January 24, 2021

Volume XI, Number 24

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January 22, 2021

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Legal Industry News: Law Firm Hires, Mergers, Accomplishments and Legal Technology Companies Give Back

Summer is in full swing, and the legal industry continues to adapt to the challenges of  the Coronavirus, and business continues to roll forward.

Law Firm Hires and Leadership Changes

Even with the disruption of COVID-19, law firms continue to hire and make leadership adjustments, adapting to the new normal.

Below is a quick rundown of some law firm hires and promotions over the past two weeks.

Steptoe & Johnson PLLC elected Christopher L. Slaughter as the law firm’s new CEO. Slaughter took over the position July 1st, succeeding Susan S. Brewer, who became Steptoe & Johnson’s CEO in 2009. 

Slaughter began his career as a labor and employment attorney at Steptoe & Johnson (S&J) over 20 years ago, focusing his practice on litigation and counseling, including contract administration and labor negotiations. Slaughter was previously a managing member of S& J’s Huntington, West Virginia office. 

“I am honored to be elected to this position by my partners. I look forward to carrying on our tradition of excellent client service and upholding the core values that have sustained Steptoe & Johnson for 107 years,” Slaughter said. 

Brewer will remain with Steptoe & Johnson to assist with Slaughter’s transition and to provide project leadership.  

Bill Purcell FBT
Bill Purcell, FBT

Former Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell joined Frost Brown Todd (FBT) as a counsel in the firm’s Government Services practice group. 

Purcell has practiced law in Nashville for over 30 years, serving as a courtroom advocate and CEO advisor for companies that work with municipalities and other governmental entities. In 2006, he received the John C. Tune award from the Nashville Bar Association for public service. 

“I have had the same goal from the very start of my law practice and public life—to work with the smartest, most ethical people to solve challenging issues,” Purcell said. “From the first time I walked into the Frost Brown Todd offices, I knew I was home.”

Purcell was elected mayor of Nashville in 1999 and re-elected in 2003. During his tenure, he increased public education funding by 50 percent and built 26,000 affordable housing units. 

“As we enter a time when our public and private sectors are challenged like never before, there could not be a better time to bring aboard someone with Bill’s talents,” said FBT Chairman Robert Sartin, who also is based in the firm’s Nashville office. “We are in this with our clients to win—Mayor Purcell is going to be a difference-maker for our clients.”’

Dino Hadzibegovic joined the Silicon Valley Office of Dickinson Wright as Of Counsel. Hadzibegovic’s practice focuses on trademark and patent litigation, due diligence and patent portfolio analysis. He has represented both plaintiffs and defendants in cases involving mobile platform architectures, networking, semiconductors, wireless technology and telecommunication standards.

Before joining Dickinson Wright, Hadzibegovic was the IP Counsel for JUUL Labs, where he carried out patent and trademark litigation in federal courts, international courts and the ITC.

Shanlon Wu and Julie Grohovsky joined Cohen Seglias Pallas Greenhall & Furman (Cohen Seglias) as partners in the firm’s Washington, D.C. office. Wu will lead the Cohen Seglias’ new White Collar Defense & Government Investigations Group. Grohovsky will lead the firm’s new False Claims Act & Whistleblower Group, where Wu will also practice. Both Wu and Grohovsky previously had their own firm, Wu Grohovsky. 

“Shan and Julie are highly regarded for their knowledge and experience with white-collar defense, college student defense, as well as government investigations. Their practices are in line with our firm’s growth, and we are excited to build our Washington, D.C. footprint with them on board,” said Cohen Seglias Managing Partner George Pallas. 

Wu is a former federal prosecutor, handling student defense and high profile white-collar matters involving companies and individuals facing prosecutions and investigations for health care fraud, defrauding the government and bribery allegations.

Grohovsky’s practice focuses on whistleblowers who bring cases under the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act, as well as representing victims in civil and criminal cases and Title IX proceedings. 

Grohovsky previously served as an attorney-advisor to the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Justice, investigating fraud allegations, abuse, and waste in the department. She also served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the District of Columbia, training lawyers and support staff. 

Eric J. Peterman joined Sugar Felsenthal Grais & Helsinger (Sugar Felsenthal) as a partner in the firm’s newly opened New York office. 

Peterman has over two decades of corporate restructuring, corporate transactional and structured finance experience. He previously served as a Senior Counsel, Finance Department at DLA Piper, advising on insurance-related securities transactions.

“Coming to Sugar Felsenthal has been the best move of my career,” Peterman said. “The energy with which my new partners take on clients’ issues is electric; their intellectual horsepower, tremendous, and the creative and practical lawyering I have already seen is among the best I’ve ever encountered.” 

Law Firm Mergers, Accomplishments and Attorney Honors

Troutman PepperTroutman Sanders and Pepper Hamilton became Troutman Pepper (Troutman Pepper Hamilton Sanders LLP) July 1. The new firm, which has 1,100 attorneys across 23 offices, is led by Steve Lewis, chair and CEO.

The merger was previously scheduled to take place April 1, but was postponed until July due to the coronavirus crisis. Both firms worked together to launch a COVID-19 resource center to provide detailed guidance on legal and business issues related to the pandemic. 

“The combining of the two storied firms presented an opportunity to seamlessly merge different but complementary strengths of each,” Lewis said. 

Pepper Hamilton focuses on life sciences, health care and private equity practices, while Troutman Sanders focuses on the insurance, finance, banking and energy industries.

The Grand Rapids Symphony Board of Directors named Varnum Partner Luis Avila as the chair of its executive committee. Avila has served on the board for the past three years. In addition to his position with the Grand Rapids Symphony Board of Directors, he serves on the boards of the Grand Rapids Art Museum, Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority and the Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Avila represents clients in labor matters before Michigan Employment Relations Commission and National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), and advises employers on workplace matters and represents clients addressing matters involving federal and state laws. He also serves as the co-chair of Varnum’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

Solar PanelsK&L Gates advised solar energy systems developer Unico Solar Investors on a long term joint venture with renewable energy investor Excelsior Energy Capital to build, operate and own commercial and industrial solar projects across the U.S.

Unico Solar will develop and manage the portfolio of projects, which includes ground-mount, rooftop, and carport solar projects, providing clean electric to municipalities and property owners and educational institutions. Construction is expected to begin later this year. 

K&L Gates advisory team was led by Seattle partner David Benson and included Seattle partner Elizabeth Crouse, Houston partner Edmundo de la Fuente and Portland partner William Holmes. Seattle associates Adam Heyd and Brad Lewis, Orange County associate Lana Le Hir, Houston associate Olivia Mora, and Boston associate Mike O’Neill were also part of the advisory team.

Erin Clifford Clifford Law
Erin Clifford,
Clifford Law Offices

Erin Clifford, partner at Clifford Law Offices, was unanimously elected to the WTTW/WFMT Board of Directors at its June 30 Board meeting. She joins her father, Robert A. Clifford, founder and senior partner at Clifford Law Offices, on the Board.  This is just the latest in Clifford’s philanthropic activities, as she has an extensive resume of service in Chicago. Ms. Clifford serves as board chair of Lawyers Lend-A-Hand, which devotes resources and provides mentoring opportunities in disadvantaged Chicago communities through volunteer work and grant distributions.  Erin Clifford also serves on the board of Friends of Prentice Board, working to provide excellent health care for women.  Additionally, she supports ChiArts, the Chicago High School for the Arts, and many other civic activities in Chicago.

Legal Technology News

In our previous column, we discussed the legal industry response to the Black Lives Matter movement.  This week, legal companies are finding ways to empower the social justice movement in concrete ways, providing access to resources to further the fight for justice in courtrooms across the country.

In celebration of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, legal technology company Casetext announced they are providing free access to the Compose brief automation for Title VII motions for the rest of the summer.  Bostock v. Clayton County extended Title VII protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender workers.  Jake Heller, Casetext’s CEO and co-founder, indicated the company was thrilled at the court’s landmark decision on Title VII rights and its impact on the LGBTQIA community, saying,

As part of transforming the legal research space, we want to be part of making it the norm and not the exception for legal technology companies to become active participants in issues of social justice. It is our responsibility to make sure the technology we develop is in the hands of those who can use it to expand access to justice, particularly to marginalized and disadvantaged communities.

Casetext, whose technology uses machine learning on key elements of legal practice and powers CARA A.I. and Compose litigation automation, had previously made their legal research materials complimentary for attorneys working on pro bono representation to victims of excessive police force as well as protestors and journalists exercising First Amendment rights in response to the Black Lives Matter protests.  (Attorneys interested in that service can request it here)

Casetext technology enables lawyers to focus on strategy and persuasion by removing the rote, repetitive elements of brief writing.  Now, their technology is helping attorneys find justice for their clients.  Heller says, “We hope that access to this technology will empower the attorneys who are on the ground in the fight against discrimination.”

In a several vein, Thomson Reuters announced last week a Civil Rights Legal Materials and News webpage available at civilrights.westlaw.com.  The news page lives outside the paywall, and contains news coverage and Westlaw legal content, including statutes and case law, divided into three major categories: police conduct, unwarranted criminal prosecution and the right to protest.  Additionally, the page offers ways to find Civil Rights attorneys.

Steele Compliance Solutions, a global leader in Ethics & Compliance Management, recently announced the worldwide launch of “Risk Intelligence Data,” an Enterprise Data as a Service (DaaS) platform delivering real-time, high-quality risk and compliance data. In the current climate, amidst a global COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn, companies need access to data to properly vet partnerships while making decisions quickly.  Christian Focacci, VP of Product Development at Steele Compliance solutions points to the need for better tech to help compliance professionals sort through the publicly identifiable data to identify risk.  He says,

We are providing compliance teams with unmatched levels of data coverage through our proprietary datasets and continuous media monitoring. In particular, our business disruption data set will be critical in helping our clients proactively mitigate risk during the COVID-19 pandemic, by helping to identify customer and vendor risk through early detection of business deficiencies.

Steele’s Risk Intelligence Data delivers information on adverse media and negative news, watchlist and sanction lists, Politically Exposed Persons (PEP), OFAC related ownership and state owned entities, integrating information into third-party platforms to provide greater insights into risk information with fewer false positives.

That’s an overview of what’s happening in the legal industry.  We’ll be back soon with more updates.

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Copyright ©2020 National Law Forum, LLCNational Law Review, Volume X, Number 204
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Eilene Spear is the Operations and Projects Manager for the National Law Review.  She heads the NLR remote publication team as the Lead Writer and assists in a variety of capacities in the management of the National Law Review.

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