Sidley Austin, Venable, Littler, Jones: Business of Law

A partner and former member of the executive committee at Sidley Austin LLP was accused by the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission of misappropriating $119,000 through a fund for expenses established for a client.

Lee Smolen, who left Sidley in September and has since become a partner at DLA Piper LLP, was accused of submitting more than 800 requests for reimbursement “for cab rides that he knew he had not taken,” according to a filing by the commission. Smolen “fabricated false tax receipts” totaling $69,000, according to the commission’s filing.

Smolen, who was the former global coordinator of Sidley’s real-estate practice in Chicago, is also accused of submitting requests for entertainment charges including restaurant gift cards, tickets for sporting events and meals “that had not been incurred for legitimate firm purposes,” according to the commission. Those expenses amounted to an additional $50,000, according to the filing.

Carter Phillips, the chairman of Sidley’s executive committee, declined in an e-mail to comment on the accusations. Smolen didn’t respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

Smolen in October 2008 was named to Sidley’s executive committee. The alleged fraud was said to occur from 2007 to 2012 and was largely from an expense fund tied to one undisclosed client, according to the commission.

Smolen joined DLA Piper in February, according to spokesman Josh Epstein. DLA Piper said in a statement that its management had been “aware of this matter during the hiring process. After our own due diligence and a thorough review of the facts, the firm decided to give great weight to the total body of Lee’s work over his 25-plus years as a lawyer and to extend to him the opportunity to continue his career at DLA Piper.”

The allegations were filed June 14 and first reported by the Legal Profession Blog. Smolen will receive a hearing by a disciplinary panel, the commission said.

The commission filing is In the Matter of Lee Mark Smolen, Commission No. 2013PR00060.

Law Firm Moves

Venable Adds AmEx Lawyer to Advertising and Marketing

Po Yi, who was the chief advertising counsel for American Express Co. is joining Venable LLP as a partner in New York.

Yi, who specializes in branded content, sponsorship, media integration, and digital and social media marketing, worked at American Express for five years. She served as chief counsel to the chief marketing officer and global advertising and brand management group, as well as to the company’s new member marketing and consumer card marketing groups. Prior to her tenure at American Express, Yi was a partner at Loeb & Loeb LLP.

“ Jeffrey Knowles, chairman of Venable’s advertising, marketing and new media practice, said in a statement that Yi’s “experience forging strategic sponsorship and branded content deals adds a compelling dimension to our group’s capabilities.”

Dickinson Wright Adds New Corporate Attorney to Its Ranks

Timothy L. Andersson has joined Dickinson Wright PLLC as a member in the firm’s Troy, Michigan, office.

Andersson structures and executes business transactions on corporate and securities matters, including mergers and acquisitions, corporate finance, private equity and closely-held companies, the firm said in a statement. He also works on international transactions.

Dickinson Wright has more than 350 lawyers in the U.S. and Canada.

Littler Mendelson Adds Shareholder in San Francisco

Douglas Bria has joined Littler Mendelson PC, the employment and labor law firm representing management, as a shareholder in the San Francisco office. He was previously a partner at Jackson Lewis LLP in San Francisco.

Bria has experience in employment litigation matters, including class actions and complex litigation, e-Discovery, general employment litigation and wage and hour compliance. Bria’s arrival coincides with the addition of another former Jackson Lewis partner, JoAnna Brooks, who joined Littler earlier this month, the firm said.

“The combination of his strong class-action practice, solid advice practice, and particular expertise in e-Discovery matters, makes Doug a strong addition to the bench of our global practice,” Thomas Bender and Jeremy Roth, co-managing directors of Littler, said in a joint statement.

While at Jackson Lewis, Bria represented clients in a variety of industry sectors -- including retail, technology, hospitality, gaming, and construction -- particularly in defending wage and hour litigation, as well as claims of wrongful termination, discrimination and breach of contract.

Littler has more than 980 attorneys in 57 offices in the U.S. and globally.

Perkins Coie Adds Real Estate Partner in San Francisco

Allan E. Low joined Perkins Coie LLP in San Francisco as a partner in the real-estate practice group. Low was most recently a partner at Nixon Peabody LLP.

“Allan’s practice is a terrific complement to our existing real estate and land use practices in San Francisco,” said Barbara Schussman, the office managing partner of Perkins Coie’s San Francisco office.

Low represents financial institutions and lenders in connection with loan originations, modifications and workouts, in addition to troubled debt restructuring, forbearance agreements and receiverships. He also represents buyers, sellers, and owners of real property on the purchase and sale of single assets and portfolio transactions, leasing, lease restructuring, and enforcement of leases.

Low is currently vice president and commissioner of the City of San Francisco Recreation and Park Commission. Last year, he served on the Board of Directors of the Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area.

Perkins Coie has more than 900 lawyers in 19 offices across the U.S. and Asia.

Jones Day Adds Private Equity Partner in New York

Brien Wassner joined the private-equity practice of Jones Day as a partner in New York, the firm said. Wassner had been a partner at Winston & Strawn LLP, where he advised on domestic and international corporate transactions, infrastructure and energy projects, and related matters.

Wassner’s corporate practice focuses on private equity and domestic and cross-border mergers and acquisitions, as well as infrastructure, energy, and renewable energy investments and development projects. He represents domestic and multinational closely held and publicly traded companies in a wide range of business transactions including take-privates, joint ventures, majority and minority investments, tender offers, stock and asset acquisitions and debt and equity financings.

Wesley Johnson, the partner in charge of the New York office, said in a statement that Wassner’s experience advising “a diverse mix of clients and industries on domestic and cross border matters not only strengthens our team, but also makes him an asset to our clients in New York and around the world.”

In the Courts

Lehman Creditors Must Pay Personal Lawyers, U.S. Trustee Says

Hedge fund Elliott Management Corp. and other creditors of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. must by law pay their own lawyers for advice and were wrongly awarded $26 million by a bankruptcy judge, said the U.S. Trustee who oversees bankruptcies in the New York region on behalf of the Justice Department.

Tracy Hope Davis, whose earlier objection to the fee payments was overidden by Judge James Peck, is appealing his ruling in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. In a filing June 25, she said the bankruptcy code “mandates reversing the order awarding the fees.” The creditors argued that the fee award isn’t inconsistent with the law.

Separately, as members of Lehman’s official creditors committee, Elliott and other financial institutions hired lawyers who were paid by the bankrupt estate, as the law allowed, Davis said.

Intuit Settles California Antitrust Case Over No-Hire Agreement

Intuit Inc., the largest seller of personal-finance software, settled antitrust claims by California’s attorney general over an agreement among technology companies not to hire each other’s employees, a spokeswoman for the company said.

A lawsuit and proposed judgment were filed yesterday in federal court in San Jose, California. Diane Carlini, the Intuit spokeswoman, said in a phone interview that the case had been resolved and settlement terms weren’t immediately available.

Nick Pacilio, a spokesman for California Attorney General Kamala Harris, had no immediate comment on the settlement.

In 2010 Mountain View, California-based Intuit reached a settlement with the U.S. Justice Department over claims the company struck a deal with EBay Inc. not to recruit each other employees. Intuit said last year it was cooperating with the investigation by the California attorney general.

The case is the People of the State of California v. Intuit Inc., 13-cv-02933, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose.)

Kleiner Perkins Loses Bid to Avoid Public Trial in Pao Bias Case

Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, the venture-capital firm that provided startup financing to Google Inc. and Inc., lost a bid to force ex-partner Ellen Pao to move her sex-discrimination claims to arbitration.

The California Court of Appeal in San Francisco said in an opinion yesterday that mandatory arbitration clauses in the operating agreements Pao signed with seven managing LLCs for which she was an adviser weren’t intended to govern employment disputes. Kleiner Perkins had sought to avoid a public trial.

“Pao’s claims for employment discrimination, retaliation and failure to prevent discrimination bear little connection to the operating agreements containing the arbitration provisions,” the three-judge appellate panel said in a unanimous decision.

Pao sued the firm last year alleging Kleiner treated female employees unfairly by promoting and compensating them less than men. She said she was retaliated against after she complained about sexual harassment.

Kleiner, based in Menlo Park, California, denied the allegations and asked a trial judge to rule that Pao’s claims should be handled through private arbitration. A state court judge ruled against the firm and Kleiner appealed.

John Doerr, Kleiner’s lead partner, has said the lawsuit is “without merit,” citing an independent investigation that found the firm doesn’t discriminate on the basis of gender. Amanda Duckworth, a spokeswoman for Kleiner with the Brunswick Group, said the company didn’t have any comment on yesterday’s ruling.

The appeals case is Pao v. Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, A136090, 1st District, Division 5, California Court of Appeal (San Francisco).


How Do You Pronounce Lawyer: Surprise, Geography Matters

You’d think this would have been long settled. But pronunciation of the world lawyer depends on where you live. Of people surveyed in the U.S., 73 percent say “loyer,” while 22 percent, mostly in the southeastern states, say “law-yer.” Another 5 percent use both interchangeably. The findings come from a larger study on dialect by Joshua Katz, a student in statistics at North Carolina State University.

For more, click here.

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