Baker & McKenzie, Bracewell, Simpson: Business of Law

Baker & McKenzie LLP hired a team of more than 20 lawyers, including nine partners from Ramon & Cajal in Madrid. The lawyers, led by partners Alberto Alonso Ureba and Francisco Bauza More, will join Baker & McKenzie in Madrid on Aug. 1.

“The addition of this high-quality team to our Madrid office takes our Spanish corporate and finance offering to a new level,” Madrid managing partner Jose Maria Alonso said in a statement. “It positions us well to serve the needs of our key Spanish and international clients on complex transactions.”

The lawyers also include two of counsel and more than 10 associates. The team is focused on corporate, M&A, capital markets and banking work, and has acted for listed Spanish corporations, Baker & McKenzie said in a statement.

Among the partners are corporate and commercial lawyers Guillermo Guerra and Fernando Marroquin, and finance and capital markets lawyer Rafael Bazan.

In addition to expanding the firm’s work in Spain, the team will work in Latin America, where the firm has 15 offices and more than 1,100 lawyers, according to Europe, Middle East and Africa region chairman Koen Vanhaerents.

Ramon y Cajal has 100 lawyers, which includes 31 partners, at offices in Madrid and Barcelona, according to its website.

Baker & McKenzie has more than 4,000 lawyers at 74 offices in 46 countries.


Detroit Lawyers’ Track Record Ranges From Chrysler to Dodgers

Detroit’s bankruptcy started with a mad dash to a federal courthouse, much as Orange County, California’s did in 1994, when it undertook a billion-dollar restructuring, Bloomberg News’ Steven Church reports.

A difference between the two cases is their size. Orange County went into court with $1.7 billion in losses from a $7.5 billion investment pool it controlled, while Detroit’s July 18 filing listed $18 billion in debt, a record for a U.S. municipal bankruptcy.

What they shared was a need for speed and the lawyer who led the way: Bruce Bennett, the Los Angeles-based bankruptcy attorney who helped push both filings into court to shield his clients from potentially disruptive actions by creditors.

Detroit, Michigan’s biggest city, sought bankruptcy protection after decades of population decline and dwindling manufacturing jobs left it too poor to pay bondholders, retired cops and current city workers. It filed its petition minutes before a state judge could rule on requests by the workers and retirees to bar the city from bankruptcy.

“I said, ‘Enough of these outside lawsuits, let’s get into bankruptcy court,’” Republican Governor Rick Snyder said in a July 19 press conference. Later that day, the state-court judge ruled the bankruptcy improper and ordered Snyder to withdraw the petition. The Michigan attorney general is pursuing an appeal.

Almost 20 years earlier, when Orange County anticipated an uncontrollable rush by creditors to withdraw money from the pool, Bennett and his colleagues put the municipality under court protection, according to attorney Lee Bogdanoff, who worked with him on the case.

Bennett, 54, and his colleague David Heiman, 68, are now in charge of Detroit’s day-to-day legal strategy, which for the next four months will focus on defending Snyder’s decision to file. They are partners at Jones Day, a firm with more than 2,400 lawyers worldwide.

The two have been working out of the spotlight, which so far has been trained on the governor and Kevyn Orr, who was a partner at Jones Day when Snyder named him as Detroit’s emergency manager in March.

The focus may shift to Bennett, Heiman and the rest of their legal team when they enter the federal courthouse in downtown Detroit tomorrow, the date they have requested for an initial hearing. Heiman is the case manager, while Bennett will lead the litigation and debt-restructuring efforts, Orr’s spokesman, William Nowling, said in a text message.

The case is City of Detroit, 13-bk-53846, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Eastern District of Michigan (Detroit).

For more, click here.


Bracewell, V&E, Simpson Thacher on Apache $3.75 Billion Deal

Bracewell & Giuliani LLP is representing Apache Corp., a U.S. oil and natural gas producer which agreed to sell wells and acreage in the shallow waters of the Gulf of Mexico to private-equity firm Riverstone Holdings LLC for $3.75 billion in cash. Vinson & Elkins LLP and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP were legal advisers to Fieldwood Energy LLC, a portfolio company of Riverstone Holdings.

Bracewell attorneys involved in the transactions include partners G. Alan Rafte, Kristen V. Campana, Bruce R. Jocz, Bryan E. Loocke, Elizabeth L. McGinley and Robin J. Miles.

The V&E team was led by M&A partner David Cohen with assistance from partners Marc Rose and Shay Kuperman. Also assisting were partners Ted Stockbridge, mergers and acquisitions; Sean Becker, labor/employment; Christopher Dawe, finance; Larry Nettles, environmental; James Olson, energy regulatory; and David Peck and David D’Alessandro, tax.

Simpson Thacher represents Fieldwood Energy in connection with the acquisition financing. The team includes credit partners Chris Brown and Robert Rabalais.

The sale to Riverstone’s Fieldwood Energy includes 1.9 million net acres with estimated reserves of 133 million barrels of oil and liquids and 636 billion cubic feet of gas, the Houston-based oil company said in a statement. In addition to the cash, Riverstone will assume about $1.5 billion in future costs associated with shutting the wells. Apache will keep a 50 percent stake in certain blocks for future exploration.

In May, Apache doubled the amount of assets it planned to sell this year to $4 billion, saying it would use $2 billion to reduce debt and other proceeds to buy back as many as 30 million shares. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Steve Farris said in a March interview that everything was up for review as Apache began to streamline operations after a $16 billion acquisition spree that began in 2010 and ended last year.

Daily output from the assets is the equivalent of more than 95,000 barrels of oil, Fieldwood said.

For more, click here.


Competition Law Partner Breuvart Joins Jones Day in Brussels

Charlotte Breuvart joined Jones Day’s Brussels office as a partner in the antitrust and competition practice. She was previously with Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP, where she was the resident partner in charge of that firm’s Brussels antitrust and competition group.

Breuvart’s practice focuses on European, French, and Belgian antitrust and competition law. She has experience advising companies on European competition law issues, including merger control, cartels, abuse of dominance, and State aids.

She will be based in the Brussels Office and will also spend time in Jones Day’s Paris office.

“We are very pleased to welcome Charlotte to our global team,” said Dave Wales, partner and practice leader of Jones Day’s antitrust and competition law practice in a statement. “Her experience complements our highly regarded competition law practice in Europe, and brings additional depth to our excellent teams in Belgium and France, as well as in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and the U.K.”

Jones Day has more than 2,400 lawyers at 40 offices worldwide.

Vivian Bercovici Joins Dickinson Wright in Toronto

Vivian Bercovici joined Dickinson Wright LLP’s Toronto office as a partner. Since 2007, she was at Heenan Blaikie LLP.

Bercovici’s practice focuses on insurance regulatory matters, corporate governance, risk management, libel and slander, privacy, aboriginal law, and public policy and legislative advice, the firm said.

Dickinson Wright has more than 350 lawyers in 12 North American offices.

Former Assistant U.S. Attorney in California Joins Locke Lord

Priya Sopori joined Locke Lord LLP’s Los Angeles office as a partner in the intellectual property litigation practice. Sopori spent the past five years as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California, where she prosecuted white collar crimes, violent felonies and other criminal cases, the firm said.

“As first chair in numerous prosecutions and grand jury investigations, Priya’s outstanding trial experience immediately bolsters Locke Lord’s West Coast ability to serve clients in the IP litigation arena,” Mitch Popham, managing partner of the Los Angeles office said in a statement.

Locke Lord has about 650 lawyers at 13 offices in the U.S., London and Hong Kong.

Robert Folland Joins Barnes & Thornburg LLP in Columbus

Barnes & Thornburg LLP announced that Robert C. Folland, formerly of Thompson Hine LLP, joins the firm in its Columbus office where he will practice in the finance, insolvency and restructuring department.

Folland focuses on business matters that include litigation, restructuring, creditors’ rights and bankruptcy for financial institutions, debtors and creditors’ committees. He also has experience assisting clients with state court receiverships and out of court business restructurings, the firm said.

Barnes & Thornburg has more than 600 attorneys and other legal professionals at 12 U.S. offices.

Fund Formation Lawyer Joins Nixon Peabody in Boston

Nixon Peabody LLP has added partner Stacy L. Vezina to its private equity practice in the Boston office. She joins the firm from Ropes & Gray LLP.

Vezina focuses her practice on U.S. and international institutional and other investors investing in private investment funds in primary and secondary transactions. She also represents private investment funds in connection with matters related to fundraising, governance, organizational structure and internal operations, the firm said.

Nixon Peabody has about 700 attorneys in the U.S., Europe, and Asia.


BP Judge Refuses to Suspend Oil-Spill Settlement Payments

BP Plc lost a bid to persuade a judge to temporarily halt payments from the court-supervised program administering its settlement of claims tied to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans rejected July 19 the company’s request to stop the payments while Louis Freeh, former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, probes allegations of misconduct in the claims program.

BP contends two lawyers working for the settlement administrator, Patrick Juneau, improperly took fees from law firms while processing their clients’ claims. The staff attorneys were ousted after the alleged improper payments came to light.

“BP has not produced any evidence to take the drastic step of shutting down the entire” claims process, Barbier said today at a hearing.

Officials of the London-based oil company said they were disappointed with Barbier’s decision.

“There is a material risk that payments going out the door have been and continue to be tainted by possibly fraudulent or corrupt activity, and BP should not be forced to bear the risks of improper payments,” Geoff Morrell, a BP spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement.

The dispute is the latest complaint from BP over the claims process set up by last year’s settlement of suits filed by private-party victims. BP set up a hotline July 15 seeking reports of alleged fraud or corruption in the claims process.

The oil company has also accused Juneau of approving hundreds of millions of dollars in claims for “fictitious” business economic losses under a liberal interpretation of the accord.

The company contends Juneau misinterpreted the settlement’s terms and allowed Gulf Coast claimants to recover millions for economic losses that aren’t directly tied to the spill.

It has been forced to add hundreds of millions of dollars to the estimated $7.8 billion cost of the settlement and may have to pay billions more than expected, BP said.

Barbier has repeatedly rejected BP’s requests to force Juneau to adopt a more restrictive interpretation of the accord. A U.S. appeals court heard arguments in the dispute earlier this month.

BP asked Barbier July 19 for the “temporary pause” in settlement payments to give Freeh time to finish his corruption investigation, Jeffrey Clark, a partner at Kirkland & Ellis LLP and one of BP’s lawyers, said at the hearing.

The case is In re Oil Spill by the Oil Rig Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010, 10-mdl-02179, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana (New Orleans).

For more, click here.


Axiom Law: BigLaw’s Friend or Enemy?

Axiom Law, which has 1,000 employees in 11 offices, isn’t a legal process outsourcer, claims its founder and CEO Mark Harris. But it’s also not a law firm, he says. Yet it’s been solely responsible for the legal work on more than 10 M&A transactions over the past year -- the kind of work law firms once thought they alone could do. It aspires to become “one of the world’s largest providers of legal services,” Harris tells Bloomberg Law’s Lee Pacchia. Listen for yourself to decide if it’s a threat or a friend to BigLaw.

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

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.