Wish you had more time to read the latest in the legal press? I have the solution. Read these five stories now, and they will cover 90% of the legal industry news that will come out the rest of the year.
What can I say, except “you’re welcome.”
1. Lateral Partner Moves
BigLaw Partner Frank Whitebread Leaves Smith, Jones & Davis to Join Jones & Smith
WorldLaw 100 firm Jones & Smith announced this week that Frank Whitebread is joining the firm as a shareholder. Whitebread, a well-known transactional lawyer who does M&A deals in the energy industry, was formerly the head of the Corporate section at the AmLaw 500 firm Smith, Jones & Davis.
Whitebread expressed enthusiasm for the new opportunity. “This move to Jones & Smith will give my team the platform to provide even better service to our multinational corporate clients everywhere they do business.” He noted that Jones & Smith has offices in 35 cities throughout the world. “Plus,” he said, “I’m going to make a shitload of money.”
Whitebread got the idea for the move after meeting Bruce Whiteshoe, the head of Jones & Smith’s local office, at their sons’ lacrosse game. That led to spending a week with their families together at Whiteshoe’s ski lodge in Vail, where Whitebread says he was impressed by Jones & Smith’s commitment to pro bono causes and diversity.
Two junior partners and three associates who work with Whitebread will make the move with him. One of those associates, Elizabeth Hailey, expressed excitement about the change. “Jones & Smith is known for matching Cravath’s associate bonus scale,” she said, “and their new quality of life initiative reduces their billables requirement to 2300 hours.”
Fred Rogers, managing partner at Whitebread’s current firm, Smith, Jones & Davis, says the parting will be amicable. “Honestly, I don’t know why Frank was hanging around here so long,” he said. “This place sucks.”
2. Law Firm Mergers
Jones & Smith Announces Merger with Smith, Jones & Davis
The international law firm Jones & Smith announced this week that it will merge with Smith, Jones & Davis, currently the third largest Texas-based firm.
The new firm will be known as Jones Smith | Smith Jones. Attempts to brand the new global juggernaut as “Smith Jones Squared” failed when the Business Development director couldn’t get Microsoft Word to make that “squared” symbol that looks like a little 2.
Jones & Smith’s worldwide managing partner Nigel Kennsington-St. James praised the deal. “Joining forces with our American friends at Smith, Jones will create a synergy that will serve our international clients well,” he said. “I mean, I’m talking a lot of synergy, it’s going to be really synergistic, you’ve never seen so much synergy.”
Some of the partners at Smith, Jones & Davis will not be making the move. Jim Bob Bowie, head of the firm’s venerable Insurance Defense section, said the higher rates and overhead at the London-based Jones & Smith did not make sense for his group. Instead, he said they will spin off to form a small firm that will office “behind that dental practice by the IHOP near my house.”
The merger comes just six months after rainmaker Frank Whitebread jumped ship at Smith, Jones & Davis to move to Jones & Smith. Asked for his comment on the new mega-firm, Whitebread said “I’m looking forward to rejoining some old colleagues, like . . . oh, who was that balding guy on 47 who does estate planning . . . well actually, never mind.”
3. Appellate Rulings
Court of Appeals Reverses Questionable Jury Verdict Against Big Company
Today the Court of Appeals of a big city ruled in favor of a large corporation, reversing a small-town jury’s verdict awarding many millions of dollars in damages to the blue-collar family of a man who was killed in a really horrible industrial accident. The court based its ruling on a technical legal issue.
In a 2-1 decision, two justices from one political party voted to reverse the judgment, while the dissenting justice from the other political party voted to affirm it. The majority’s painstaking opinion cited at least eleven prior court cases, sometimes even citing to specific page numbers.
The dissent was scathing. “Today the majority picks one of two reasonable interpretations of the case law to reach the result the majority considers fair,” the dissenting justice wrote. “I dissent,” he concluded, pointedly leaving out “respectfully.”
The corporation’s lead lawyer was pleased with the decision. “We’re very pleased with the decision,” she said.
The plaintiff’s lawyer was not so happy. “We worked hard to get the jury to ignore the lack of evidence of causation, and to focus on sympathy for the victims,” he said. “We’re not giving up now.” He vowed to make campaign contributions to the Tea Party-backed candidates challenging the two majority justices in their upcoming primaries.
A professor at a local law school who followed the case said the result was not unexpected. “This continues a trend of the Court of Appeals reversing judgments that it finds are not supported by the evidence,” she said. “I expect we will see more cases like this,” she added. “More and more big companies are hiring expensive lawyers to try to overturn judgments that order them to pay large amounts of money.”
4. End of the Billable Hour
Speaker Touts Alternative Billing Arrangements at Legal Conference
While traditional lawyers took family vacations or worked quietly at their offices during Spring Break, the legal industry’s boldest and brightest flocked to Austin for the 7th annual Legal Disrupterz Conference, held in conjunction with SXSW. And RazorWire’s correspondent was there to witness the sparks flying.
Keynote speaker Dallas Houston kicked off the conference at the W Hotel with his provocative presentation “Shattering the Billable Hour Paradigm.” He advocated alternative billing arrangements such as “value-based billing.” And for the fourth year in a row, Houston predicted that billing by the hour would be obsolete by the time of next year’s conference.
RazorWire caught up with Houston as he got into his Tesla in the hip 2nd Street District. “I’m so turnt to be here again during South By,” he said. “Did you notice I called it South By, not South By Southwest?” he added. “That’s how you can tell I’ve been here a lot.”
Still, Houston said, his dad told him Austin just hasn’t been the same since the Armadillo closed.
Organizers said they were pleased to have the conference sponsored by e-™. That’s not a typo. The name of the company is “e-”.
VP of Business Development Austin Travis explained that “e- delivers cutting-edge deliverables for its stakeholders in the digital space.” Asked to explain what that means, Travis said “we host cloud-based solutions for law firms looking for best practices.” “So you’re an e-discovery vendor?” the reporter pressed. “Ok, yeah, we’re an e-discovery vendor,” Travis replied sheepishly.
He added that e- still bills by the hour.
5. Bar Association Charitable Events
Local Bar Association Raises Money for the Poor at Exclusive Country Club
Heard that joke about the greedy lawyer? Well raising money for a good cause is no joke for the Springfield Bar Association. Last month, the SBA’s Community Affairs, Youth, Mental Health, Elderly Support, and Antitrust Litigation Committee (CAYMHESALC) held its annual “Bakin’ and Eggs” breakfast and baked goods silent auction to raise money for a great cause: the Springfield Heights Association for Disadvantaged Youth.
The event was held at the prestigious Shady Oaks Country Club. Known for its progressive stance on social issues, the club sparked controversy when it opened its membership to women and minorities in 2009.
“We thought it was important to partner with a venue that shares our commitment to helping the disadvantaged,” committee co-chair Buffy Van Pelt said. “Also, they make the strongest mimosas you’ve ever had, so that’s a plus.”
At the breakfast, Van Pelt and the committee’s nine other co-chairs received the President’s Chalice for excellence in bar leadership. They welcomed County commissioner Rick Gordon as the featured speaker. “We had to do some negotiating with Commissioner Gordon’s office,” Van Pelt said, “but once we agreed that his name and photo would appear on the front and back cover of the program, he was behind us 100%.”
And the best part: it was all for a good cause. Sponsors chose from three different levels: Baconator ($100), Ham Hock ($500), and Whole Hog ($1,000). With so many local firms sponsoring tables, Van Pelt said the event brought in over $65,000. “After paying for valet parking, the rental fee, and $37 per plate for breakfast,” she added, “we netted $478, and 100% of that goes to charity!”
Keeping with tradition, the committee invited three disadvantaged youth from J. Danforth Quayle Middle School to attend the breakfast. “This place is sick,” 8th grader Bobby Garza said approvingly. “I mean, I can’t afford to play golf, and the guard wouldn’t let my mom through the gate in her beat-up Corolla, but once I got in, it was cool.” His favorite part? “Those mimosas!”
Zach Wolfe (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Texas trial lawyer who handles non-compete and trade secret litigation at Zach Wolfe Law Firm. Thomson Reuters named him a Texas “Super Lawyer”® for Business Litigation in 2020 and 2021.
Any opinions expressed are his own, not the opinions of his firm or clients. This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any actual person, living or dead, is purely coincidental.