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Legal Research News; Law Firm Updates and Awards and Law School Admission Changes: September 9, 2019

Labor Day is in the rearview, and the legal world churns on, with new developments, innovations and changes coming in on an almost a daily basis.  This week’s update on the trending news in the legal industry features Clark Hill merging with Las Vegas litigation boutique firm Gentile Cristalli Miller Armeni Savarese, former FedEx Senior Vice President responsible for U.S. Litigation joins Bradley, and six attorneys from Le Clair Ryan move to Fox Rothschild.

Read on to learn more about what’s happening. 

Law Firm Hires, Moves and Mergers

Michael Best recently announced the addition of Mark Yacura to the firm’s Washington DC office.  A seasoned attorney with more than 30 years of experience, he will join Michael Best as a partner and focus on FDA Regulatory issues.  In his career, he has advised his clients on FDA approval and clearance processes, and worked on matters regarding synthetic pharmaceuticals, biotechnology diagnostics, medical devices and conventional foods, along with regulatory matters involving other agencies, such as the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), among others.

Eric Callisto, Group Chair of Michael Best’s Regulatory Practice, sees Yacura’s experience as crucial in advising the firm’s international and domestic clients on the shifting political landscape.  Callisto calls Yacura “highly respected” and says, “it’s an honor to welcome him to our team in the Beltway.”  

Conne Lensing Fed Ex Bradley
Connie Lewis Lensing

Bradley announced that Connie Lewis Lensing, formerly in house at Fed Ex, has joined the firm’s Nashville office.  Lensing had a long and storied career at Fed Ex, where she most recently served as the Senior Vice President responsible for U.S. Litigation.  In her role at Fed Ex, she pioneered the idea of an in-house law firm, bringing litigation and trial responsibilities into the corporate legal department and also  oversaw litigation across the  United States and the Virgin Islands, with an emphasis on employment matters as well as antitrust, governmental actions, and EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) charges. 

Along with being a trailblazer of corporate legal services, Lensing also demonstrated her commitment to civil justice as the Vice-Chair of the Board of Directors and as Chair of the Executive Committee of the US Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform; additionally, she has leadership roles in the organization the Lawyers for Civil Justice.

Throughout her career Lensing has seen the experience of women in legal dramatically changed.  This life experience has given her insight, and she shares her insights by mentoring young women attorneys and championing them.   Kim Martin, chair of Bradley’s Litigation Practice Group, calls Lewis-Lensing’s record of mentoring younger attorneys as “fantastic.”  She says, “We look forward to including her insights and experience in this area to further support Bradley’s mentoring efforts.” 

Bradley Nashville Office Managing Partner Lela Hollabaugh calls Lensing joining Bradley “a thrill” and “a tremendous honor” to partner with Lensing as she “enters a new phase of her career as a litigator and innovator in private practice.”

Fox Rothschild LLP recently welcomed six attorneys from Le Clair Ryan to be spread across the firm’s Washington DC, Texas, and New Jersey offices. 

Joining the Washington DC office are four attorneys, with Robert Fletcher and Brian W. Stolarz coming in as partners and Kristin W. Broz as counsel in the litigation group.  Ashleigh R. Eames joins the firm as an associate, working in the labor and employment practice group.  Fletcher works with corporate clients on litigation in industries such as retail, government, insurance, pharmaceutical and biotechnology.  Stolarz works with clients on white collar criminal defense, with an emphasis on False Claims Act defense and securities enforcement.  He also assists with internal investigations and securities enforcement.  Broz has experience in class action litigation, and her background also includes experience with US and international regulations, consumer protection data privacy matters. Also joining the DC office is Ashleigh R. Eames, she will be an associate in the labor and employment practice, focusing on wage and hour issues and leave and accommodation matters, as well as hiring and workplace compliance matters.

William E. Hammel joins the firm as a partner focusing on labor and employment matters in Dallas, Texas, he has broad experience across labor and employment law, and in arbitration and litigation, but he has a focus on avoiding litigation through prevention and training, utilizing internal auditing tools and conducting investigations. His Texas roots run deep, with a JD from Baylor University and a BA from the University of Texas.

Christopher L. Pizzo joins Fox Rothschild as a partner in the corporate group in the Morristown, New Jersey office. He has a diverse group of clients, frequently working in industries that have a lot of regulation, and focusing on corporate, transactional and Mergers and Acquisitions.

In other big moves, Clark Hill recently announced it was joining forces with Las Vegas litigation boutique firm Gentile Cristalli Miller Armeni Savarese (GCMAS), with six attorneys joining Clark Hill, four as members, two as senior counsel.  This combination grows Clark Hill’s presence in Las Vegas.  Donald Ridge, Member in Charge of Clark Hill's Los Angeles, San Francisco and Las Vegas offices, says “We’re excited about the combination as the team brings significant litigation and trial experience, along with a strong presence and network in Nevada that will benefit all of our clients.”

Dominic Gentile Attorney
Dominic Gentile

The attorneys from Gentile Cristalli Miller Armeni Savarese will work out of Clark Hill’s Las Vegas office.  Dominic Gentile, a founding member of GCMAS is a trial attorney with an impressive record of representing his clients in white collar and bet-the-company litigation matters, nationally and internationally on civil, criminal, securities and commercial fraud investigations and litigations.  Gentile is involved in a variety of organizations associated with trial and litigation law, and he has a long career teaching trial advocacy and evidence at law schools across the country.  Michael Cristalli will be a member with Clark Hill, using his experience representing clients in complex criminal, corporate and civil litigation matters.  Some of the cases he worked on may seem familiar, as they have been featured on dateline NBC, CBS 48 Hours, and Cristalli has been a legal analyst on shows like Good Morning America, MSNBC and Fox and Friends.  Ross Miller is a former Secretary of State of Nevada, the youngest to serve in this role in both Nevada and in the country. In this position, he oversaw Commercial Recordings, Securities, Elections, Nevada Business Portal, and Notaries Public.   His public service also includes serving on State of Nevada Boards including the Board of Prison Commissioners, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, and the State Audit Committee.  Along with this public service, Miller was the Deputy District Attorney in Clark County.  Paola Armeni will join Clark Hill as a Member, and she has a resume that includes representing clients in criminal defense and civil rights cases in Nevada state and federal courts.   Vincent Savarese has worked in federal criminal defense, constitutional law, federal civil rights and asset forfeiture, in complex litigation at the pretrial, trial and appellate stage in state and federal court. He will join Clark Hill as Senior Counsel.  Mark Dzarnoski is joining Clark Hill in the securities and investments group as a Senior Counsel having 30 years of experience.   He guides clients through allegations of criminal fraud and SEC/FTC investigations and civil enforcement actions.

Gentile indicates this is a merger based on shared values.  He says, “It was important to all of us that we merge with a firm that shared our client service philosophy, work ethic and values, and in Clark Hill we found the perfect alignment.”

Law Firm Victories, Achievements and Awards

On September 3, 2019, Gilbert LLP announced that the Commercial Division for the Supreme Court for the State of New York ruled that Gilbert client, Michael Cohen, could continue his litigation against the Trump Organization, his former employer.  Cohen is arguing that the Trump Organization failed to provide attorneys’ fees and reimburse his costs in connection to a variety of legal proceedings and investigations.  Hunter Winstead, who serves as the lead attorney on the matter, indicated an intention to pursue this matter to conclusion, saying, “We intend to obtain full payment of Mr. Cohen’s claims.”   

Just in time for back to school, Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP, announced the publication of their Third Edition of a 50 State Guide on Student Loan Servicing Regulations.  The second edition was published in June of 2018, and this edition captures the changes in the regulatory landscape of this industry, with 6 additional states enacting laws concerning student loan servicing: Colorado, Maine, Nevada, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island.  The third edition covers changes up to May of 2019, and captures some of the updated regulations on licensing fees, processes and actions—demonstrating the steps loan servicers need to take to remain in compliance.  Additionally, changes made in regulation requirements in Washington, DC-based on court rulings are covered by the guide. In this rapidly shifting regulatory landscape, this guide is designed to be a quick reference for student loan servicers (but does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship) with state by state summaries covering state laws, licensing processes, and loan servicers’ duties, as well as each state’s enforcement mechanisms.

North Carolina law firm Poyner Spruill announced partners Karen Chapman, Sarah DiFranco, and Susie Gibbons were recognized as North Carolina Lawyers Weekly’s 2019 Women of Justice Award honorees.  This is a designation that recognizes the highest ideals of the legal profession, and women attorneys in North Carolina who demonstrate leadership, integrity, service, sacrifice and accomplishment in improving justice quality across the state.

Peter Friedenberg and Sara Jane Shanahan of Sherin and Lodgen were both recognized as a “Lawyer of the Year” in Best Lawyers.  Friedenberg was recognized for his work in Real Estate Law, and Shanahan was recognized for Litigation—Insurance.  This is a designation reserved for one attorney in each specialty and location who has received the highest overall peer-feedback for their specific practice area.

Legal Industry and Law School Developments

ScantronContinuing with the back to school theme of this edition of NLR’s Legal Industry Trends; at the end of August Berkeley Law School announced that it will now consider some applicants on the basis of a GRE or GMAT score, and those applicants can avoid the LSAT.  The GRE and GMAT will be accepted for those interested in concurrent or combined degree programs, or for those who are enrolled in graduate school at the time of their application to Berkeley Law.  Part of the reasoning behind this development is the school’s goal to admit “outside-of-the-box thinkers” and a holistic approach to application review, according to Kristin Theis-Alvarex, Assistant Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid.  She says, “Test scores—from any source—are important, but not dispositive.”  Dean Erwin Chemerinksy says, “Allowing these students to apply with the GRE and GMAT will further our interdisciplinary mission and help us to continue to attract outstanding law students.”  This move is part of a pilot program, and the school will evaluate the results of this decision over the next three years carefully to maintain ABA compliance. 

ABA ReportOn the other end of the spectrum, The American Bar Association released its white paper, the ABA’s 2019 Profile of the Legal Profession. This report is the first of its kind from the ABA, crammed full of data about the state of the legal profession, compiling information from surveys, studies and reports about lawyers and law firms across the United States.  The report has specific sections devoted to lawyer demographics, pay, legal education, and specific information related to women attorneys, pro bono efforts and legal technology.  Some interesting points below:

  • Male attorneys still outnumber female attorneys, almost 2 to 1. Male attorneys are 64% of all attorneys while women attorneys are at 36%.

  • Most state bar associations do not track race and ethnicity of attorneys, but more did in 2019 (20 states) compared to 16 states tracking in 2009. 

  • The average lawyer salary is $144,230, but increases have slowed down after the recession of 2008-09, but from 1998 to 2018 overall, lawyer salaries almost doubled, but the cost of living rose 53%.

  • Of the students who enroll in law school, 35% enroll right after undergrad and 65% take at least a year off between undergrad and law school. The most common reason cited for going to law school was a route to careers in politics, government or public service, at 44%.

Full of information and factoids, this report deserves a close reading by anyone interested in getting a handle on the legal industry.

Gartner, a leading research and advisory company, recently reported the results of a survey on cost-effective legal departments.  To provide this data, Gartner surveyed more than 140  companies in different locations,  industries and revenue size to identify those that spend in the lowest quartile of their peer group, while handling a similar workload.  Overall, the study indicated in house legal departments that invested in improving internal processes and growing internal capabilities with investments in staff training as well as standardizing legal work and developing legal ops capabilities were the most cost-effective.  In fact, 63% of in-house legal work is routine, and can be standardized, and departments that lack legal operations capabilities spend 30% more than those with those abilities.  These steps assist legal departments in bringing work in house and saving outside counsel expenditures for critical matters.

Michael Mayfield, research director in Gartner’s Legal & Compliance practice, says, “General Counsel also need to invest in the right areas to equip their teams to be successful, this is most clearly on display when looking at the differential in training spend between cost-effective legal departments and their higher-cost peers.”

That’s a wrap for this week.  We’ll have more later in the month!

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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 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.

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,...

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