LeClairRyan Starts Legal Support Center: Business of Law

LeClairRyan is partnering with consulting firm UnitedLex to open a center that will centralize the law firm’s legal support needs, such as document review, in a bid to curb costs.

“Now we can offer clients an integrated service -- a full menu of services, which decreases cost, increases cost predictability and efficiency and gives our clients what they want,” LeClairRyan Chairman Gary LeClair said in a telephone interview.

The LeClairRyan Legal Solutions Center, which opens today in Richmond, Virginia, will be staffed by 400 employees who are transferring from the law firm. While most are project workers, the total includes about 25 former LeClairRyan staff members, including three ex-shareholders and three non-equity partners.

LeClair said the firm explored options including traditional outsourcing or investing in an in-house center before opting for the partnership with UnitedLex. LeClairRyan will use UnitedLex’s technology and existing infrastructure, helping the law firm to improve efficiency and better manage costs while avoiding the risk and uncertainty of having multiple vendors involved in a project.

“The benchmark was not other law firms but other well-run businesses and what they are doing,” LeClair said.

LeClair Chief Executive Officer David Freinberg says he also expects the firm to use the center for due diligence in transactional work like mergers and acquisitions. “Clients are demanding better, faster, cheaper and we’ll be able to satisfy that need,” he said in an interview.

LeClairRyan has about 350 lawyers at 22 U.S. offices in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington.

Squire Sanders Reappoints Managing Partners Crossley and Mahon

Peter M. Crossley and Stephen C. Mahon were reappointed managing partners of Squire Sanders UK LLP and Squire Sanders US LLP, respectively. They will serve three-year terms beginning Jan. 1.

Crossley is a member of the London disputes practice while Mahon is a Cincinnati corporate partner. Their reappointments require consent from the firm’s global board, according to a firm statement.


Constantine Cannon Lawyer Testifies for Chevron about Corruption

A New York commercial litigator said on the stand that he bowed out of the Ecuadorean pollution case against Chevron Corp. in 2010 when he discovered “shocking” levels of corruption on the plaintiffs’ side, Bloomberg Businessweek’s Paul M. Barrett reports.

Jeffrey Shinder, the managing partner of the New York office of the Constantine Cannon LLP law firm, said that Steven Donziger, the lead plaintiffs’ lawyer fighting Chevron in Ecuador, had lied to him to cover up the ghostwriting of a critical scientific report supposedly written by a court-appointed independent expert in Ecuador. Shinder said that he withdrew from the suit against Chevron on ethical grounds after he learned that, in fact, Donziger had overseen the ghostwriting of the report by American consultants working for Donziger.

“It was a shocking event, and I remember it very clearly,” Shinder testified. Donziger had recruited him in 2009 to help the plaintiffs collect on any victory they scored against Chevron in Ecuador. Shinder tentatively said he would help Donziger but then quit when he did more research about the case. Shinder is best-known for bringing antitrust lawsuits against U.S. credit-card companies on behalf of merchants.

Shinder’s testimony supports Chevron’s allegation that Donziger obtained the $19 billion Ecuadorean contamination verdict in February 2011 by means of fabricated evidence and other deceptions. The San Ramon, California-based company is now trying to persuade a federal trial judge in New York to issue an order forbidding Donziger and his clients--thousands of poor residents of the rainforest in northeastern Ecuador--from ever profiting from the $19 billion judgment.

Shinder is just the latest in a series of former Donziger allies--fellow lawyers, technical consultants, and financiers-- who have turned on the plaintiffs’ lawyer and accused him of dishonesty. Donziger denies wrongdoing and has attempted to portray Chevron’s counter-assault on him as a tactic to avoid paying the $19 billion Ecuadorean judgment, which was upheld on appeal in that country.

Donziger has admitted, though, that the expert report about which Shinder testified was indeed ghostwritten. Donziger has suggested that whatever means were used to produce that report were legitimate under Ecuadorean law. In his cross-examination of Shinder, a lawyer representing Donziger suggested that Ecuadorean law hadn’t been violated. Shinder stood fast, however, and said that his concern had been how the verdict would look to American courts if the plaintiffs ever tried to enforce it here.

Donziger wasn’t in court to hear Shinder testify. In a written filing, Donziger said he was in Canada to attend proceedings in which the Ecuadorean plaintiffs are attempting to enforce the Ecuadorean verdict against Chevron units in Canada.

Former Lawyer Daugerdas Convicted in Tax-Fraud Scheme Retrial

Former lawyer Paul Daugerdas was convicted in a retrial for what U.S. prosecutors called the biggest criminal tax fraud in history, while former BDO Seidman Chief Executive Officer Denis Field was acquitted.

The mixed verdict was delivered by a jury yesterday in Manhattan federal court after deliberations that began Oct. 29. The men were charged with running a 10-year scheme that created $7 billion in fraudulent tax deductions and more than $1 billion in phony losses. Prosecutors claimed the scheme cost the U.S. Treasury $92 million.

The men were on trial for a second time, on charges of conspiracy, tax evasion and attempting to obstruct the Internal Revenue Service. Their 2011 convictions were overturned because a juror in the first trial lied about her background to get on the case.

Daugerdas, who worked at Jenkens & Gilchrist law firm, was found guilty of seven counts, including tax evasion and conspiracy. He was charged with 16 criminal counts, Field with seven. The trial began with jury selection Sept. 9.

Field “is extremely grateful to the jury for seeing the truth,” his lawyer, Sharon McCarthy, said in an e-mail. “We are beyond relief that Denis Field can now move on with his life and put these terrible years behind him.”

Daugerdas and Field were among seven people were indicted in June 2009 for selling phony tax shelters from 1994 to 2004. Two of the people charged, former BDO Seidman partner Robert Greisman and former Jenkens & Gilchrist attorney Erwin Mayer, pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with the government.

Prosecutors claimed the defendants used shelters named “Short Sales,” “Short Options Strategy,” “Swaps” and “Homer” to generate fraudulent tax losses for at least 931 wealthy individuals.

A jury returned guilty verdicts on May 24, 2011, against Daugerdas and Field; Donna Guerin, another former Jenkens & Gilchrist partner; and David Parse, who worked for Deutsche Bank AG unit Alex. Brown. Craig Brubaker, a second former Alex. Brown accountant, was found not guilty.

U.S. District Judge William Pauley presided over both trials.

The case is U.S. v. Daugerdas, 09-cr-00581, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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Schiff Hardin Adds Product Liability Partners From Goodwin

Elizabeth Runyan Geise and Valerie E. Ross joined Schiff Hardin LLP’s Washington office as partners in the product liability group. Before joining Schiff Hardin, Geise was head of the litigation department in Goodwin Procter LLP’s Washington office. Ross also was a partner at Goodwin Procter.

“Betsy Geise and Val Ross practice at the top of their field,” Robert H. Riley, Schiff Hardin’s chairman and leader of the firm’s product liability group, said in a statement. “They will be joining one of our firm’s strongest national practices, rounding out our capabilities and extending our geographic reach.”

Geise and Ross have experience in complex commercial litigation and counseling, with a focus on products liability, toxic torts, class actions and insurance-coverage disputes. They are experienced in representing corporations in product liability and toxic tort matters arising out of exposure to asbestos and uranium. Geise and Ross also have experience in matters involving environmental laws, occupational health laws and product warnings, the firm said.

Schiff Hardin has lawyers at offices in Ann Arbor, Michigan; Atlanta; Chicago; Lake Forest, Illinois; New York; San Francisco and Washington.

Reed Smith Adds Insurance Recovery Partners in Washington

John W. Schryber and Andrew M. Weiner, formerly partners at Dickstein Shapiro LLP, joined Reed Smith LLP’s insurance recovery group in Washington.

Schryber and Weiner handle coverage disputes for clients across a range of industries loss types.

“John and Andy are a powerful team with a very strong client following and stellar reputation,” Douglas Cameron, firm-wide head of Reed Smith’s insurance recovery group, said in a statement. “The skills and experience they bring to Reed Smith further cement our position as an insurance recovery market leader.”

Schryber has prosecuted the rights of beneficiaries of private indemnity agreements and policyholders in coverage disputes. He also does recovery work for private equity clients.

Weiner was former head of Dickstein’s fidelity/crime insurance practice. He focuses his practice on representing corporate policyholders in insurance coverage disputes. He also advises on insurance policy audits.

“We look forward to working with Reed Smith in D.C., where the firm is focused on growth, not only in the insurance coverage area, but most importantly in the practices that support and are essential to growing a prosperous insurance recovery practice,” Schryber said in a statement.

Reed Smith has more than 1,800 lawyers at 25 offices in the U.S., Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

Kaufman Dolowich Rehires Tejada as Head of New Jersey Practice

Kaufman Dolowich & Voluck LLP said Anna Maria Tejada has rejoined the firm as a partner in the Hackensack, New Jersey, office. Tejada, who will be director of the firm’s New Jersey labor and employment practice, was previously at the Gonzo Law Group.

Tejada focuses her practice in labor and employment law on behalf of management, as well as professional liability and general and special education law, the firm said. She also conducts human resources training to ensure compliance with federal and state employment laws.

“We are thrilled that Anna Maria is rejoining the firm and taking a leadership role in our labor and employment practice group, for which the firm is nationally recognized,” Christopher Nucifora, co-managing partner in the New Jersey office, said in a statement.

Kaufman Dolowich has lawyers in offices in New York City, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Florida.

McCarter & English Adds Labor and Employment Lawyers in Stamford

McCarter & English LLP said labor and employment lawyer Craig Bonnist joins the firm as a partner, along with an associate in the Stamford, Connecticut, office. Both lawyers worked together previously at Bonnist & Cutro LLP.

Bonnist will continue his practice in New York and New Jersey while expanding the firm’s labor and employment group in the Fairfield County region.

Bonnist has more than 20 years of experience representing management and individuals in employment disputes. In addition to litigating before federal and state trial and appellate courts, he appears before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and state and local discrimination agencies, and also litigates arbitrations.

McCarter & English has 400 attorneys based at offices in Boston; Hartford, Connecticut; New York; Newark, New Jersey; Philadelphia; Stamford and Wilmington, Delaware.


Senate Republicans Block Obama’s D.C. Circuit Nomination

Senate Republicans blocked the first of President Barack Obama’s three nominations to vacancies on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

The nomination of Washington lawyer Patricia Millett to the court -- considered the nation’s second most influential because it hears appeals of regulatory cases -- was 55-38, with three voting present. That was five votes short of the 60 that Democrats needed to end a Republican filibuster. Millett co-heads the Supreme Court and national appellate practices at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP.

Republicans said there isn’t enough work to justify filling three vacancies. They didn’t dispute Millett’s professional qualifications as a Supreme Court litigator. Still, they contended that her nomination was part of Obama’s plan to “pack” the court with judges more likely to uphold rules proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency and other regulatory agencies.

Obama and Democrats “don’t want any meaningful check on the president,” Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a floor speech. The Republican-run House is such a check, he said, “but the administration can circumvent that with aggressive agency rule making” if the D.C. Circuit “allows it to do so.”

The vote came minutes after the Senate blocked the nomination of Representative Mel Watt, a North Carolina Democrat, to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees government-chartered mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Only one judge nominated by Obama sits on the court, Sri Srinivasan. He was confirmed unanimously in May. Several weeks later, Obama nominated Millett, Georgetown University law professor Nina Pillard and Robert Wilkins, a federal trial-court judge in Washington.

Millett was nominated to fill a seat once held by John Roberts, who became the Supreme Court’s chief justice in 2005, two years after he was confirmed to the appellate court. During the presidency of George W. Bush, Senate Republicans confirmed four of his nominations -- including that of Roberts -- to the D.C. Circuit.

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Crown to Buy Mivisa for $1.64 Billion From Blackstone, N+1

Crown Holdings Inc., a U.S. maker of consumer-goods packaging, agreed to buy Spanish food-can company Mivisa Envases SAU for 1.2 billion euros ($1.64 billion) including debt from Blackstone Group LP, N+1 Mercapital and the company’s management.

Dechert LLP advised Crown, while Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP is representing an affiliate of certain investment funds managed by affiliates of Blackstone Group LP, N+1 Mercapital and management in connection with the sale.

Dechert’s team representing Crown was led by Philadelphia-based corporate attorney William Lawlor and included partners Ian Hartman and Gary Green.

The principal Simpson Thacher team for the transaction includes partners Mike Wolfson, mergers and acquisitions; Euan Gorrie and Antti Pesonen, financing; David Vann, antitrust; and Gary Mandel, tax.

The deal is expected to be completed next year, Philadelphia-based Crown said yesterday in a statement. The acquisition has committed debt financing and is subject to review by the European Commission and other regulatory authorities.

Crown plans to purchase Mivisa, the largest food-can producer in the Iberian Peninsula and Morocco, to expand in Europe and the Middle East, where Crown generated $4 billion of sales in 2012, or 47 percent of the company’s revenue, according to a filing. The Murcia, Spain-based company had sales of 555 million euros and earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of 133 million euros in the year ended June 30, Crown said.


Leonard Leiman, Part of Fulbright & Jaworski Merger, Dies at 82

Leonard M. Leiman, who led the securities-law practice at New York-based Reavis & McGrath when it merged in 1988 with Fulbright & Jaworski in what was then among the largest such marriages in history, has died. He was 82.

He died Oct. 30 at his home in Manhattan following a brief illness, his son, Alan Leiman, said yesterday in an interview.

Leiman (pronounced LY-man) was, until his death, of counsel in the New York office of London-based Norton Rose Fulbright LLP, the successor to the firm he joined in 1956. His last financial-services client was Siebert Financial Corp., the firm founded by Muriel Siebert, the first woman to buy a seat on the New York Stock Exchange. She died in August.

The 1988 merger of Houston-based Fulbright & Jaworski with Reavis & McGrath created the seventh-largest firm in the U.S., with more than 575 lawyers, according to an article in the New York Times. The Times said it was the biggest law-firm merger at the time; the Wall Street Journal called it “among” the largest.

It was part of a wave of consolidations driven by mid-size firms, with 100 to 200 lawyers, that needed to compete with bigger partnerships offering more service at lower prices, the Times said.

Fulbright & Jaworski, the larger partner, with 475 lawyers, sought the merger to take advantage of Reavis & McGrath’s presence in New York and Los Angeles. Leiman was among the best-known lawyers at Reavis & McGrath, along with Frederick R. Adler, who headed its venture-capital practice.

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