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Women at Law Firms, Fried Frank, Latham: Business of Law

The percentage of female associates at law firms fell for the third straight year, even as women made gains in becoming partners, according to a survey by NALP, formerly known as The National Association for Law Placement.

NALP’s 2012 survey found that 32.67 percent of the lawyers at 1,209 offices across the U.S. are women, compared with 32.61 percent in 2011. In 2009, the percentage of women was 32.97 percent. The number of women associates fell to 45.05 percent in 2012 from 45.66 percent in 2009. Women comprised 19.91 percent of the firms’ partners, up from 19.21 percent in 2009.

“While the percentage of women partners, small as it is, has continued to grow, that incremental growth will likely become unsustainable if the percentage of women associates continues to inch downward,” James Leipold, NALP’s executive director, said in a statement. The organization began compiling employment statistics in the 1990s.

Minority associate representation at law firms increased slightly since falling in the wake of the recession, the organization said.

Minority lawyers made up 12.91 percent of lawyers at the firms surveyed, compared with 12.59 percent in 2009. In 2012, minorities accounted for 6.71 percent of partners in the nation’s major firms, up from 6.05 percent in 2009, NALP said.

Jefferson County Lawyer Says Creditor Tactics Threaten Talks

Jefferson County, Alabama, may break off debt-reduction talks with hedge funds holding more than $700 million in defaulted sewer warrants because of the group’s litigation tactics, the county’s lead bankruptcy lawyers said.

Should the hedge funds try to question county commissioners under oath about settlement talks the county is holding with its major creditors, negotiations with the funds will end, attorney Kenneth Klee, of Klee Tuchin Bogdanoff & Stern LLP, said in an interview. Dec. 12, the hedge funds, who call themselves the ad hoc group of sewer warrant holders, won permission from a judge to depose three commissioners about their efforts to end the county’s bankruptcy.

The depositions may give the hedge funds an unfair advantage in negotiations, which continued in New York this week, county attorney Patrick Darby, of Bradley Arant Rose & White LLP, said in court Dec. 12.

“I can’t fly to New York and ask his clients what their real number is,” Darby said, referring to hedge fund lawyer Gregory Horowitz, of Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP. “I can’t ask under oath what a reasonable settlement number is.”

The county yesterday was scheduled to end three days of talks with representatives of creditors who hold more than $3 billion in sewer warrants at the heart of the county’s bankruptcy. The hedge funds and other sewer-warrant holders have asked U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Thomas Bennett to let them sue Jefferson County in Alabama state court over sewer rates that don’t raise enough money to cover the system’s debt payments.

Bennett ruled Dec. 12 that the sewer creditors can question three county commissioners under oath to collect evidence to support the lawsuit request. To sue a municipality in bankruptcy, creditors need permission from the judge overseeing the case.

“If the ad hoc group wants to take discovery of commissioners under oath about the substance of the settlement discussions, we are not going to have settlement discussions until the litigation is over,” Klee said in an interview.

Jefferson County filed for bankruptcy in 2011, blaming the loss of tax revenue when a business-related tax was struck down by a state court and the high cost of the sewer debt.

The case is In re Jefferson County, 11-05736, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Northern District of Alabama (Birmingham).


Gibson Dunn, Latham Among Firms on Williams $2.4 Billion Stake

Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP, Latham & Watkins LLP, Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz and Jones Day took part in a deal involving Williams Cos., the third-largest U.S. pipeline company, taking a $2.4 billion stake in private-equity-backed shale-pipeline operator Access Midstream Partners LP.

Williams, based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, agreed to acquire a 25 percent stake in Access Midstream and 50 percent of its general partner, according to a statement. Chesapeake Energy Corp. shed its stake in the Access pipeline venture, formerly known as Chesapeake Midstream, in June.

Gibson, Dunn represented Williams in the investment. The deal team included partners Steven Talley, mergers and acquisitions; Richard Russo and Robyn Zolman, securities; and Janet Vance, finance. Williams’s in-house team included John Gammie, Tami Anderson, Mary Frances Edmonds and Sarah Miller, the firm said.

Latham & Watkins advised Access Midstream Partners with a corporate deal team led by New York partners Ted Sonnenschein and Eli Hunt. Advice also was provided by Houston corporate partners Jeffrey Munoz and Ryan Maierson and New York corporate partner Charles Carpenter; New York tax partner David Raab and Houston tax partner Tim Fenn; Houston finance partners Craig Kornreich and Catherine Ozdogan; Los Angeles benefits and compensation partner David Taub; Washington antitrust and compensation partner Tad Lipsky; Houston environment, land and resources partner Joel Mack; New York investment funds partner Andrea Schwartzman; Washington project finance partner Ken Simon and employee benefits and compensation partner Jed Brickner.

Jones Day is advising Access Midstream Partners as well. Its team was led by energy partners Jeff Schlegel on the transactional side and Darrell Taylor, capital markets, on the finance side. The Jones Day team also included partners Joshua Fuchs, business and tort litigation; Mark Temple, labor and employment; and Todd Wallace, tax.

Wachtell, Lipton is serving as legal adviser to Chesapeake Energy’s board with a team led by corporate partner David A. Katz. Ray Lees at Commercial Law Group is the outside counsel representing Chesapeake Energy in the deal, the firm said.

For more, click here.

Firm News

Deutsche Bank Hired Law Fried Frank in 2010 for Probe

Deutsche Bank AG hired law firm Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson LLP in March 2010 to conduct an internal probe days after a trader alleged the bank had misrepresented the value of derivatives to mask paper losses during the financial crisis.

The law firm found no wrongdoing, Deutsche Bank Chief Financial Officer Stefan Krause told analysts and investors on a conference call yesterday. While Fried Frank found limitations to the bank’s model, no adjustments to valuations were needed and the company switched to a new model in early 2010, Krause said.

Questions about how Frankfurt-based Deutsche Bank valued the assets resurfaced last week when a former quantitative risk analyst at the bank, Eric Ben-Artzi, said the lender hid losses, helping it avoid state aid at the height of the financial crisis. Deutsche Bank rejected the allegations, which related to a portfolio of collateralized insurance agreements that protected against the risk of corporate defaults.

Fried Frank lawyers met with dozens of witnesses and spent several days with the trader for the credit correlation desk, as well as auditors, and reviewed millions of documents, said two people with knowledge of the probe, who asked not to be identified because the matter is private. Deutsche Bank reported the trader’s allegations to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in June of 2010, according to the people.

“The valuations and financial reporting were proper, and a significant portion of these positions were subsequently unwound in an orderly sale,” Renee Calabro, a spokeswoman for Deutsche Bank in New York, said in a statement last week. The claims were false, and the bank will continue to cooperate with the SEC’s investigation, she said.

Ben-Artzi met with senior executives at the bank to explain his concerns and was provided contact details for the SEC lawyer handling the investigation, the people said. He turned down an opportunity to present a different valuation methodology, they said.

Fried Frank debriefed Ben-Artzi and incorporated his allegations into its investigation, which has since concluded, said the people who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Ben-Artzi, who joined the bank in 2010, is suing Deutsche Bank for wrongful dismissal after he lost his job in 2011, according to a statement last week from Labaton Sucharow LLP, his New York-based law firm.

Ben-Artzi alleges that from 2007 to 2010, Deutsche Bank, Europe’s biggest bank by assets, misrepresented the value of a portfolio with a notional value of as much as $130 billion, Labaton Sucharow said last week.

For more, click here.

Venable Names Tysons Corner Office Partner-in-Charge

Venable LLP said Joseph C. Schmelter will become partner-in-charge of the Tysons Corner, Virginia, office at the start of the new year. He succeeds David S. Smith, who returns to his labor and health-care practice.

Douglas B. McDonald continues as administrative partner for the Tysons Corner office.

Schmelter, a 1987 graduate of Georgetown University School of Law, joined Venable as a third year associate in 1990, and currently co-chairs the firm’s government contractor services industry group. His corporate practice focuses on mergers and acquisitions and general corporate representation, including within the government contracts industry.

Venable’s Tysons Corner office opened in 1985 when the firm merged with Dolan, Murray, Treanor & Walsh. Since its inception, the office has been led by five partners-in-charge.

Venable has lawyers in seven U.S. offices.


Davis Polk Hires Clifford Chance’s Rogers for Asia Disputes

Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP, the New York-based law firm which advised on $31 billion worth of share sales this year, hired Martin Rogers from Clifford Chance LLP to set up a litigation practice in Asia.

Rogers and James Wadham, a regulatory lawyer at London-based Clifford Chance, will join Davis Polk as partners in Hong Kong, extending the firm’s ability to advise clients on disputes in Asia, according to a statement yesterday.

The hiring announcement comes a day after Hong Kong’s securities regulator said it would proceed with plans to make banks criminally liable for false statements in initial public offering documents. Rogers as Clifford Chance’s head of litigation in Asia, and Bonnie Chan, a Davis Polk partner, advised 23 banks including Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and UBS AG on their response to the regulator’s proposals.

Davis Polk established its Hong Kong law practice two years ago and is expanding as the Chinese city heads for its worst year for initial public offerings since 2003.

The firm ranked sixth this year based on the value of share sales among legal advisers, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Clifford Chance said in an e-mailed statement that it continued to have a strong litigation and disputes practice in Asia with more than 70 lawyers in the region and a recent expansion in Singapore.

Barnes & Thornburg’s Michigan Office Adds IP Partner

Barnes & Thornburg LLP said Frank M. Scutch joined the firm’s Michigan office as a partner in the national intellectual property department. He was most recently a partner at Price Heneveld LLP.

Scutch focuses on licensing and technology agreements, litigation, patent and trademark preparation and prosecution, intellectual property rights and protection, among other matters.

At Barnes & Thornburg, Scutch will concentrate primarily in the areas of electrical, electro-mechanical, mechanical, and software-related inventions.

Barnes & Thornburg’s IP department, comprising more than 100 attorneys and other legal professionals, has added five attorneys in addition to Scutch in recent weeks in the Delaware and Washington offices, the firm said.

Barnes & Thornburg LLP has more than 600 attorneys and other legal professionals at 12 U.S. offices.


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