Jackson, K&L Gates, Seyfarth, Goodwin: Business of Law

Jackson Lewis LLP opened a Tampa, Florida, office with four lawyers, led by Barnett Q. Brooks, former managing partner of the Tampa office of rival Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart PC. The office is the third opened by the employment law firm in the five weeks since Vincent Cino took the helm as chairman on Jan. 1.

Cino said the decision to establish a Tampa office was driven by interest in capturing more regional work in Florida and was a result of signing with Brooks, who he said was a good fit with the firm.

“Once you’ve signed the right person, it’s our experience that the clients come,” Cino said in an interview.

Tampa is the firm’s fourth Florida location and 52nd overall. Since the start of the year, it has opened offices in Puerto Rico and Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Cino was on the firm’s management committee and was national director of litigation before succeeding Patrick Vaccaro as chairman this year. During Vaccaro’s tenure, the firm doubled its attorney headcount to 735 layers, the firm said in a December statement.

Cino said he expects the firm to expand by 75 to 100 lawyers this year, a pattern he anticipates will continue over his four-year term as chairman. He attributes the firm’s growth to a movement away from the billable hour to alternative fee arrangements. The arrangements have driven the firm’s existing clients to give the firm more work, particularly in the area of employment litigation, he said.

“We’re at about 35 percent to 40 percent of our work being paid through alternative fee arrangements,” Cino said. “It’s picked up a great deal of momentum and now when I talk to perspective clients, very few will now want to talk about it.”

Jay Lechner, a labor and employment lawyer with 11 years of experience, also joined the Tampa office as partner from Greenberg Traurig. Two additional lawyers from Ogletree Deakins joined along with Barnett.

K&L Gates Opens Houston Office with Fulbright Hire

K&L Gates LLP opened an office in Houston, with the hire of Charles L. Strauss, the former head of the securities practice group at Fulbright & Jaworski LLP

The Houston office is K&L Gates’s fourth in Texas, 25th in the U.S. and 47th worldwide. The new office continues the firm’s expansion, which included a recent combination with the Australian firm Middletons and a new office in Seoul.

Strauss, a partner at Fulbright since 1991, spent more than 30 years at the firm. He advised clients on mergers, acquisitions, divestitures, public and private offerings, antitakeover bids, corporate restructurings and other matters.

“Charles brings tremendous transactional capabilities and relationships in a broad range of energy and infrastructure industries -- oil and gas exploration and production, oil and gas service, refining and marketing, pipeline, chemical, petrochemical, and transportation,” Elizabeth Thomas, Michael Zanic, and Simon Salter, the leaders of K&L Gates’ energy, infrastructure and resources practice area, said in a statement. “Houston cements our firm’s presence across the globe in energy, infrastructure and resources.”

K&L Gates has office in Austin, Dallas, and Fort Worth. The firm has 47 offices in the U.S., Asia, Australia, Europe, the Middle East and South America.


Seyfarth Hires Six in New York Real Estate Department

Seyfarth Shaw LLP hired six New York real estate attorneys, from three laws firms. LeClair Ryan partner Adrian Zuckerman leads a team that includes partner Linda Bielik and Cynthia Mitchell and an of counsel attorney in joining Seyfarth. Partner Mitchel Hill joins from Troutman Sanders LLP and partner Juan Reyes from Reed Smith LLP, the firm said.

Prior to joining Seyfarth, Zuckerman was co-head of the national real estate practice group for LeClair Ryan & Hill and led the real estate investments group for Troutman Sanders.

“This is a top-flight group of veteran real estate attorneys who are an excellent fit for us as we continue to strategically expand our real estate department across the country,” Paul Mattingly, chairman of Seyfarth’s real estate department, said in a statement. “We had a record-setting year in 2012 and this group further illustrates our commitment to growing what is one of the top real estate practices in the country.”

Seyfarth’s New York office, which is one of the firm’s largest, has almost 125 attorneys. The firm has added 21 new attorneys to its real estate department in the past year. The department has handled more than $15 billion in transactions in 2012, the firm said. Among those transactions, the firm represented Australia’s Dexus Property Group in the $770 million sale of its U.S. Central Portfolio to affiliates of Blackstone Real Estate Partners VII, the firm said.

Seyfarth Shaw has more than 800 attorneys at 10 U.S. offices.

Sheppard Mullin Hires Morgan Lewis Corporate Partner in China

Tony K. Mou, a former Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP Beijing partner, has joined Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP as a partner in the corporate practice group in the firm’s Shanghai office.

Mou advises multinational companies operating in China on corporate and transactional matters including mergers and acquisitions and other matters. He also provides advice on foreign direct investment, foreign-exchange control, employment and international tax matters, the firm said.

Sheppard Mullin’s corporate practice group includes 150 attorneys firmwide. The firm has 20 attorneys based in the Beijing and Shanghai offices. The firm has more than 600 attorneys in 16 offices in the U.S., Europe and Asia.

Goodwin Procter Hires Travers Smith Partner in London

Goodwin Procter LLP hired Paul Lyons as a partner in the London office. Lyons joins Goodwin from Travers Smith, where he has been a partner in its banking practice since 2003, the firm said.

Lyons will focus on real estate debt finance, where he has experience in advising both borrowers and lenders. He also has experience in leveraged finance.

Goodwin Procter has 860 lawyers at nine offices in the U.S., Hong Kong and London.


ResCap Seeks Approval of Kruger as Chief Restructuring Officer

Residential Capital LLC asked a bankruptcy judge to approve the appointment of a chief restructuring officer to help it reach and confirm a reorganization plan following its assets sale.

ResCap filed a request yesterday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan to appoint Lewis Kruger.

Kruger has worked as a restructuring attorney for more than 40 years, ResCap said in the filing. He is a partner and co-chairman of the financial restructuring group at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP, according to the filing.

“He has substantial knowledge and experience advising large companies and assisting troubled companies developing appropriate business plans to accomplish restructuring initiatives,” ResCap said. “The debtors believe that Mr. Kruger’s vast restructuring experience will be invaluable in leading plan negotiations and in the ongoing mediation.”

New York-based ResCap filed for bankruptcy in May with plans to sell its major assets and resolve legal claims related to mortgage loans. The company is owned by Ally Financial Inc., a Detroit-based lender majority owned by U.S. taxpayers.

The case is In re Residential Capital LLC, 12-12020, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).


AB InBev-Modelo Deal May Be Derailed by Slow-Tracking Judge

Anheuser-Busch InBev NV’s bid to buy Grupo Modelo SAB may face an obstacle unforeseen by the parties when the Justice Department sued to block the deal -- assignment of the case to Washington’s slowest federal judge.

U.S. District Judge Richard Roberts, who was randomly picked to handle antitrust litigation over the $20.1 billion deal, carries the largest backlog of unfinished cases and unresolved motions among his Washington colleagues, according to federal court data.

Last year, Roberts had 73 motions pending for more than six months -- almost three times more than the next slowest judge -- and more than 50 cases pending more than three years. In one 2003 case involving $190,000 of insurance payments, he took more than eight years to rule on a motion to dismiss.

“It helps the Justice Department,” Michael Carrier, an antitrust law professor at Rutgers University, said in an interview. “If they have a judge that is this slow -- and obviously this is something they could not have prepared for -- there’s no doubting this will help the government.”

Delays in the AB InBev case could derail the deal if the litigation pushes past the termination date called for in the sale agreement. The parties have until Dec. 30 to complete the transaction, and may extend it another 90 days if it’s in court. After that, Modelo may be able to walk away with the $650 million breakup fee.

Talks between AB InBev, the world’s biggest brewer, and the Justice Department were still proceeding when the suit was filed on Jan. 31, people familiar with the matter have said.

If the case does continue in court, Roberts must independently assess the government’s claim that the combination of the largest- and third-largest brewers of beer sold in the U.S. would violate antitrust law and “substantially lessen” competition. He will have to set a schedule that includes when to hold a preliminary injunction hearing, how many witnesses will be interviewed and give testimony as well as what documents the two sides must produce and exchange.

“Case management will be important,” David Smutny, an antitrust partner at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP in Washington, said in an interview.

The selection of Roberts could put additional pressure on the company to settle rather than test the government’s case in court, according to Edward Schwartz, an antitrust partner at Steptoe & Johnson LLP in Washington, whose client once waited six months for a final ruling from the judge on a settlement with the department.

Marianne Amssoms, a spokeswoman for Leuven, Belgium-based AB InBev, and Gina Talamona, a Justice Department spokeswoman, declined to comment on Roberts’s assignment to the case.

The case is U.S. v. Anheuser-Busch InBev NV, 13-cv-00127, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

For more, click here.

Dewey Settles With Holdout Group of 125 Former Partners

Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP reached a settlement with about 125 former partners removing the principal opposition to approval of the defunct law firm’s liquidating Chapter 11 plan, which is up for consideration at a Feb. 27 confirmation hearing.

The settlement was negotiated with the official committee representing retired partners and an ad hoc committee of former partners. The settlement, scheduled for approval at the Feb. 27 confirmation hearing, is supported by the official creditors’ committee and a majority of secured lenders.

The former partners taking part in the new settlement had either retired in prior years or left the firm before it went out of business. They were all being sued by Dewey. Among other things, the suits sought recovery of payments made in the last two years to retired partners under Dewey’s non-qualified pension plan.

The former partners filed $80 million in claims and contended they should be treated as creditors, not as defendants. They were appealing approval of a settlement where 440 other partners will receive releases in return for $71.5 million in contributions for distribution under the plan.

In the new settlement, the former partners will waive their claims. In return for dropping the lawsuits against them, the former partners will pay a maximum of $5,000. Some partners may pay somewhat more.

The newly settling partners won’t receive immunity from claims that might be brought by third parties. The partners agree not to oppose confirmation of the plan.

The ad hoc committee agreed to pay its own expenses throughout the Chapter 11 case. The official partners’ committee will limit its fee request to $1.35 million.

Under the previously approved settlement with the larger partner group, the firm estimated that available asset proceeds for distribution to creditors will range from $146.8 million to $246.7 million. The midpoint recoveries for secured and unsecured creditors are 58.4 percent and 9.1 percent, respectively.

For details on the Dewey plan, click here for the Nov. 23 Bloomberg bankruptcy report.

The firm once had 1,300 lawyers before liquidation began under Chapter 11 in May. At the outset of bankruptcy, there was secured debt of about $225 million and accounts receivable of $217.4 million, the firm previously said.

The petition listed assets of $193 million and liabilities of $245.4 million as of April 30.

The case is In re Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP, 12-12321, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).


Law School Applications Heading Toward 30-Year Low

Law school applications appear to be headed for a 30-year low. Based on applications so far for 2013, experts expect there will be about 54,000 applicants -- that’s about half the number that applied in 2004.

Reasons for the slide have been well documented: lousy job prospects, huge debt loads, and large tuition increases.

While there will be enough applicants to fill first-year seats, schools below the very top tier may have to accept students with lower LSAT and GPA scores, or trim their class sizes to maintain quality.

A year ago, after a series of New York Times articles about law schools, reporter David Segal said law school applicants “don’t appreciate what debt they’re taking on ... almost none of these law students have any idea what they’re getting into.”

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