Large U.S. law firms are entering year-end bonus season after increasing their revenues close to 5% on average through the third quarter, buoyed by fast-growing lawyer billing rates that have helped offset expenses, analysts at Wells Fargo said this week.
The revenue increases were driven by “some of the highest growth in billing rates we’ve seen,” Wells Fargo said. Rates grew by 7.9% overall for the surveyed firms. Expenses grew by 5.6% during the first nine months of 2023, compared with 12.8% growth during the first nine months of 2022.
The data provides a glimpse into the firms’ balance sheets as associates wait to learn about year-end bonuses and whether they may receive a salary bump in line with increases announced last week by Milbank, where its seniority-based pay scale for associates will now range from $225,000 to $425,000.
So far, no law firm has publicly said it will match or exceed Milbank’s associate salary increases or year-end bonus. The apparent reluctance to raise salaries is not surprising, said Owen Burman, a senior consultant at Wells Fargo. “It’s an unplanned expense they were not expecting,” he said. “They were raising rates to support all of the other costs that are increasing across the industry.”
California got one step closer to allowing law graduates to become licensed attorney without taking the bar exam after the State Bar of California’s board of trustees voted to test run the Portfolio Bar Exam. It would allow aspiring lawyers to spend four to six months working under the supervision of an experienced attorney and to gain admission to the bar after submitting an acceptable portfolio of legal work.
A Texas law firm that drew the ire of judges in Louisiana state and federal courts over its mishandling of hundreds of hurricane property damage cases is under criminal investigation by the Louisiana State Police.
A federal judicial ethics probe into former U.S. Bankruptcy Judge David Jones’ failure to disclose his romantic relationship with a lawyer whose firm regularly appeared before him has come to an end following the Houston judge’s resignation. Priscilla Richman, the 5th Circuit’s chief judge, in an order said further action was “unnecessary” after Jones’ last month submitted his resignation as a Southern District of Texas bankruptcy judge.
A New York lawyer pleaded guilty to criminal charges for bribing a federal court employee for more than decade in exchange for criminal defense referrals. Prosecutors said Telesforo Del Valle gave “at least tens of thousands of dollars” in payments to a clerk in the Southern District of New York court, who encouraged criminal defendants to hire Del Valle instead of using free, court-appointed counsel.
Should online retailers face the prospect of being sued in every jurisdiction where they have delivered even a single product? The answer to that question has divided the federal circuits, as Alison Frankel explains. And now several small companies that operate virtual Amazon storefronts are urging the justices to resolve the split, arguing that the 9th Circuit erred last summer when it ruled that they could be sued in Arizona because they’ve shipped products to consumers in the state.
—U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan, who rejected Donald Trump’s bid to add a new expert witness just two months before a trial to determine how much the former U.S. president owes for defaming the writer E. Jean Carroll. Kaplan said Trump waited too long to add the expert, and that Trump had known since March that the expert he had chosen would likely be excluded.
The 10th Circuit will hear a challenge to a 2019 Colorado law banning “conversion therapy” for LGBTQ children. The lawsuit was brought by the conservative Christian legal group Alliance Defending Freedom on behalf of Kaley Chiles, a licensed professional counselor who argued that Colorado’s regulation of specific therapeutic practices infringes what she can say to her minor clients.
U.S. District Judge Mary Rowland in Chicago is holding the first status hearing in the sprawling litigation over chemical hair relaxer products since she rejected the bulk of the motion to dismiss brought by L’Oreal, Revlon and other companies facing claims their products cause cancer. The MDL includes more than 8,000 lawsuits.
Court calendars are subject to last-minute docket changes.
In the courts
The ACLU challenged Florida’s ban on pro-Palestinian university groups, arguing in a federal lawsuit that the state is violating students’ free speech as tensions roil U.S. campuses over Israel’s war with Hamas. Florida’s university system, joined by Governor Ron DeSantis, last month ordered colleges to shut down chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine.
Rite Aidsued the DOJ, seeking to stop a lawsuit alleging that the bankrupt pharmacy chain ignored red flags and illegally filled hundreds of thousands of prescriptions for addictive opioid medication. The DOJ agreed only to a “brief pause” of its lawsuit after Rite Aid went bankrupt last month. Rite Aid said in a complaint filed in New Jersey bankruptcy court that if the pause is merely “brief,” it could threaten to undermine the company’s restructuring efforts.
A federal judge rejected Hyundai and Kia’s efforts to dismiss litigation by several hundred insurers seeking to recoup more than $1 billion they claim to owe drivers whose vehicles were impacted by a social media-inspired theft spree. U.S. District Judge James Selna in Santa Ana, California, saidthe companies’ failure to include anti-theft devices put the blame squarely on their shoulders.
Bayer is not responsible for liability stemming from certain lawsuits over talc-based foot powder products that it acquired from Merck as part of a $14.2 billion deal in 2014, the Delaware Supreme Court ruled. In a unanimous ruling, the court said Bayer was not on the hook for lawsuits over sales of the products before the deal closed.
The DOJthrew its weight behind private lawsuits accusing RealPage of conspiring with property managers and owners to overcharge rent for student and multifamily housing. The Biden administration said in a court filing the judge should reject motions by RealPage and corporate landlords to throw out the cases. A RealPage spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.
Dorsey & Whitney hired Gary Locke, a former U.S. ambassador to China, secretary of commerce under President Obama, and governor of Washington state, as a senior adviser. He most recently acted as the interim president of Bellevue College and is currently chair of the Committee of 100. (Reuters)
Arnold & Porter brought on white-collar defense partner Giselle Joffre in Boston. Joffre, a former federal prosecutor, most recently was at Foley Hoag. (Arnold & Porter)
Dentons hired partner Seamus Curley for its government contracts practice in Washington, D.C. Curley arrives from Stroock. (Dentons)
Kirkland rehired David Sherman as a partner for its investment funds group. He most recently was at Latham. (Kirkland)
The U.S. Supreme Court will soon decide whether to disable the SEC’s administrative enforcement proceedings, one of the major enforcement mechanisms targeting securities fraud in the U.S., in the case SEC v. Jarkesy. Legal scholars likely will focus on the contours of a doctrine that has implications on federal agencies’ ability to exercise their authority, write Jonathan Uslaner and Chloe Jasper of Bernstein Litowitz. However, those most focused on uprooting corporate fraud understand that Jarkesy could also mark a new era of securities enforcement.