Keep your finger on the legal world's pulse
10th July 2024
Merger mania: Law firms play musical chairs in global growth game
Law firm mergers are increasing and expected to continue their rise into 2025, according to Fairfax Associates. The consultancy reported nine law firm combinations in the second quarter alone, bringing this year's total to 29, slightly up from previous years. Notably, Allen & Overy and Shearman & Sterling merged, marking a significant union. Kristin Stark of Fairfax noted heightened merger discussion and activity, predicting an uptick in completed mergers exceeding 2023's numbers. The increase is being driven by ongoing client demands for practice depth and specialization, challenges smaller firms face without mergers. Key markets for mergers include California, London, New York, and Texas, with interest also growing in mature markets like Atlanta. Significant second-quarter mergers involved Phoenix-based Fennemore and Denver-based Moye White, along with Philadelphia's Mintzer Sarowitz Zeris Ledva & Meyers merging with Dallas's Willis Law Group. The trend reflects a broader move towards consolidating to meet client needs for larger, more capable firms. 
Megadeals and gigabytes: Tech, healthcare, and energy power M&A surge
In the first half of 2024, M&A activity in the U.S. reached a five-year high, with Skadden, Arps, Slate Meagher & Flom leading the legal adviser rankings, according to a London Stock Exchange Group report. Goodwin Procter led in total deal volume, despite a 25% drop in global deals to a four-year low. Megadeals surged 70% to $363.4bn, while private equity-backed M&A rose 36% to $369.5bn. U.S. M&A activity alone increased by 39% to $813.1bn, representing 53% of global activity. Conversely, Asia Pacific and emerging markets saw declines. Significant law firm movements included Debevoise & Plimpton rising to 20th from 57th, and DLA Piper moving up to 15th. Skadden’s Allison Schneirov noted a cautiously optimistic outlook amid longer negotiations and a discrepancy between announced and active deals. The sector focus was predominantly on technology, healthcare, and energy/power, making up 40% of cross-border deals which grew 15% to $504.5bn.
Legal eagles soar in altruism Olympics: Am Law 200's race to give back
Law schools are advising students to examine law firms' pro bono numbers to create meaningful distinction in their careers. The American Lawyer has ranked Am Law 200 firms based on their pro bono work in 2023. The ranking takes into account the average number of pro bono hours per lawyer and the percentage of lawyers who performed more than 20 hours of pro bono work. The top 10 firms in terms of pro bono work for 2023 include Jenner & Block, Covington & Burling, WilmerHale, Patterson Belknap, Dechert, Munger Tolles, Arnold & Porter, Orrick, Morgan Lewis, and Debevoise. Despite a slight decrease in pro bono hours compared to previous years, the pro bono space still offers significant opportunities for attorneys. Debbie Berman, pro bono co-chair at Jenner & Block, emphasized the need for continued progress in pro bono work. The Am Law 200 as a whole contributed approximately 5m hours of pro bono work. The 2024 Pro Bono Scorecard: National Report provides further details on the rankings.  
Advice from a partner at Seeger Weiss: Work hard, take ownership, and be proactive
Steven Daroci, a partner at Seeger Weiss, shares his advice for success in litigation. He emphasizes the importance of working hard, taking ownership of cases, and being proactive. Daroci suggests that associates should not treat assignments as mere tasks to check off a to-do list, but rather think about how their work fits into the larger litigation strategy. He also encourages young attorneys to observe high-quality lawyers in action and develop their own unique style of advocacy. Daroci believes that rushing to develop a niche prematurely can limit opportunities for development, and instead recommends gaining a broad range of experience. He also highlights the challenge of working with partners who have different personalities and working styles, but sees it as a learning opportunity. Daroci advises his younger self to never hesitate to offer recommendations or proposed courses of action, as it helps develop judgment and ownership of cases. He also embraces technology to litigate cases more efficiently. In addition to his work at Seeger Weiss, Daroci serves on the New Jersey Supreme Court District VII Ethics Committee, investigating ethical grievances against attorneys.

Navigating dual roles: Am Law 50 leaders on litigation and management
Leaders from Am Law 50 firms such as Nancy Chung from Sidley Austin, Megan Nishikawa from Hogan Lovells, Petrina Hall McDaniel from Squire Patton Boggs, and Anthony Barkow from Jenner & Block share valuable insights into balancing top-tier litigation and firm management. These partners highlight the complexities of guiding significant legal practices while fostering a collaborative culture, emphasizing the importance of communication, mentorship, and adaptability in a dynamic legal environment. Their experiences underscore the need for effective leadership amid the challenges of maintaining firm cohesion and adapting to flexible work arrangements post-pandemic.
Top 10 most prestigious law firms in Texas
Everything’s bigger in Texas, including the job opportunities for lawyers who are looking to work in the region’s thriving energy and financial markets. Vault’s recently released regional rankings reveal the top 10 most prestigious law firms in Texas. The rankings are based on votes from associates who rated firms on a 1 to 10 scale. The top 10 firms include Vinson & Elkins, Kirkland & Ellis, Latham & Watkins, Baker Botts, Gibson Dunn, Sidley Austin, Akin Gump, Norton Rose Fulbright, Haynes and Boone, and Skadden.
Alston & Bird expands to Chicago and adds new LA office with key hires from Sidley Austin
Alston & Bird is expanding its U.S. presence by opening its first office in Chicago and a second location in Los Angeles, driven by the recruitment of three former Sidley Austin partners. The new Chicago office will be led by M&A expert Dave Zampa and real estate finance lawyer Erin Felchner, joined by veteran litigators Tery Gonsalves and Chaka Patterson. The additional Los Angeles office in Century City will be opened by real estate finance lawyer Brielle Cuskelly. This strategic expansion aims to strengthen the firm’s capabilities in real estate, healthcare, and corporate transactions, positioning Alston & Bird for significant growth in two key U.S. markets.
Microsoft to pay $14.4m in discrimination settlement
Microsoft has agreed to pay $14.4m to settle allegations of retaliation and discrimination against employees who took protected leave, including parental and disability leave. The settlement follows a multi-year investigation by the California Civil Rights Department, which found that employees who took leave due to pregnancy, disability, or to care for a family member received lower bonuses and unfavorable performance reviews. This disproportionately affected women and people with disabilities. The settlement includes measures to prevent future discrimination, such as updated manager training, and it will be monitored by an outside consultant. The majority of the settlement money will go towards compensating affected workers, with each eligible employee receiving a base payment of $1,500. Microsoft, which has about 221,000 employees worldwide, denies the allegations but has agreed to make the necessary changes to protect workers in California.
Oxycontin maker prepares for new settlement after SCOTUS rejects previous deal
OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma is preparing for a new settlement after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected its previous deal. The company, owned by the Sackler family, is facing thousands of lawsuits related to the opioid crisis. The previous settlement involved the Sackler family giving up ownership of the company and contributing up to $6bn. However, the Supreme Court ruled against the settlement, stating that it did not provide legal protections for the Sackler family. Now, lawyers are working on a revised deal, with a deadline of September 9. If a deal is not reached, litigation could resume, potentially wiping out the Sackler family's fortune. Congress or bankruptcy protection are also possible avenues for the family. The opioid epidemic has caused around 80,000 deaths per year, and Purdue's settlement would be among the largest in the ongoing efforts to combat the crisis.
Judge dismisses lawsuit challenging Amazon's 'Buy Box' listings
A U.S. judge has dismissed a proposed class action against Amazon accusing it of obscuring product listings for lower-priced items with better delivery times, duping millions of consumers and causing them to pay more for purchases. The lawsuit focused on Amazon’s “Buy Box,” which is the version of a product featured in a "Buy Now" or "Add to Cart" box on product pages. Other offers are listed further below from "Other Sellers on Amazon". U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman in Seattle federal court said the plaintiffs had not been able to demonstrate how they were allegedly harmed. Amazon had argued that "there is nothing unfair or deceptive about a retailer deciding which product offerings it believes will be most appealing to its customers, and then letting customers accept or decline those offers based on their own evaluation".
London's top litigation barristers: Who stands out? International asked London's top litigation partners to name the barristers they rate. Blackstone Chambers' Kieron Beale KC and Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan's Andrew Green KC were highly recommended. Fountain Court Chambers' Richard Handyside KC and Tamara Oppenheimer KC were praised for their work on complex cases. 4 New Square Chambers' Roger Stewart KC was commended for his strength and ease of work. One Essex Court's Laurence Rabinowitz KC and Sonia Tolaney KC were recognized as leaders at the commercial bar. Marie Demetriou KC from Brick Court Chambers was highlighted for her work in competition and human rights law. Essex Court Chambers' Anna Dilnot KC and Joe Smouha KC were also mentioned. Anneli Howard KC from Monckton Chambers and Steven Gee KC from Arnold & Porter were praised for their expertise.

From legal briefs to literary feats: Tabshouri's case for creativity
Brooke Tabshouri, a lawyer, experienced burnout in her legal career and turned to writing as a creative outlet. She switched law firms to have a more flexible schedule and found success as a writer under the pen name B.L. Blanchard. Her novels, including The Peacekeeper and The Mother, explore alternate worlds and historical what-ifs. Tabshouri, who is of Native American heritage, incorporates her background into her writing. Despite the challenges of finding time to write, she prioritizes her passion and maintains a work-life balance. Her writing career has gained recognition, winning the 2022 Sidewise Award for Best Long-Form Alternate History. Tabshouri's story serves as an inspiration for lawyers seeking creative outlets and pursuing their passions outside of the legal profession.


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