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Clifford Chance, Debevoise, Kaye Scholer: Business of Law

Clifford Chance LLP, the U.K.’s highest-grossing law firm, has formed an alliance with new Singapore firm Cavenagh Law LLP to expand its practice in the Southeast Asian city into litigation.

London-based Clifford Chance was one of six foreign firms awarded a license in 2008 to practice corporate law in Singapore and the alliance adds to the U.K. firm’s arbitration and regulatory practices in the city, the two firms said in a joint statement today.

Singapore has been liberalizing its legal market and 23 foreign law firms applied for licenses to offer corporate law advice in August. The number of foreign lawyers in the city has almost doubled to 1,200 at the end of 2011 from 633 in 2007.

“The recent steps in the liberalization process taken by the Singapore government further strengthen Singapore’s position as a pre-eminent global legal hub,” Cavenagh’s Managing Partner Harpreet Singh said in the statement.

Cavenagh was founded this year as a disputes boutique with three partners, one counsel and five associates. Its three partners are also partners at Clifford Chance.

Clifford Chance has 35 offices in 25 countries with about 3,400 lawyers. Clifford Chance won approval to open an office in Seoul, South Korea, earlier this year and last year it opened offices in Sydney and Perth, West Australia.


Debevoise, Simpson Thacher Advise on $4.23 Billion AIG Deal

Debevoise & Plimpton LLP and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP are advising on a deal involving a Chinese group that agreed to buy 80.1 percent of American International Group Inc.’s plane-leasing unit for $4.23 billion.

Debevoise & Plimpton is providing AIG with legal advice, and Simpson Thacher is doing so for the investors.

The Debevoise team is led by partner John M. Vasily and includes partners Andrew L. Bab, Geoffrey P. Burgess, Jeffrey P. Cunard, Peter A. Furci, Jonathan F. Lewis and Burt Rosen.

The lead Simpson Thacher corporate partners on the deal were Katie Sudol, Dan Clivner and Phil Culhane. New York corporate partner Alan Brenner was also part of the team.

The International Lease Finance Corp. acquirers, led by New China Trust Co. Chairman Weng Xianding, have an option to buy another 9.9 percent, New York-based AIG said yesterday in a statement. The transaction, which values ILFC at $5.3 billion, passes China Investment Corp.’s $3 billion purchase of a stake in Blackstone Group LP in 2007 as the biggest Chinese-U.S. deal.

The acquisition gives the group control of the world’s second-largest aircraft lessor as rising travel in China and Asia spurs demand for planes. AIG, which counts the U.S. government as its largest investor, is selling the Los Angeles-based unit as Chief Executive Officer Robert Benmosche focuses on insurance operations and works to reduce debt.

For more, click here.

Firm News

Kaye Scholer Tops Peer Firms With Extra Bonuses for Associates

Top-earning New York law firms have mostly matched Cravath Swaine Moore LLP in rewarding associates with bonuses that top out at $60,000. Kaye Scholer LLP, however, has upped its reward to associates, giving an extra $10,000 to $20,000 to those who have billed more than 2,200 hours this year.

Associates in the class of 2004 or older will get $80,000 if they’ve billed above 2,200 hours. Associates from the 2011 class who logged more than 2,200 hours will see an extra $10,000 added onto a $10,000 bonus.

In a memo issued last week, Mike Solow, Kaye Scholer’s managing partner, said that the bonuses were designed to recognize those who exceeded expectations.

“Every year there are some associates whose performance is truly outstanding, sacrificing from their personal lives to serve Kaye Scholer and our clients. We therefore only think it appropriate that those associates deserve a little extra at bonus time, which is why we instituted the two-tier bonus system three years ago, and continue it this year,” Solow said in the statement.


Mayer Brown Equity Practice Co-Chairman Joins Dechert in N.Y.

Dechert LLP announced that Andrew Hulsh, previously a partner at Mayer Brown LLP and co-leader of that firm’s North American private equity practice, has joined the firm as a corporate partner in New York.

“We are very pleased to have Andy join Dechert,” said Henry N. Nassau, chairman of the firm’s corporate practice. “His extensive experience and the global nature of his practice will add even further depth to our strong international private equity capabilities.”

Hulsh focuses his practice on complex domestic and cross-border private equity and mergers and acquisitions transactions, including negotiated and unsolicited contests for corporate control. He also advises clients on venture capital investments and public offerings of equity, debt and hybrid securities as well as employment and compensation arrangements.

Dechert has lawyers in 26 offices worldwide.

Jones Day Hires Banking & Finance Partner Michelle Chen

Jones Day hired Michelle Chen as a banking and finance partner in the Singapore Office. Chen was formerly a partner with Herbert Smith Freehills LLP, the firm said.

Chen focuses her practice on structured finance, particularly project finance and pre-export finance in the energy sector. She also has experience in credit insurance, restructuring, and general financings.

Chen is admitted as a solicitor in England and Wales, Hong Kong, and Singapore.

Jones Day has more than 2,400 lawyers at 37 offices throughout the U.S., Europe and Asia.

Hunton & Williams Hires Environmental Lawyers in Los Angeles

Hunton & Williams LLP has added two lawyers, partner Colleen Doyle and a counsel to the firm’s environmental law practice group. Formerly with Bingham McCutchen LLP, the lawyers are based in the firm’s Los Angeles office. They rejoin Scott Burton, a partner who moved to the firm from Bingham in 2008.

Doyle’s national practice and international client base include petroleum, mining, chemicals, and other industrial and municipal clients.

Hunton & Williams has added almost 100 lawyers across its international and U.S. offices since December of 2011, the firm said. Seven lawyers, including Doyle, have joined the firm’s Los Angeles and San Francisco offices in the past year.

Hunton & Williams has more than 800 lawyers in 19 offices around the world.


Dragon Systems Founders Take Goldman to Trial Over Advice

Jim and Janet Baker, pioneers in the field of computer speech recognition, turned to Goldman Sachs Group Inc. in late 1999 when they needed investment bankers to advise them on the sale of Dragon Systems Inc., the company they had spent 17 years building.

In a federal lawsuit that went to trial yesterday in Boston, the Bakers claim that shoddy work by Goldman Sachs on the $580 million all-stock sale of Dragon to a Belgian competitor, Lernout & Hauspie Speech Products NV, cost them their company and their fortune.

Within months of the sale’s June 2000 close, Lernout & Hauspie collapsed in an accounting scandal and its shares that the Bakers took as payment for their 51 percent stake in Dragon were worthless.

Goldman Sachs says it isn’t to blame. The fraud at Lernout & Hauspie, which the bank said it couldn’t have been expected to discover, caused the Bakers’ losses, Goldman Sachs argued in court papers.

The bank also said its contract was with Dragon, which no longer exists, and argued that the Bakers themselves lack legal standing to sue. The New York-based bank said it advised Dragon to get its accountants, Arthur Andersen LLP, to probe Lernout & Hauspie’s financial status.

Their case will be considered by a jury of six, with as many as six alternates, who were selected yesterday in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Patti Saris.

In a pretrial hearing, Saris said the Bakers case may take as long as five weeks to try. After opening statements, the first witness will be either Jim or Janet Baker, their lawyer, Alan Cotler of Reed Smith LLP, told Saris.

The judge yesterday denied a request by Goldman Sachs to delay the trial because of statements made by Cotler to the press.

She ordered the lawyer not to talk to reporters about the case.

“You cannot talk to the press,” she told Cotler, who was quoted last week in a Boston Globe column about the case. “You cannot. I don’t know why you did.”

She ordered Goldman Sachs to remove from its website arguments it posted about its defenses.

The case is Baker v. Goldman Sachs & Co., 09-cv-10053, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts (Boston).

For more, click here.


Five Richest Lawyers in America; Wal-Mart’s Walton Top of List

Inspired by a post on the website Above the Law, we asked our Bloomberg Billionaires Index colleagues to research the wealthiest lawyers in America, based on new worth as of Nov. 16. None of their fortunes are from practicing law:

Robert Rowling is No. 5. He briefly practiced tax law before joining his father’s oil and gas company.

Randa Duncan Williams, daughter of oil billionaire Dan Duncan, ranked fourth.

New York’s Richard LeFrak is No. 3. He went into the family real-estate business after law school.

Richard Kinder was listed in second place. He practiced law in Houston, then joined his friend Ken Lay at Enron. Kinder is now the chief executive officer of Kinder Morgan Inc., the biggest U.S. pipeline operator.

Rob Walton, chairman of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., ranked first.

Click here for the video.

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