hoffman was elected as chairman and re-elected as managing partner of the firm for a three-year term beginning in January 2015. Current co-chairman T. Michael Dyer announced his retirement at the end of the year, leaving Hoffman to become the sole chairman on Jan. 1, while also continuing his current role as managing partner.

“It is a true honor to be elected by my fellow partners to serve as chairman and managing partner of Blank Rome,” Hoffman said in a statement. “I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work beside Mike as co-chairman for the past five years and look forward to building upon the strong foundation that we have established to ensure continued success and growth in the years ahead.”

Hoffman has been co-chairman since 2008 and managing partner since 2011. In that time the firm expanded to open in Los Angeles, Houston and Shanghai and added key lateral hires particularly in the consumer financial services, energy, and maritime practices.

Hoffman joined Blank Rome in 1992. His practice consists of handling complex corporate and criminal litigation and he has extensive trial and appellate experience, the firm said.

Blank Rome has almost 500 attorneys in the U.S. and Shanghai.

Moves

Cozen O’Connor Creates International Arbitration Practice Group

Cozen O’Connor added Martin Gusy as chairman of its new international arbitration practice group, along with another lawyer in New York. They join from Gusy Van der Zandt LLP, where Gusy was head of the litigation and arbitration department.

Cozen’s newly formed international arbitration practice group includes Donna Goldsworthy, who joined Cozen O’Connor’s London office in January. Jeffrey G. Weil, co-chairman of the firm’s litigation section and chairman of the commercial litigation department and Dave Zerhusen, who co-chairs Cozen’s energy industry team are also among the members.

“International arbitration is critically important to doing business and resolving cross-border disputes in today’s global environment,” firm managing partner Vincent R. McGuinness Jr. said in a statement. “We are very pleased to be expanding our team, whose experience extends throughout the United States, Europe, South America and Asia, Middle East, Africa and Australia.”

Gusy has more than a decade of experience as a litigator and international dispute-resolution attorney and is admitted to practice in New York and Germany, the firm said. He has represented domestic and international parties in about 100 U.S. courts and international arbitrations.

Cozen O’Connor has 575 attorneys at 23 offices in North America and London.

DLA Piper Hires Litigator Donaldson in Tampa, Houston Offices

DLA Piper LLP announced that Teri Donaldson joined the firm’s litigation practice as a partner in the Houston and Tampa offices. She joins DLA Piper from Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP.

She was previously general counsel for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, where she advised the department secretary and appeared before administrative agencies and in federal and state court, the firm said.

Donaldson’s environmental, energy and white-collar practice involves both litigation and transactional matters. She conducts environmental due diligence and advises national and international companies on managing environmental liabilities and risk associated with mergers and acquisitions and the sale of large assets, the firm said. She also supervises the environmental permitting of major energy projects, including terminals and pipelines, and provides counsel on shale gas development matters.

“Teri is among the most highly regarded environmental lawyers in her field in Texas, and her experience as both a litigator and regulatory general counsel will be an invaluable resource to our clients in Houston and to our litigation and energy operations around the globe,” Ileana Blanco, managing partner of DLA Piper’s Houston office, said in a statement.

DLA Piper has 4,200 lawyers in more than 30 countries in the Americas, Asia Pacific, Europe and the Middle East.

Litigation

J&J’s Janssen Must Pay $4 Million Over Topamax, Jury Says

Johnson & Johnson’s (JNJ) Janssen Pharmaceutical unit must pay $4.02 million in a lawsuit claiming that its seizure drug Topamax caused birth defects, a Philadelphia jury said.

Jurors in state court deliberated less than an hour before rendering a verdict in favor of Virginia resident April Czimmer who took the drug for six months and gave birth to a boy with cleft lip. Czimmer said her son Blake, born in September 2007, had injuries that have required four surgeries.

“This was our first case to go to trial and there are many more behind it,” Czimmer’s attorney Tommy Fibich said after the verdict. “This will expose the company to many more lawsuits.”

Czimmer’s case is the first of about 134 cases pending in state court in Philadelphia over the drug, plaintiffs’ lawyers said. Another trial began Oct. 29 with opening statements on injuries suffered by a 5-year-old boy from South Carolina.

Topamax, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1996, was one of New Brunswick, New Jersey-based J&J’s top sellers before it lost patent protection in 2009. Czimmer took the drug from August 2006 through February 2007 to treat migraines.

The birth defects, known as oral clefts, range from a small notch in the lip to a groove that runs into the roof of the mouth and nose.

The case is Czimmer v. Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc., 110503459, Court of Common Pleas, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania. The master case is In re Topamax Litigation, 110602131, Court of Common Pleas, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania.

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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