Milbank, Fried Frank, Morgan Lewis: Business of Law

Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP litigator Scott A. Edelman, 49, will take the helm of the firm this week succeeding Mel Immergut, 66, who has led the firm since 1995.

Edelman, who will become chairman on March 8, is following through on a succession plan that was voted into place by the firm partners four years ago when they voted him into the position of vice chairman. Immergut, a corporate partner at the firm since 1980, resigns from the firm effective April 30.

“We pride ourselves on being a small big firm,” Edelman said in an interview. “At our firm, the partners really know each other and know the expertise people can bring. There is a spirit of team work and that’s a culture I’m committed to preserve.”

Edelman says that the 600-lawyer firm has no interest in mergers and doesn’t expect to open any new offices in the near future. The firm currently has 11 offices in North and South America, Europe and Asia. Edelman expects to see growth, through opportunistic hires as good people come along and on the corporate side, with a focus on high value complex legal work. Specifically, that means corporate hires in the antitrust and real estate practices.

Edelman clients include Citigroup, which he has represented in several cases including litigation arising out of the Adelphia Bankruptcy, as well as the REFCO Trustee and Cerberus Capital Management. He has no plans to tamp down on his practice. The last four years, as vice chairman of the firm, he’d already taken an active role in the firm’s management. “I’ve been involved in all our decisions, client relationships, dealing with partners and associates,” he said. “I recognize that management of the firm is a substantial time commitment and that it will be balanced with my practice.”

Patton Boggs Fires 22 Associates Among 65 Jobs at Firm

Washington law firm Patton Boggs LLP fired 65 staff members March 1, including 22 associates, managing partner Edward J. Newberry, said, citing increasing economic pressures in the legal services business.

“We are one of the only large firms in the U.S. that made no reductions during any point during the recession,” Newberry, 50, said in an interview. “What we’re doing is exactly what a prudent firm would do in aligning revenues and headcount.”

The reductions came as a result of several large litigation matters, which Newberry declined to identify, that are winding down.

Patton Boggs financial performance in 2012 wasn’t particularly strong, Newberry said. Revenue fell 6.5 percent from the $339.7 posted in 2011.

Firings may reflect weaknesses at a firm or can be a sign of good management, said Ward Bower, a principal at law firm consultant Altman Weil Inc.

“Anybody would be smart if they have an opportunity to trade up to do so,” he said. “There’s a lot of talent out there in the job market.”

The 550-lawyer firm had 209 associates before the layoffs. The cuts included three in Denver, three in New York, three in Dallas, four in Washington and the rest in the firm’s Newark, New Jersey, office, Newberry said.

The firm also let go eight staff attorneys, 15 staff managers and eight paralegals. No partners were included in the moves, Newberry said, adding that in the past two and a half years the firm has trimmed partners from its ranks. In recent months about 20 partners were asked to find other employment, he said. Those cuts aren’t tied to a declining volume of work, he said.

“It’s a response to a generally competitive environment. Partner productivity becomes particularly important to the success of a law firm,” Newberry said. “Recognizing that, over time, we’re reducing the number of less productive partners.”

Newberry said the firm has made some significant hires since the start of the year, highlighting James T. Jacks, a former U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Texas in the Dallas office and Elizabeth Ames Jones, former chairwoman of the Texas Railroad Commission, who joined the firm in Dallas and Washington.

The firm, which has six U.S. offices and three in the Middle East, is investing in overseas expansion. Patton Boggs last year acquired the Saudi Arabia office of the liquidating Dewey & LeBouef LLP and the partners voted to open an office in Dubai this year.

Newberry also said Patton Boggs had its biggest January revenue in five years this year, a 35 percent jump from a year earlier.

“Assuming we don’t have general additional revenue, we will have a good year,” Newberry said. “If we have general additional revenue we will have an excellent year.”


Aerospace and Defense Lawyer Howe Joins Fried Frank

Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP hired Jerry Howe as a partner in the government contracts and aerospace and defense practices, in Washington. He was most recently senior vice president and general counsel at the aerospace and defense company TASC.

“His aerospace and government contracts experience and strengths in matters ranging from corporate M&A to litigation and compliance will be a tremendous asset to our clients,” Valerie Ford Jacob, chairwoman of Fried Frank, said in a statement.

Howe will provide regulatory/industry counsel on M&A and private equity transactions in the aerospace & defense industry as well as government contracts litigation, investigations and bid protests, the firm said in a statement.

At TASC, Howe oversaw the company’s legal affairs, corporate development and M&A, ethics and compliance programs, government relations and security.

Fried Frank has lawyers at seven offices in the U.S., Europe and Asia.

Morgan Lewis Hires Energy Transactions Partner in London

Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP hired Mathew Kidwell, an energy transactions attorney with more than 18 years of experience, in the firm’s business and finance practice, in London. He was previously at K&L Gates LLP.

Kidwell has handled projects including oil and gas exploration and production, including deepwater operations and enhanced oil recovery; processing and refining; pipelines and transportation, the firm said in a statement.

Morgan Lewis has more than 1,600 lawyers and legal professionals in 24 offices across the U.S., Europe, and Asia.

Venable Hires Two for Los Angeles Corporate Practice

Venable LLP hired Ronn Davids as a partner along with another lawyer in the Los Angeles office in the corporate group. Davids was previously a member at Klee, Tuchin, Bogdanoff & Stern LLP, with a practice working with middle-market and emerging growth companies in distressed and non-distressed situations, Venable said in a statement.

Davids handles mergers and acquisitions, public and private equity and debt financings, leveraged buyouts, corporate restructurings and bankruptcies. He advises clients on the purchase and sale of core assets, negotiations with creditors, venture capital investments, executive compensation and other general corporate matters, the firm said.

Venable has more than 500 attorneys at eight U.S. offices.


Ex-Lawyer Guerin Gets 8 Years in Tax-Shelter Fraud Case

Donna Guerin, a former partner in the defunct law firm Jenkens & Gilchrist, was sentenced to eight years in prison and ordered to pay $190 million for her role in what the U.S. called the largest criminal tax fraud in history.

Guerin pleaded guilty in September 2012 just as she was set to be retried with three other defendants for running a 10-year scheme that created $7 billion in fraudulent tax deductions, more than $1.5 billion in phony losses and $92 million in actual losses to the U.S. Treasury. On March 1, U.S. District Judge William Pauley in New York ordered Guerin to pay $190 million in restitution and to report to prison on May 14.

Guerin was initially convicted by a federal jury in Manhattan in May 2011 with her three co-defendants. Those convictions were overturned after U.S. District Judge William Pauley found that a juror in the trial lied about her past, including that she was an alcoholic and a suspended attorney.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Stanley Okula and Nanette Davis said in court papers that Guerin deserved a “significant” prison term of at least 10 years, saying she had served as a “manager and supervisor of the criminal activity.”

Her lawyers sought something shorter than the 10-year term calculated by U.S. probation officials and said she was merely a “junior” law partner when it came to implementing the tax shelters.

Guerin pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and one count of tax evasion. She had faced a maximum of 10 years in prison on both counts and agreed to pay $1.6 million in penalties.

During her guilty plea Guerin said she worked on tax shelters with Paul Daugerdas, also a defendant in the case, while the two were lawyers at former Chicago-based firm Altheimer & Gray. The two joined Dallas-based Jenkens & Gilchrist in 1998, she said, and continued their work in helping clients shelter income.

Guerin admitted to helping advise clients on how to conduct complex transactions that allowed them to wipe out financial gains. Guerin said she also provided opinion letters to her clients helping them assert that the deals were legitimate.

The case is U.S. v. Daugerdas, 09-CR-581, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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