Billables Rate, Archer & Greiner: Business of Law

The rich are getting richer and the less-rich are getting almost nowhere, among lawyers that is.

A report by analytics and advisory firms TyMetrix Inc. and the Corporate Executive Board Co. found that over the past three years of sluggish economy, billing rates for big firms and the highest-paid partners climbed faster than the rate of inflation.

Average hourly rates for firms with 501 to 1,000 attorneys increased 13 percent compared with a 4 percent rise at firms with 1 to 50 lawyers. For partners who billed $800 or more an hour, the rate grew almost three times faster in the three years ending in 2011 than rates for partners who billed less than $300 an hour. The rates for the highest billing associates, those at $500 or more an hour, grew almost five times as fast as those billing less than $200 an hour.

The report was based on $7.6 billion in law firm billings from 2007 through 2011 by more than 4,000 firms, including about 80,000 partners and associates.

Craig Raeburn, managing director of TyMetrix Legal Analytics, said in a statement that the report was meant to help law firms and clients “fill a growing information gap so they can continue to make fact-based decisions regarding how to staff, budget and the control the costs of legal matters.”

The report also found that firms’ rates differed according to practice area. Intellectual property and commercial contracts practices had the highest variations in hourly rates with 23.1 percent and 18.7 percent respectively during 2011. Regulatory and finance/securities/banking had the lowest percentage difference in rates, at about 11 percent, also during 2011.

N.J. Firms With Ties to Christie Benefit From State Contracts

New Jersey lawyers with ties to Governor Chris Christie have seen an increase in state-contracted work since he became the state’s chief executive, the Star-Ledger reported yesterday. Those with ties to Christie’s predecessor, Jon Corzine, have posted a decline in revenue from state business, the newspaper said.

Among the firms benefiting under Christie are Archer & Greiner PC, with $1.1 million in new work. Richard Mroz, a former policy adviser to Christie’s election team, works there. Wolff & Samson PC added more than $1.9 million in state billings in the first two years of the Christie administration. David Samson, a founding member of the firm, led the transition team for the governor, according to the newspaper. Among the other firms adding state business are Lum, Drasco & Positan LLC, McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter LLP and Dughi, Hewit & Domalewski PC.

Wayne Positan, a partner at Lum, Drasco who served on Christie’s transition team, said the amount of work fluctuates from year to year, according to the paper.

Officials at the state Division of Law, which hires private law firms for the state, told the paper that it doesn’t give out legal work is based on political connections, but through a committee that reviews the background, experience and expertise of a firm.


Alibaba Hires Ex-U.S. Official to Aid Washington Lobbying

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. hired former U.S. official James Mendenhall as China’s biggest e-commerce company steps up an appeal to Washington to remove its Taobao site from a list of “notorious markets” for piracy.

Mendenhall will represent Alibaba in talks with the U.S. government and industry groups over intellectual property rights protection, John Spelich, a Hong Kong-based spokesman at the Chinese Internet company, said in an e-mail today. Mendenhall is a counsel at the Washington office of Sidley Austin LLP, according to the law firm’s website.

Taobao, China’s biggest shopping website, was among more than 30 online and physical markets worldwide identified in a U.S. Trade Representative Office report in December for helping the illegal sale of pirated and counterfeit goods. The hiring of Mendenhall, a general counsel for the USTR under the George W. Bush administration, came after Alibaba contracted Washington lobbying firm Duberstein Group Inc. last year.

Mendenhall and Duberstein are helping in Alibaba’s talks with U.S. industry groups, including the Recording Industry Association of America and the Motion Picture Association of America, Spelich said.

“We are having good discussions,” Spelich said. “It’s an exchange: here’s what we have done, here’s what we are working on, and let’s get some feedback about the kind of thing you are interested in seeing.”

Yahoo! Inc., the biggest U.S. portal, is the largest shareholder in closely held Alibaba Group, based in Hangzhou, east China, with a stake of about 40 percent. Alibaba runs e-commerce units including Taobao, the site for business owners, and the Juhuasuan coupons site.

“We have been talking to their counsel about steps that Taobao could take to reduce its role as a hub for the distribution of infringing content,” Cara Duckworth Weiblinger, a spokeswoman at the Recording Industry Association in Washington, said by e-mail. “We are hopeful that Taobao will soon take actions that will be effective and deterrent.”

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Dewey Loses More Partners to McDermott and Dechert

Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP has lost two more partners. London private equity lawyers Mark Davis and Russell Van Praagh will be joining McDermott Will & Emery LLP, according to an article in The Lawyer yesterday.

McDermott Will & Emery declined to confirm the report while a Dewey spokesman said the lawyers had left. The firm reorganized its chairman’s office to include the heads of its most-profitable practice groups last month. In a statement two weeks ago, the firm said it expects departures of lawyers “who didn’t feel they fit in with the new structure.”

The Wall Street Journal reported late yesterday that a five-person U.K./Middle East team from Dewey & LeBoeuf’s capital markets and emerging markets practice group is moving to Dechert LLP. They include London partners, Camille Abousleiman and Louise Roman Bernstein, and Chris P. Sioufi and Gavin B. Watson, the managing partners of the firm’s United Arab Emirates offices. The paper also reported that Los Angles partner David Smith, a corporate lawyer, moved to Stradling Yocca Carlson & Rauth PC.

That brings the total number of departing London lawyers to 11 this year. The firm has lost 57 partners in 2012, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Shearman Capital Market’s Head Schiavone Jumps to O’Melveny

O’Melveny & Myers LLP added Michael J. Schiavone, former head of Shearman & Sterling LLP’s Capital Markets-Americas Group, as a transactions partner in New York.

He will co-head the capital markets practice group along with O’Melveny partner C. Brophy Christensen. Schiavone’s practice focuses on bank-side capital markets representations, primarily representing underwriters in top-tier transactions.

O’Melveny & Myers LLP has 800 lawyers in 15 offices worldwide.

Shearman named Antonia Stolper head of its Capital Markets-Americas Group and she is the head of the Latin America affinity group. She has been with the firm 21 years.

Fannie Mae Counsel Smolen Joins Insurance Firm Gilbert

Miriam Smolen, associate general counsel at Fannie Mae, is joining Gilbert LLP as a partner. Smolen, a former assistant U.S. attorney for 14 years in the District of Columbia, will specialize in strategic risk management and complex insurance coverage litigation, with particular emphasis on directors & officers liability, professional services liability, and financial services, housing, and corporate compliance issues.

Smolen served in Fannie Mae’s office of general counsel focusing on complex commercial and securities litigation, government and in-house independent investigations, anti-fraud and corporate compliance, and electronic discovery. She has significant expertise in the area of mortgage fraud and enterprise anti-fraud practices.

Gilbert, based in Washington, and with an office in Austin, Texas, focuses on insurance recovery and strategic risk and litigation management.

Jackson Lewis Adds Partner, Expanding Memphis Office

Jackson Lewis LLP announced that J. Gregory Grisham has joined the firm’s Memphis office as a partner. Grisham, formerly at Leitner, Williams, Dooley & Napolitan PLLC, has more than 20 years of experience in the labor and employment field, the firm said in a statement. He is the fourth attorney to join Jackson Lewis’s Memphis office since December, bringing the office’s total to nine after opening in 2008.

Grisham defends employers in discrimination, harassment, retaliation wrongful discharge and whistle-blower claims. He also advises and defends employers in wage & hour matters and lawsuits, unfair labor practice and union representation proceedings before the NLRB. In addition, Grisham represents employers in the enforcement of post-employment restrictive covenants such as non-compete, non-solicitation and non-disclosure agreements as well as handling housing discrimination claims for business owners under the Fair Housing Act.

(Company corrects statement with Craig Raeburn’s title in TyMetrix item in story published yesterday.)
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