Manatt, Jones Day, Howrey, Ropes & Gray: Business of Law

Manatt, Phelps & Phillips LLP introduced Manatt Digital Media, an entity combining legal, consulting and investment services for digital-media, entertainment and advertising clients. It will be led by Los Angles partner T. Hale Boggs.

Peter Csathy, formerly the chief executive officer of Sorenson Media Inc., was hired as CEO of Manatt Digital Media Ventures, a part of the platform that will provide non-legal business consulting and evaluate investments for the firm’s venture fund.

“We aim to disrupt the traditional legal model by offering a unique range of services, depth of relationships, remarkable access to artists, and unsurpassed commitment to the needs of our clients,” Boggs said in a statement. “We are in a period of exciting and transformative content distribution and customer engagement that demands a re-imagined, more holistic approach to client service.”

Boggs, a partner in Manatt’s capital markets, corporate/finance and venture capital practice areas, opened the firm’s Silicon Valley office in 1998 and helped establish its San Francisco office in 2007. He said in an interview that the concept of the new entity came from a strategy session that looked to the firm’s health-care group, Manatt Health Solutions.

“We’ve done that very successfully and it’s become a significant revenue driver,” Boggs said. “We thought of other areas where that made sense and digital media was right at the top of the list.”

New York partner Linda Goldstein, chairwoman of Manatt’s advertising, marketing and media practice, will also help lead the practice.

“The explosion of digital media demands new solutions as well as deep experience in the ever-increasing complexity of government oversight,” Goldstein said in a statement. “It is critical that global brands and emerging companies alike be attuned to what can make or break an otherwise brilliant strategy.”

Also part of the new entity is the firm’s venture fund, which has invested in more than 90 companies since it began in 2000. The fund makes direct investments and co-investments and buys limited partnership interests, often in the firm’s clients.

Manatt, Phelps has 400 lawyers and professionals at nine offices in the U.S. and Mexico.


Projects Lawyer Bill Napier Joins Jones Day in Sydney

Jones Day hired Bill Napier in Sydney as a partner in the projects and infrastructure practice. Napier joins the firm after 22 years at Herbert Smith Freehills.

Napier advises clients on project development and acquisition and debt and equity finance, with a focus on the infrastructure, government procurement and utilities sectors, the firm said.

Napier’s work has included handling the $2.3 billion privatization of the Sydney Desalination Plant and the privately financed Sydney 2000 Olympics projects, including the stadium and the athletes’ village, the firm said.

Napier’s hire follows the firm’s recent addition of projects partner John Cooper, who joined Jones Day in February after 26 years at Allens.

“We believe that there will be more projects and infrastructure work over the next few years and in response, we are building our practice with Australia’s highest caliber project lawyers,” Chris Ahern, partner-in-charge of Jones Day’s Sydney Office, said in a statement. “With both Bill and John, we now have two of Australia’s top infrastructure, construction, and procurement lawyers and expect to attract many more projects from Australian and International companies and governments as the global economy recovers in this sector.”

Jones Day has more than 2,400 lawyers in 36 offices worldwide.

Drinker Biddle Adds New Partners to Head Information Practice

Bennett B. Borden and Jay Brudz joined Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP as partners in the Washington office, where they will chair the firm’s information governance and electronic discovery practice as well as help oversee the firm’s ediscovery subsidiary, Drinker Discovery Solutions.

They were previously co-chairs of the electronic discovery and information governance section at Williams Mullen, the firm said.

“Bennett and Jay will be a tremendous addition to the firm,” Alfred W. Putnam Jr., chairman of Drinker Biddle, said in a statement. “Between the hiring of this impressive pair and the launch of Drinker Discovery Solutions, Drinker is defining itself as a go-to firm for ediscovery and information governance.”

Borden focuses his practice on electronic discovery and information governance and conducts both offensive and defensive discovery in complex litigation cases. He also counsels clients on the establishment of information governance and records management policies and advises on data privacy, security and regulatory compliance, the firm said.

Brudz advises clients on the building and management of discovery operations, and helps them address internal compliance and Foreign Corrupt Practices Act investigations. He also works with clients to develop enterprise-level information governance best practices, the firm said.

Drinker Biddle has 650 lawyers in 11 U.S. offices as well as a London office.

Firm News

Howrey Trustee Sues Jones Day, Hogan Lovells, Pillsbury

Bankrupt law firm Howrey LLP’s Chapter 11 trustee Allan B. Diamond, of Diamond McCarthy LLP, sued Jones Day, Hogan Lovells LLP and Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP May 10, seeking to recover revenues and profits from lawyers who left the firm as it was dissolving.

“In a classic self-dealing transaction, Howrey’s former partners attempted to shield themselves and their successor firms (including Jones Day) from unfinished business claims by executing a so-called Jewel Waiver on the eve of Howrey’s dissolution. But the Jewel Waiver was a textbook fraudulent transfer,” according to the court papers in the complaint against Jones Day.

Diamond said the Howrey partners approved the waiver at the same time as they decided to dissolve the firm, when Howrey was already insolvent. He said they did so in order to benefit themselves and their successor firms.

Jones Day hired more than 20 former Howrey partners from offices in California, Washington and Europe; Hogan Lovells hired five U.S. partners in California while Pillsbury hired nine in California and Washington, according to the papers.

“This lawsuit is another improper attempt by a defunct law firm to excuse its own mismanagement and to profit from the efforts of law firms like Jones Day that were retained by clients to handle matters abandoned by the defunct firm,” Jones Day litigation partner Bob Mittelstaedt said in an e-mailed statement. “We are committed to defending against this type of claim until the courts recognize, as we are confident they will, that the claims are without merit.”

Pillsbury and Hogan Lovells didn’t immediately respond to e-mails seeking comment on the hires.

Once known for expertise in antitrust and intellectual property law, Howrey filed under Chapter 11 in June 2011 following an involuntary filing in April 2011.

The bankruptcy is in San Francisco, where the firm had one of its 19 offices. The firm closed in March 2011. At one time, the firm had more than 700 lawyers.

The case is In re Howrey LLP, 11-bk-31376, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).


DynCorp’s ‘Strategic’ Defense in Drug Crop Spraying Suit

Eric Lasker, partner at Hollingsworth LLP, talks with Bloomberg Law’s Spencer Mazyck about successfully defending DynCorp International Inc. in U.S. federal court litigation with several thousand Ecuadorian citizens over claims of widespread environmental damages and alleged exposure to toxins through an aerial herbicide spraying operation and anti-narcotics effort known as “Plan Colombia.”

Lasker, in this Rainmakers episode, also discusses the differences in strategy between DynCorp’s case and Chevron Corp.’s environmental suit over oil pollution in the Amazon rainforest. The oil company was ordered to pay as much as $19.2 billion in compensatory and punitive damages for alleged dumping by Texaco.

This is a Bloomberg podcast. To download, watch or listen to this report now, click here.

Blogger: Legal Profession Will Split in Two: Video

Elie Mystal, editor at Above the Law, talks with Bloomberg Law’s Lee Pacchia about the future of the legal profession.

In the next 10 years, there will be two tiers, Mystal said. One group won’t ever make partner but will perform the manual labor and make a stable middle-class living. The other tier will be the traditional partner-track associate position.

This is a Bloomberg podcast. To download, watch or listen to this report now, click here.


Ex-BP Engineer Claims U.S. Withheld Evidence in Spill Case

A former BP Plc engineer charged in the first criminal case arising from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill asked a judge to sanction U.S. prosecutors for withholding evidence that he says might clear him.

The U.S. charged Kurt Mix with two counts of obstruction of justice last year, alleging he deleted from his mobile phone text-message strings related to the company’s effort to estimate the size of the spill. Mix, who has pleaded not guilty, is facing a June 10 federal trial.

Prosecutors failed to turn over evidence requested by the defense, so-called Brady material, that Mix might use to dispute government allegations, his lawyers said in court papers. They asked U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval at a hearing yesterday in New Orleans to sanction the government, suggesting in court filings a range of actions including rejection of certain evidence or arguments, or complete dismissal of the indictment.

“The facts make it abundantly clear that these prosecutors have violated Brady,” court orders and ethics rules, Joan McPhee, a partner at Ropes & Gray LLP and an attorney for Mix, told Duval yesterday. “They have done so by knowingly and intentionally suppressing evidence in their direct personal possession” that contradicts their obstruction charges against Mix, McPhee said.

U.S. prosecutors said in court papers they turned over all relevant evidence.

“The defendant’s accusations of government misconduct are demonstrably false,” Justice Department lawyers said in a May 6 filing asking Duval to reject Mix’s motion for sanctions.

The blowout and explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in April 2010 killed 11 workers and started millions of barrels of crude leaking into the Gulf. It also set off hundreds of lawsuits against BP, its partners and contractors on the project.

The case is U.S. v. Mix, 12-cr-00171, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana (New Orleans).

For more, click here.

Monsanto Wins Seed Case as High Court Backs Patent Rights

The U.S. Supreme Court bolstered Monsanto Co.’s ability to control the use of its genetically modified seeds, ruling that companies can block efforts to circumvent patents on self-replicating technologies. Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr LLP’s Seth Waxman argued the case before the Supreme Court.

The justices unanimously upheld an $84,456 award Monsanto won in a lawsuit against Vernon Hugh Bowman, an Indiana farmer. Rather than buying herbicide-resistant soybean seeds from a Monsanto-authorized dealer, Bowman used harvested soybeans containing the technology to plant his crops.

The case may affect makers of live vaccines, genetically modified salmon, and bacteria strains used in medical research, potentially helping makers of those products restrict use beyond the first generation. Even so, the court said its ruling was a narrow one that didn’t resolve all issues concerning patents on self-replicating technologies.

“It’s a huge victory for innovation. The Court made clear that strong patent protection is critical to preserving the incentives for innovation that Congress intended. The clarity -- and unanimity -- of the decision should put to rest any questions about the role of the patent system in protecting technologies like Monsanto’s,” Waxman said in a statement.

The case centered on a technology that has helped make Monsanto the world’s largest seed company, with $14.7 billion in annual revenue, as well as a prime target for opponents of genetically modified food.

St. Louis-based Monsanto inserts genes into crops, letting them withstand application of the herbicide Roundup. Farmers who buy so-called Roundup Ready seeds must accept restrictions on their use, agreeing not to save the harvest for planting in a later season.

Monsanto has sued 146 U.S. farmers for saving Roundup Ready soybeans since 1997, winning all 11 cases that went to trial, the company says.

Bowman’s lawyer, Mark Walters, said in an e-mail that the ruling “makes infringers out of 95 percent of America’s soybean farmers, dependent on the grace of a single company to avoid liability.”

WilmerHale represented Monsanto before the Federal Circuit as well, with Paul Wolfson arguing the case. Partners Wolfson, Greg Lantier and Christopher Babbitt assisted on the Supreme Court briefs.

The case is Bowman v. Monsanto, 11-796, U.S. Supreme Court, Washington.

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