Morrison, Paul Hastings, Jones Day: Business of Law

Morrison & Foerster LLP opened an office in Singapore, which will be led by Eric Piesner, firmwide managing partner for Asia and head of the firm’s Asia real estate practice.

““We already have a substantial base of business with a Singapore nexus, including clients with M&A, real estate, project finance, dispute resolution, TMT, private equity and tax needs,” Piesner said in a statement. “We see our presence in Singapore as an opportunity to further help clients in these and other areas.”

The office is MoFo’s fifth in Asia and 16th worldwide. The firm also has offices in Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai and Tokyo. The firm’s recent transactions in Asia include SoftBank’s $20.1 billion acquisition of a 70 percent stake in Sprint Nextel. Firm lawyers have also worked on Wal-Mart’s Global e-Commerce division’s increased investment in China’s Yihoadian as well as Hitachi’s $4.8 billion sale of Hitachi Global Storage Technologies to Western Digital.

Piesner, who focuses his practice on cross-border real estate transactions throughout Asia, is joined in the office by Tokyo corporate and tax partner Eric Roose, along with several associates.


Glaxo Accord Said to Spur Lawyer Fight Over $143 Million in Fees

GlaxoSmithKline Plc’s settlement of Avandia drug cases triggered a challenge by nine law firms who object to a bid by lead attorneys for almost three-quarters of a $143 million fee fund, including one seeking about $2,700 per hour, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Attorneys suing on behalf of users of the diabetes medicine, who said it caused heart attacks and strokes, filed objections to the fee request in Philadelphia federal court, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the matter isn’t public. The contested amount is sought by a court-appointed group of plaintiffs’ lawyers picked to recommend how much attorneys in the cases should be paid, the people said.

Six law firms on that fee committee asked for 71 percent of the fund set aside by U.S. District Judge Cynthia Rufe for the Avandia cases before her, according to the people. The committee lawyers put the most time and money into efforts to collect evidence that Glaxo allegedly mishandled warnings about Avandia’s risks, Dianne Nast, a lawyer who led the group, said in an interview.

“These were the folks who were the most active in working on the case, so it’s only natural they are in line for a larger share of the fees,” Nast said. The fee fund, between 6 and 7 percent of the total settlement, according to the people, means the total accord may be worth more than $2 billion. As a result, the average payout for the 40,000 users of Avandia involved in the litigation would be about $50,000 -- before legal fees.

Joseph Zonies, a Denver-based attorney who served as one of the lead lawyers in the Avandia cases before Rufe, is slated to collect more than $24.4 million, the highest recommended fee, according to the people. Zonies put in more than 18,000 hours of work on the case and his fee would amount to $1,341-an-hour for his efforts, the people said. He declined to comment on the fee recommendation. Another lawyer, Vance Andrus, is seeking almost double that per-hour amount, according to the people.

Plaintiffs’ lawyers in product liability cases work on a contingency fee basis. While per-hour calculations may be much higher than attorneys who regularly work at an hourly rate, lawyers who work on contingency are often forced to spend millions of dollars of their own money to pursue a case and aren’t guaranteed payment in the end, unless they win or settle.

Benedict Morelli, a New York-based lawyer who according to the court’s docket objected to the fee recommendations, and Samuel Lanham, a Maine attorney who also objected, didn’t return calls for comment on their objections.

Glaxo, the U.K.’s biggest drugmaker, has said it paid more than $3 billion to settle federal and state government claims that it illegally marketed Avandia, once the world’s best-selling diabetes pill, and other medications.

The lawyers on the fee-advisory group headed by Nast included Zonies, Andrus, Thomas Cartmell, Bryan Aylstock, Stephen Corr, Paul Kiesel and Bill Robins III, according to court records. Cartmell, Andrus and Kiesel declined to comment on the fee recommendations. Aylstock, Corr and Robins didn’t return calls seeking comment.

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Obama Takes Oath as Lawyers Open Offices to Clients

A crowd of hundreds of thousands of people, a smattering of celebrities and many Republicans, gathered yesterday to witness President Barack Obama take his second oath of office on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. Some lawyer-lobbying firms opened their offices to clients and other guests, who could grab a meal or a drink, and watch the festivities on television.

Holland & Knight LLP’s new offices overlooked the end of the parade route on Pennsylvania Avenue, and offered guests mini-paninis and popcorn, while K&L Gates LLP, a couple of blocks away, had chili and carrot and celery sticks for its visitors.

“Public policy is shaped in a lot of different venues, in a lot of different discussions and in a lot of different formats,” said Manny Rouvelas, a partner at K&L Gates.

Among those in attendance at the Capitol on the chilly, overcast morning, were rap artist Jay-Z, actress Angela Bassett and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination last year to challenge Obama.

A batch of senators in their inaugural finery stood near the president. Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah sported a cowboy hat. Arizona Senator John McCain, the president’s 2008 Republican challenger, snapped pictures of the crowd with his smartphone. Singers John Mayer and Katy Perry also made their way through the crowd. “Proud,” Perry told reporters when asked how she felt about being at the inauguration.

“We are made for this moment and we will seize it so long as we seize it together,” Obama said as applause rose.

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Paul Weiss Report Says NBA Should Consider Replacing Hunter

New York law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP said National Basketball Association players should consider replacing Billy Hunter as their union chief after he focused on personal interests ahead of the organization.

Hunter, 70, didn’t do anything illegal, the law firm said after conducting a nine-month investigation. It said Hunter failed to manage conflicts of interest and hid the fact that his contract as executive director of the National Basketball Players Association wasn’t properly approved.

“Mr. Hunter’s actions have also called into question his stewardship of union resources, reflected poor judgment or raised serious doubts about his interest in policies and procedures to protect the union’s interests,” Paul, Weiss said in the report.

The firm said in a statement that it reviewed thousands of documents, including financial and governance records and e-mail. It said it also interviewed more than three dozen people, including union employees, vendors and executive committee members.

Hunter, who took over the union in 1996, said in an e-mailed statement that he was pleased the 229-page report “recognized that I have not engaged in criminal acts nor was I involved in misappropriation of union funds.”

Theodore V. Wells Jr., co-chairman of the litigation department at Paul, Weiss who led the investigation, said in a statement that Hunter wasn’t given an advance copy of the firm’s findings.

“This has been a truly independent review,” he said.

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Chicago’s Biggest Office Project Since 2008 Gets Anchor Tenant

The law firm McDermott Will & Emery LLP agreed to be the anchor tenant for a 45-story office tower that Hines and the real estate arm of Canada’s biggest pension-fund manager are building in Chicago.

McDermott, with offices in 19 cities globally, will lease 225,000 square feet (20,900 square meters) in the planned skyscraper, known as River Point, the law firm said Jan. 17 in an e-mailed statement. The developers broke ground last week for the building, which will be the city’s first such project since the 2008 financial crisis, according to the statement.

“We received a very attractive package from the developer,” Jeffrey Stone, co-chairman of the law firm, said in a telephone interview. “We’re catching the market in a good place at a good time.”

Demand for office space in the nation’s third-largest city is climbing. Chicago’s office-vacancy rate was 18.7 percent in the fourth quarter, down from a high of 19.1 percent in the first quarter of 2011, according to Reis Inc., a New York-based real estate research firm.


Paul Hastings, Jones Day, K&L Gates: Non-U.S. Partners

Paul Hastings LLP hired Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP’s London capital markets and hedge funds practice group head James Cole and Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP’s former co-chairman of the global renewable and clean energy industry sector group, Lorenzo Parola.

Cole advises investment banks, hedge funds and financial institutions on capital markets and distressed investment opportunities. Parola who joins in Milan from Grimaldi Studio Legale, the Italian successor firm of Dewey, provides transactional assistance, finance and regulatory advice on energy issues -- from mergers and acquisitions, to project finance, project development and construction law to regulatory work, among other matters.

Jones Day also announced last week a high profile hire, in Mexico. Former General Counsel for Grupo Mexico, Alberto de la Parra, joined the firm as partner in the banking and finance practice. As general counsel, de la Parra also served as Secretary of the Board of Directors for Grupo Mexico from 2007 until 2012 and was member of the Board of Southern Copper Corporation.

In Poland, K&L Gates LLP hired Lech Gilicinski as a partner in its banking and finance practice. Gilicinski, who joins the Warsaw office, focuses his practice on restructuring and bankruptcy. He was previously at Wierzbowski Eversheds.

Sheppard Mullin, Morgan Lewis, Seyfarth: U.S. Lateral Moves

The chairman of the ABA Health Law Section and former co-chairman of Shook, Hardy & Bacon LLP’s government enforcement and compliance group, David L. Douglass, joined the Washington office of Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP. Douglass is a partner in the firm’s government contracts, investigations and international trade practice group and the firm’s health-care practice.

Another practice chairman, Lawrence H. Mirel, co-chairman of Wiley Rein LLP’s insurance regulation and legislation group is moving firms. He will join Nelson Levine de Luca & Hamilton LLP in the firm’s Washington office as a partner in the insurance regulation practice. Mirel, who has more than 25 years of insurance-related experience, spent more than six years as the Commissioner of Insurance, Securities and Banking for the District of Columbia. Marc S. Voses also joined the firm’s New York office as a partner in the insurance coverage practice. He was a partner in the New York office of Edwards Wildman Palmer LLP.

Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP hired a team of three lawyers from Dorsey & Whitney LLP, including partners Ellen S. Bancroft and Bryan S. Gadol and a counsel. The three join the firm’s business and finance practice in Irvine. Bancroft, who represents public and private companies and investors in mergers and acquisitions and private financings, as well as issuers and underwriters in initial public offerings and registered follow-on and secondary public offerings, led Dorsey & Whitney’s California corporate group. Gadol has experience in mergers and acquisitions, private equity, joint ventures, securities offerings and venture capital transactions.

Littler Mendelson PC added John Scalia as a shareholder in its Northern Virginia office. Scalia joins the firm from Greenburg Traurig LLP where he focused his practice on representing government contractors and technology companies in the Northern Virginia business community.

K&L Gates LLP added Tae Rhee as a partner in the corporate practice in Portland. Most recently, he was executive vice president and general counsel of 20/20 Communications Inc. in Dallas.

Two partners joined Mayer Brown LLP. Korean lawyer Min Ho Lee joins Mayer Brown as partner in the Washington litigation and dispute resolution practice. Lee was a partner at the Korean law firm Lee & Ko, where he focused on international arbitration and antitrust law. Jason Osborn rejoined the firm in Washington as a partner in the tax controversy practice. He was previously working in the Internal Revenue Service Office of Associate Chief Counsel, most recently as senior technical reviewer in the transfer pricing branch, and before that, as a team leader in the Advance Pricing Agreement Program.

Seyfarth Shaw LLP announced that Jeffrey Cunningham has returned as a partner in the corporate department in Atlanta. Cunningham joins the firm from Foltz Martin LLC, where he was a partner and leader of the firm’s corporate practice and administrative matters. He was previously with Seyfarth from 2000-2008.

Bond lawyer Richard “Dick” L. Sigal has joined McKenna Long Aldridge LLP’s public finance group as a partner in New York. Sigal will help to strengthen and grow the firm’s practice nationally through his experience managing and developing significant finance legislation. Sigal previously was a partner at Hawkins Delafield & Wood LLP in Hartford, Connecticut.

Corporate and securities lawyer Stuart Nayman has joined Hand Baldachin & Amburgey as a partner. Previously, Nayman was a partner at Wilmer Hale Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP in New York.


How Bryan Cave Translates Financial Data Into Stories

Bryan Cave LLP strategic technology partner John Alber explains how his firm has built a software program called the Rosetta Project, which translates the firm’s financial data into narratives that explain how well a partner’s practice is performing and why. “Lawyers can relate to stories where they’re the protagonist -- the obstacles that they face or the opportunities that they face can be presented as tales, rather than a collection of numbers,” he says.

Alber tells Bloomberg Law’s Lee Pacchia that a sample report might say “Bob Smith had a great year last year. His collections were 20 percent above the previous year and his profitability is improving. The reason his profitability is improving is because he’s made some changes in leverage. But he’s got some opportunities” to improve his pricing.

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