Keep your finger on the legal world's pulse
Texas Attorney General impeached
The Texas Legislature has impeached Republican state Attorney General Ken Paxton on 20 articles of impeachment, including abuse of office and bribery. The Senate will hold a trial next, and a two-thirds majority of its 31 members is required for conviction. If convicted, Paxton would be permanently barred from holding office in Texas. Paxton's impeachment has been led by his fellow Republicans, and the move to the Senate could give Paxton's grass-roots supporters and national figures like Trump time to apply more pressure. The impeachment reaches back to 2015 when Paxton was indicted on securities fraud charges. Most of the articles of impeachment stem from his connections to Austin real estate developer Nate Paul and a revolt by Paxton's top deputies in 2020. The allegations include attempts to interfere in foreclosure lawsuits and improperly issuing legal opinions to benefit Paul, as well as firing, harassing and interfering with staff who reported what was going on.
Attorneys push for clarity on self-disclosure standards
Attorneys are calling for more clarity on the standards and benefits of voluntary self-disclosure over a year after the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) head made a speech about cooperation and defence counsel delay tactics. Gurbir Grewal, director of the SEC's Division of Enforcement, said that lawyers who cooperate in a genuine way can help secure more lenient terms for their clients. However, attorneys are sceptical about the value of self-reporting misconduct, with some saying that even if a company does everything it can, it may still be charged. The SEC's Seaboard Report, which evaluates cooperation, is "old enough to drink now", according to Grewal.


Law firm mergers can bring benefits but problems as well
When Allen & Overy and Shearman & Sterling announced their merger plans they said it was “driven by clients’ needs for a seamless global offering of the highest quality and depth.” In-house attorneys agree that broader expertise can indeed be a major upside of law firm mergers. But Kelleen Brennan, assistant general counsel at Axon Enterprise and other in-house veterans who have experienced mergers, say there also can be dark sides, such as new conflicts, administrative hassles and cultural tensions. Kimberly DeCarrera, who was a legal chief and chief financial officer for a nearly a decade before starting her own fractional general counsel business, said conflicts checks are always the leading concern for legal teams when news of a law firm merger breaks. Erin Dunn, a senior account manager at Priori, which helps in-house legal teams hire outside counsel, said it makes sense for firms to join forces at a time of economic uncertainty. Lawyer and legal affairs writer David Lat expects other law firm mergers this year.
Law firms renew leases, give back space to landlords
A number of law firms are renewing leases but giving back space to landlords, according to Savills. Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft renewed 225,000 sq ft at their New York City headquarters, contracting by 34.7% or 120,000 sq ft. Katten Muchin Rosenman renewed 204,000 sq ft at their Chicago HQ, returning 7.3% or 16,000 sq ft of space. Savills reported that the first quarter of the year saw the strongest start to the year for the legal sector since before the pandemic, with law firm leasing totalling 1.6m sq ft, a 45.5% increase from the fourth quarter 2022. Savills also noted that landlords convinced many firms to stay by offering building upgrades and concessions.

Georgia's largest law firms promote more lawyers to partner
Georgia's largest law firms have promoted 40% more new partners in their Georgia offices and 21% firmwide this year compared to their 2022 new partner rounds. The 10 largest Georgia firms promoted 21% more lawyers to partners in all their offices compared to 2022. The rate was much higher in their Georgia offices where they promoted 40% more to partner. They also promoted many more female new partners. However, some analysts believe firms will start cutting back their promotion classes due to economic considerations. The firms also promoted more women to the partnership. Georgia's 10 largest firms promoted a total of 69 women throughout all their offices this year — 43% of all new partners, compared to 35.4% in the previous round of promotions. Two firms on the list promoted firmwide partnership classes that were at least half women: Swift Currie (four of six), and Smith Gambrell (five of six).

Addressing the challenges that impact women in the legal profession
According to the American Bar Association, women now make up a majority of law school students in the United States: 55.3% in 2021. That is an increase compared to 2000 when women represented 48.4% of law students. Jennifer L. Barton, attorney at Robbins DiMonte, believes that the legal industry tends to be slower to evolve with societal shifts but is hopeful this change will push law firms to adapt to this new reality. In her opinion, the most important challenge women attorneys face today is juggling a demanding career with family needs. Her advice to attorneys when choosing a firm is to be mindful of their culture and approach. "It's really important for firms to allow for flexibility and to have good leave policies, as well as be supportive and understanding when these things arise. I think my firm and my colleagues have done a great job", Barton said. 
Specialized focus can provide a fulfilling career trajectory
While numerous considerations may encourage small-firm lawyers to become generalists, some are also finding that maintaining a specialized focus can provide a fulfilling career trajectory. Specialization allows lawyers to more quickly dive into a particular matter, reducing friction and bringing about a quicker resolution, said Colorado-based attorney Megan Douglah of Lyda Law Group. A major benefit to leaving bigger organizations behind and specializing at a small firm, according to attorney Felix Shipkevich, is the “flexibility and intellectual creativity” that comes with working on a smaller scale. However, for young attorneys especially, it can be challenging to develop an area of specialization without endangering the growth of their practice. For Havertown, Pennsylvania-based personal injury and workers’ compensation attorney Daniel J. Siegel, it is best to mantain focus in multiple, but still specific, areas of the law.
Majority against pausing advanced AI models
A new Law survey has revealed 62% of respondents are against imposing a pause on the training of advanced AI models, with 31% in favor of a temporary halt and 7% reporting being unsure. Notably, not a single respondent advocated for a permanent pause in the training of advanced AI models. Respondents in all camps noted the need for regulation, guardrails or other oversight to ensure proper AI usage. The overriding concern of respondents who voted in favor of a temporary pause related to issues of governance and risk. "LLMs are one of the fastest advancing technologies we have seen in history. AI is evolving faster than the population can keep up with it, and society needs time to adapt and assess the risks and shortfalls before we move forward," said an anonymous respondent.


Tonkean launches matter lifecycle management product
Tonkean, a Palo Alto-based company that describes itself as the first-of-its-kind process experience platform, has launched a matter lifecycle management product for corporate legal teams, LegalWorks, that it says enables them to harness the potential of AI-powered process automation technology safely — in a way that will increase process adoption, improve performance, and create business value, but also lower risk and better ensure compliance. LegalWorks comes with two GPT-powered tools developed by Tonkean: AI Front Door, an AI-powered intake tool accessible to employees via email, Slack, Teams, or a customized web portal; LegalGPT, which allows legal teams to create processes that automatically triage and classify unstructured inbound business requests.
Steno raises $15m in Series B funding round
Steno, a tech-enabled provider of litigation support services, has raised $15m in a Series B funding round led by Left Lane Capital, bringing its total raise to $38.5m. The company's flagship product, DelayPay, enables law firms to defer service costs until their case resolves. The funding will be used to expand into new geographic markets, develop adjacent service channels, and expand its tech team. Steno was founded in 2018 as a court reporting agency paired with the non-recourse payment option, DelayPay. The company has grown to over 100 employees and has developed a set of technology tools to support the court reporters who provide services through the platform. Steno plans to expand more broadly in litigation support services, including court reporting, e-filing, and service of process.
Long-neglected law could influence abortion pill's future
Abortion opponents have mapped out a multipronged legal strategy for combating use of the abortion pill mifepristone by invoking an obscure 1873 law called the Comstock Act that made it illegal to send “obscene” or “immoral” materials through the mail. The act outlawed shipping abortion drugs across state lines, punishable by a fine or up to five years in prison. Local leaders in New Mexico have relied on the law in passing ordinances heavily restricting abortion, and Republican elected officials have warned pharmacies and drug distributors that they could one day be prosecuted under the act. Attorney General Raúl Torrez, a Democrat, in an interview said the antiabortion movement is using the act “as a way to implement their goal to institute a national abortion ban.” Federal courts recently have issued conflicting rulings on the relevance of Comstock today. According to Larry Gostin, director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, the Comstock Act should be repealed as it "doesn’t represent the values of Americans today."


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