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Legal Industry News for August 12, 2019: Law Firm Updates, Hires, Awards and Legal Technology

Even though it’s summer is still in full swing and folks are cycling through vacations, law firms and the legal industry continues to hum with activity. 

Read on to see more on legal industry hires, recognitions, and new technology and research impacting the legal industry.

Law Firm Hiring, Strategic Partnerships and Expansions

Vincenzo Franco
Vincenzo Franco

Van Ness Feldman announces the return of Vincenzo Franco as a partner in the Electric and Renewable Energy Practices.  Franco was at Van Ness Feldman from 2010-2014, and left the firm to work with Exelon Corporation, as Assistant General Counsel – Wholesale Trading Compliance and then Associate General Counsel at Exelon Corporation, where he led the compliance function for Constellation.  With his return to VNF, Franco focuses on transactional, regulatory and enforcement matters representing utilities, generation owners, developers and other investors before FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission).  VNF Chair, Richard Agnew, indicated his excitement at Franco’s return.  Agnew says, “His [Franco’s] in- house experience coupled with his knowledge of our clients makes Vincenzo an exceptionally strong addition to the firms highly regarded electric practice."

Leading international technology and energy law firm Baker Botts LLP announced that it has formed strategic partnerships with the Cannon HoustonStation Houston and Capital Factory. These Houston organizations are designed to aid entrepreneurs and will specifically be working with Baker Botts’ Emerging Company and Venture Capital practice based in Palo Alto.  The firm’s experience in advising entrepreneurs, emerging growth companies, investors and venture capitalists provides a valuable resource for the incubators and the entrepreneurs they nurture and host.   Samantha Crispin, the Technology Sector Chair at Baker Botts points out this partnership will allow Baker Botts to work with a generation of Texas-based companies from their very inception.  She says, “One of the most intriguing aspects of these partnerships is the expected cross-pollination of our Texas and California ECVC practices and that the most promising companies will gain exposure to potential investors, including those in Silicon Valley.”

Baker Botts Managing Partner John Martin embraces the opportunities for growth this partnership will provide.  He says, “We have a history of working with emerging and technology companies throughout their full life cycle, and we expect these partnerships will expand those opportunities more broadly. Some of our firm’s largest clients are businesses with which we have worked since they were startups themselves.”

Dinsmore has expanded operations onto the East Coast, opening an office in the Boston Financial District. Three partners—Javier F. FloresEric V. Skelly and Brian Blaesser will lead the new office and the firm’s expansion into this region.  The firm will primarily represent clients in litigation and real estate development in New England. With the opening of the office in Boston, Dinsmore now has a presence in 25 cities across the country.

Sherman & Howard announced they added two attorneys, Member James Beard and Associate Robert Thompson, to their Denver office in their Litigation, Trials and Appeals group. 

Beard has been litigating complex civil and intellectual property matters for over ten years, with a particular emphasis on handling complex discovery matters.  He has argued cases in federal courts across the country, and has handled matters before the International Trade Commission (ITC) and the U.S. Court of International Trade. Beard says, “With its history and reputation in Colorado, the Firm is uniquely positioned to serve the explosive growth of Denver’s high-tech market.”

Along with Beard, Sherman & Howard is also adding Robert Thompson as an Associate to the Litigation, Trials and Appeals practice group.  Thompson’s practice will focus on securities litigation and enforcement matters.  His previous experience in house at a leading financial institution has prepared him well for representing clients in SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission), DOJ (Department of Justice) and FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority ) investigations.  Katie Varholak, Litigation Practice Group Leader at Sherman & Howard, “Thompson’s background in finance, securities and complex corporate investigations positions him to serve a wide range of the firm’s clients.”

Robinson Cole Attorneys
Kenneth A. Sherman and Virginia K. Trunkes

Robinson & Cole, a 200 attorney firm with offices throughout the northeast announced Kenneth A. Sherman and Virginia K. Trunkes joined the firm as counsel in the Construction practice. 

Sherman is joining the Boston office, while Trunkes will be in the New York office. Sherman has experience assisting project owners, developers and general contractors, and others, in navigating construction disputes, and with drafting contracts, negotiation and entity formation. 

Trunkes works with developers, apartment building, brownstone and condominium unit owners, and others, in negotiating contracts and adjacent-owner license access agreements. R+C Construction chair, Gregory R. Faulkner, says the attorneys are welcome additions and will help the firm strengthen its presence in the construction market, and “Their hands-on experience is an added value to our practice and further enhances our collective ability to provide the best service to our clients.” 

Law Firm Accomplishments, Awards and Recognitions

McKool Smith, noted litigation firm, secured an insurance recovery victory on behalf of Pfizer in Delaware Superior Court.  This victory allows Pfizer to continue to compel two excess insurers to cover the costs related to defend and settle multidistrict litigation surrounding pain treatments Celebrex and Bextra.  McKool Smith principals Robin CohenAdam S. Ziffer and Marc Ladd represented Pfizer in this litigation.  A Delaware state court judge awarded partial summary judgment, saying Arch Insurance Company and U.S. Specialty Insurance Company were unable to apply a “specific litigation exclusion” in their D&O policies, and that these insurers must help cover the cost of the $486 million settlement.

Diversity AbstractSeyfarth Shaw was recently recognized for its commitment to diversity and inclusion by the California Minority Counsel Program  (CMCP) receiving the Drucilla Stender Ramey Majority-Owned Law Firm Award.  The CMCP is a state-wide non-profit dedicated to opening up the legal profession to attorneys from all backgrounds, by providing attorneys of color with opportunities for business development.  Seyfarth Shaw has offices in Sacramento, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Century City. The firm has a recognized commitment to diversity, and was also recently named a “Best Law Firm for Women” for the ninth year in a row, and was shortlisted for the 2019 Chambers USA Diversity & Inclusion Awards.  The firm is especially proud of its “Rooney Rule” initiative, where for every open associate position, at least one diverse candidate is considered and interviewed. 

Full-service law firm Pillsbury’s Corporate practice, in a review of M&A and private equity, was ranked among the Top 20 legal advisers in the US and Japan.  Factset highlighted Pillsbury as a top 20 firm in Japan for M&A deals, and in the United States, the firm was in the top 20 for middle-market M&A transactions.  Along those lines, Refinitiv listed Pillsbury in the top 20 for deal count for firms handling U.S. middle-market mergers and acquisitions, so far in 2019, and Bloomberg named Pillsbury in the top 20 for active law firm advising on deals valued up to 250 million.  Pillsbury has over 100 experienced M&A attorneys across the firm’s twenty global offices.  Highlighted transactions for 2019 include Invitae Corp.’s acquisition of biotechnology company Jungla, Salarius Pharmaceuticals on its merger with Flex Pharma, and Intel’s acquisition of Barefoot Networks, just to name a few.

DirectWomen AwardsDirectWomen, dedicated to increasing the presence of women attorneys on corporate boards, will honor 2019 award recipients in October in New York City at the Sandra Day O’Connor Board Excellence Award Luncheon.  These awards are given to recognize the efforts made by the recipients to increase corporate board diversity. The Sandra Day O’Connor Board Excellence Award honors women who have served on the board of a public company and have advanced the mission of diversity in the workplace. This year, Angela Braly, Co-founder of the Policy Circle and former Chair and CEO of WellPoint, now known as Anthem, among others, and Rose McKinney-James, Managing Principal of Energy Works LLC.  PNC will be presented with the 2019 Board Diversity Award, which recognizes corporations that served as leaders in achieving board diversity by showing a commitment to diversity in the boardroom. Linda L. Addison, Immediate Past Managing Partner of Norton Rose Fulbright and Director, Torchmark Corporation will be recognized with the Distinguished Alumna Award, highlighting the accomplishments of an Alumnae who joined a large corporate board since completing the Institute. Finally, the Mary Ann Jorgenson Board Empowerment Award will be presented to DirectWomen Advisory Board Member Alan L. Beller, Senior Counsel, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP; Director, The Travelers Companies, Inc for his work preparing women attorneys to assume the responsibilities of board service.

Commercial Mortgage Alert once again ranked law firm Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP at the top of their commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS) tables, ranking Cadwalader as Number 1 for both Issuer Counsel and Underwriter Counsel, making it the 19th year in a row Cadwalader held that spot for Issuer Counsel.  Further, the firm represented 58% of the issuer offerings floated in the United States in the first half of 2019, and 44% of the CMBS transactions on the underwriter side. Mike Gambro, co-chair of Cadwalader’s Capital Markets Group, says of the rankings, “We work with great clients who expect us to provide top-notch advice and service, and we are fortunate to have the results reflected in our position in the law firm rankings for so many years.” Cadwalader’s Capital Markets Group has attorneys based in New York, Charlotte, Washington, D.C., and London.

Legal Industry Technology, Research and Software Advancements

Qorus, a sales platform connecting contacts, content, and data, recently announced a Share & Track feature to their software.  This addition enables user to send documents securely without attachments, and track how their contacts engage with those documents, such as proposals, pitches, and contracts.  This enables sales teams to see and analyze which part of their proposal process is most important to their prospects, and they gain insight into their materials to ensure they create content that is engaging and effective. 

Computer SoftwareThe documents are sent via tracked sharing links that can be inserted into messages to clients.  These links, when clicked, track the engagement with the content and launch an online document viewer and the file can be viewed securely, providing the information securely to the prospect.  The sales team can see how long the prospect looked at the document, which pages were looked at the most, and whether or not the document was passed on, providing valuable feedback on what really matters to prospects.  Ray Meiring, Qorus CEO, explains “This creates a powerful feedback loop that tells the team how interested a potential buyer is, and gives them insight into the prospect’s true propensity to buy – allowing them to adjust their approach accordingly.”

With the constant concerns regarding cybersecurity and with increasing regulation on a variety of levels, the introduction of Digital Defense’s Frontline InsightTM with on-demand peer analysis of security risk metrics gives companies another arrow in their quiver to secure their data.  Frontline Insight is accessible via Frontline.Cloud Digital Defense’s Saas security assessment platform.  This allows Digital Defense users to access information to reduce their own security risk, and provide information on how to evolve and maintain their information security programs so that they perform at top levels.  By offering comparison from an industry perspective, but also integrating suggestions based on organizational and employee size, the tool can highlight vulnerable areas and threats, and assist in the development of benchmarks.  Larry Hurtado, President & CEO of Digital Defense says this is a useful product for companies looking to evaluate their data security practices in comparison to organizations similar in size and scope.  He says, “Frontline.Cloud enables clients to gauge their success in ways that previously required more intensive consultative studies. Now this information is available with just a few clicks.”

Of particular interest to law firms as they look at managing law firm succession strategies as baby boomers exit the workforce and millennials assume greater responsibility is the results of a Manpower Group Survey, indicating only six percent of millennials want to be leaders, and just four percent want to manage others. The survey indicates that millennials, on a whole, are more interested in developing their own skill sets, and less interested in learning to manage and lead others.  This suggests that law firms will be among the 84% of organizations facing a leadership shortfall, and developing a leadership pipeline for law firms, as well as client relationship management, will become increasingly important as firm leadership transitions become more complex and frequent. 

Intapp has recently released a white paper The Modern CMO: Advancing Marketing From Reactive to Predictive.  This paper discusses how adopting a modern approach to law firm business development, and harnessing data across the entire client lifecycle can lead to insights that drive smarter and more strategic decisions in law firms.  Topics discussed include the role of the CMO as a change agent, smart collaboration in action and how to transition from a reactive to a predictive approach. 

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About this Author

Eilene Spear legal news editor and writer at the National Law Review
Operations Project Manager & Lead Writer

Eilene Spear is the Operations and Projects Manager for the National Law Review.  She edits and formats author profiles, legal news content and legal event listings from prominent law firms who publish on the NLR website.

As Lead Writer, Eilene writes extensively on a variety of legal topics; including legal marketing topics, interviews with top legal marketing professionals and the newest trends in legal marketing.  Additionally, Eilene writes on issues affecting the legal industry, such as women attorneys and the challenges they face, along...

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