Fulbright, SEC GC, Latham, Zuckerman: Business of Law

A flurry of large, cross-border international law firm mergers in the fourth quarter of 2012 brought the number of law firm mergers and acquisitions to 60 last year, the same as the previous year, according to Altman Weil, a legal consulting firm.

During most of last year there were “small strategic acquisitions” in the U.S. until the fourth quarter, when four large international law firm combinations were announced, including that of U.S. law firm Fulbright & Jaworski LLP with U.K.-based Norton Rose LLP. The two together will create a firm that will top 3,700 lawyers.

“We’ve now seen nine straight quarters of steady deal-making since the legal industry shook off the worst effects of the recession,” Altman Weil principal Ward Bower said in a statement.

The fourth quarter of 2012 had 19 law firm combinations in total, according to MergerLine, Altman Weil’s report. They included SNR Denton LLP’s announced merger with European law firm Salans LLP, as well as with the Canadian firm Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP. Also in the fourth quarter was the acquisition announcement by K&L Gates LLP of Australian firm Middletons, to create a firm with more than 2,000 lawyers.

There were five other cross-border combinations announced last year, making a total of nine such combinations, a record MergerLine said since it began tracking law firm combinations in 2007.

Forty-seven of the deals last year, or 78%, involved the acquisition of a small law firm, one that had fewer than 20 lawyers, MergerLine said.

Also of note last year was Baker & McKenzie LLP’s acquisition of two law firms outside the U.S. The firm absorbed the 91-lawyer Estudio Echecopar in Lima and Rudolph Bernstein & Associates in Johannesburg, which has 16-lawyers. DLA Piper LLP acquired a 26-lawyer firm in Paris, Frieh Bouhenic.

Among U.S. law firms, Atlanta-based McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP merged with California law firm, Luce Forward Hamilton & Scripps in March, forming a new firm with more than 550 lawyers.

For more details from MergerLine’s archive, click here.


SEC Names Ex-CFTC Enforcement Chief Aronow General Counsel

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission yesterday named Geoffrey F. Aronow, a former enforcement chief at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, to be its top in-house lawyer.

Aronow, a Washington-based partner at law firm Bingham McCutchen LLP, will begin his role as SEC general counsel later this month, the agency said in a statement. His clients have included Christine Serwinski, who was chief financial officer at MF Global Holdings Ltd.’s North American broker-dealer before it collapsed in 2011.

The SEC general counsel evaluates regulations, advises the SEC chairman and represents the agency in lawsuits and other legal matters.

“I’m truly honored to re-enter public service as the General Counsel at an agency with such a storied history and critical mission of investor protection and effective market oversight,” Aronow said in the SEC statement.

Aronow, 57, was hired by new SEC Chairman Elisse B. Walter, who took over after Mary Schapiro left the agency last month. He didn’t immediately respond to a voice message seeking comment.

“Geoff brings the ideal combination of practical knowledge, expertise, and common sense that is so critical to addressing the often nuanced and difficult issues that come before the Commission,” Walter said in a statement.

Aronow served as director of enforcement at the CFTC from 1995 to 1999, according to his biography on Bingham’s website. He also has served on disciplinary panels for the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, the brokerage industry’s self-regulator.

Aronow’s other recent clients at Bingham include accounting firm KPMG LLP, whose Chinese affiliate is feuding with U.S. regulators over its refusal to turn over audit working papers.

Wall Street Outspent Lawyers Funding Romney Bid: BGOV Barometer

Wall Street outdid the legal profession in raising money for Mitt Romney, making him the first major-party presidential nominee in at least two decades who didn’t rely on lawyers as his biggest source of funding.

The BGOV Barometer shows that Romney, who lost his White House run in November, raised $21 million from employees in the securities and investment industry and $14 million from lawyers, lobbyists and others working in law firms, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based research group that tracks campaign contributions.

President Barack Obama, like every other major-party nominee going back to at least George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton in 1992, saw attorneys and others at law firms provide the most money to his campaign, with $27 million in contributions. The securities and investment industry was less generous to Obama, the first time in at least 20 years Wall Street wasn’t among the top five sources of a presidential candidate’s contributions.

“There are a lot of lawyers in America and a lot of lawyers with the financial means to make contributions to campaigns,” said Michael Toner, co-chairman of the election law practice at Wiley Rein LLP and a former Federal Election Commission chairman. “Political giving is a part of the culture. It’s really in the DNA.”

Lawyers were Romney’s third-biggest source of donations, behind both Wall Street and employees in the real estate industry. The legal profession had been the No. 1 giver to every major-party presidential nominee since at least 1992, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Romney’s Wall Street fundraising was fueled both by his investment background and by anger at Obama, who successfully championed new financial regulations in response to the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics.

For more, click here.

Law Firm Leaders Expect to Fire Partners, WSJ Reports

Law firms expect to fire partners this year if they don’t bring enough money into the firm or bill enough hours, the Wall Street Journal said yesterday, citing two surveys of firm leaders.

One account, by the Wells Fargo Private Bank’s Legal Specialty Group, says about 15 percent of the 120 firms surveyed plan to fire partners, according to the paper.

According to an American Lawyer magazine poll, 55 percent of 113 managing partners interviewed said they will ask between one and five partners to leave this year, the WSJ said.

The numbers are lower than in 2009 and 2010 when the recession led to law firm layoffs, the WSJ said.


Latham on EnergySolutions Deal With Energy Capital Partners

Latham & Watkins LLP is advising Energy Capital Partners II LLC in its agreement to buy EnergySolutions, a nuclear commercial services company, for $338.6 million in cash. Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLP is advising EnergySolutions.

Energy Capital will pay $3.75 a share, according to a statement yesterday. Energy Capital will also take on EnergySolutions’ debt, for an enterprise value of $1.1 billion, according to the statement.

Latham & Watkins’s corporate deal team is led by New York partner David Kurzweil and Orange County partner David Lee. Advice was also provide by Los Angeles/New York finance partner Jeff Greenberg; New York partners Matthew Henegar and Gregory Rodgers; Los Angeles benefits and compensation partner James Barrall; London benefits and compensation partner Catherine Drinnan; Orange County environment, land and resources partner Christopher Norton; Washington finance partner David Schwartz; Washington litigation partner David Hazelton; Washington environment, land and resources partner Christine Rolph; San Diego real estate partner Robert Frances; New York tax partner David Raab; London tax partner Daniel Friel; Chicago litigation partners Thomas Heiden and Zachary Fardon and New York litigation partner John Shyer; Orange County securities litigation partner Michele Johnson; Washington litigation partner Edward Shapiro; Orange County securities litigation partner Michele Johnson; New York antitrust and compensation partner Bruce Prager; and London partner John Colahan.

The Skadden team includes Palo Alto partners Leif King and Kenton King, corporate; Los Angeles partner Kristine Dunn, banking; and Palo Alto and Los Angles partner Joseph Yaffe, Executive Compensation and Benefits.

Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, led by New York mergers and acquisitions partner Stephen Kotran, represents Goldman, Sachs & Co. as financial adviser to EnergySolutions, Inc.


Former NLRB Board Member Brian Hayes Joins Ogletree Deakins

National Labor Relations Board member Brian Hayes joined Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart PC as a shareholder and co-chairman of the firm’s traditional labor relations practice group. He will be based in the Washington office.

Hayes was appointed to the NLRB by President Obama in June 2010 and served through the end of last year. He dissented on a number of majority opinions. “He articulated pro-management positions on key high-profile issues, including social media in the workplace, notice posting, narrow bargaining units and ’micro-unions’, and post-contract deduction of union dues,” the firm said in a statement.

Prior to his work on the NLRB, Hayes was the Republican Labor Policy Director for the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. He was also previously in private practice.

“This is a very dynamic time in the traditional labor law arena,” Hayes said in a statement. “The NLRB’s rulings have created many challenges for employers in recent years. While I will miss my days as a policy maker, I look forward to returning to the practice of law and helping employers manage these risks -- and those that are likely to come from the NLRB in the future.”

Ogletree Deakins has more than 650 lawyers in 42 offices across the U.S. and in Europe.

New York Judge Barbara Jones Joins Zuckerman Spaeder

Zuckerman Spaeder LLP announced that former New York federal judge Barbara S. Jones, who presided over the trial of Bernard J. Ebbers and the Justice department’s cases against Visa and MasterCard, is joining the firm as a partner in its New York office.

Jones will focus her practice on internal investigations, corporate compliance issues, and monitorships. She has 17 years of experience on the bench. Prior to that, she was the chief assistant to Robert M. Morgenthau, then the District Attorney of New York County. She also headed the Organized Crime Strike Force when she was an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York.

“Zuckerman Spaeder offers me the opportunity to work in a hands-on, collegial manner on some of the most interesting, complex, and challenging legal issues,” Jones said in a statement. “I am particularly drawn to the firm’s roster of talented lawyers who prize creativity and quality. I am excited to become a part of this accomplished group of attorneys and to put my experience to use for our clients.”

The litigation boutique opened its New York office in 2004 and has recently been expanding. Among the firm’s recent hires are Steven M. Cohen, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s former top adviser and Chief of Staff of the New York Attorney General’s Office.

Zuckerman Spaeder has lawyers in four U.S. offices.

Charles Clapton Joins Hogan Lovells’ Health Practice

Hogan Lovells LLP hired Charles M. “Chuck” Clapton, Health Policy Director of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, as a partner in its health practice in Washington.

As Health Policy Director, Clapton was involved with the development of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act of 2012. Prior to that position, Clapton was Chief Health Counsel for the U.S. House Committee on Ways and Means, where he worked with House and Senate leadership, senior administration staff, and industry representatives on pending legislative health-care initiatives, the firm said. He has also worked as a policy assistant to Speaker of the House J. Dennis Hastert.

Hogan Lovells has more than 2,400 lawyers in more than 40 offices.

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