UPDATE: 1/31/14, 9:10 a.m. EST. Gibson Dunn’s hourly rate in the New Jersey Bridgegate probe has been added to the 21st paragraph of this story.
In our latest installment of the Fee Tracker, The Am Law Daily has tallied up the legal fees paid by several leading nonprofit organizations in the news, such as the NY/NJ Super Bowl XLVIII Host Committee, the Alfred E. Mann Foundation for Scientific Research and the UJA–Federation of New York, which recently hired a top Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison litigation partner as its new leader. The purpose of this week’s exercise is to shed light on the nonprofit sector, a relatively unexplored clientele of Am Law 200 firms. It should of course be noted that many of these firms, their lawyers and employees contribute to some of the charitable causes listed below.
NFL, Super Bowl Pay Big for Some Firms
As the National Football League prepares for its first cold-weather Super Bowl in recent memory—MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., is the site of the big game this weekend—its commissioner, Roger Goodell, remains focused on bringing in $25 billion in annual revenue by 2027.
Standing in the way of the world’s most profitable professional sports league is a $765 million concussion settlement with ex-players that awaits the approval of a skeptical federal judge in Philadelphia, as noted this week by sibling publication The Legal Intelligencer. While attorney fees for plaintiffs lawyers led by Seeger Weiss are not included in that sum—the NFL has reportedly offered to pick up the cost if the fees do not exceed $112.5 million—some are concerned that future players could find the compensation fund set up on their behalf short of cash.
The Am Law Daily has previously reported on the NFL’s nonprofit status—each of the league’s 32 teams pay their own taxes—and last year we cited tax records from the league’s collective bargaining arm that showed how lucrative a client pro football could be for lawyers from Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld ($5.4 million), Covington & Burling ($6.7 million) and Proskauer ($2.8 million). (U.S. Senate records show that since the beginning of 2012 the NFL has paid $815,000 to Covington to lobby on gambling, disability and retirement benefits and sports programming issues.)
A more recent tax filing by the New York–based league is not yet available, but one did catch our eye by the host committee for this weekend’s Super Bowl XLVIII. A 2011 tax filing by the nonprofit shows it paid $230,719 that year to All-Counsel, a New York–based firm started by Proskauer alum and former New York Jets general counsel Andrew Lee. Since January 2011, Lee has served as the bid committee’s general counsel, while an associate at his firm, Michael Corcoran, is listed as the committee’s associate counsel.
Nation’s Largest Jewish Charity a Friend to Am Law 100 Lawyers
Paul Weiss litigation partner Eric Goldstein has been named CEO of the UJA–Federation of New York, the nation’s largest Jewish charity, with roughly $900 million in assets, according to a spokeswoman. Goldstein, 54, had previously headed the UJA’s lawyers division.
The New York–based UJA, formed through a 1986 merger between the United Jewish Appeal and the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York, will install Goldstein as its new CEO on July 1. (The Am Law Daily and sibling publication the New York Law Journal reported earlier this week on Goldstein’s hire and potential compensation.)
In a statement, Paul Weiss chair Brad Karp praised Goldstein’s work for the firm, including chairing its pro bono committee, wishing him success at the UJA. The organization happens to be holding its “Lawyers Main Event” on Jan. 30 at the Pierre hotel in Manhattan, where it will honor Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz litigation partner Theodore Mirvis and Kirkland & Ellis restructuring partner Edward Sassower.
The UJA’s most recent tax filing for 2011 shows that it paid $642,000 to Proskauer Rose for legal services. The firm’s past chairman, Alan Jaffe, served as president of the UJA during the mid-1990s, and the nonprofit holds an annual fundraiser honoring Judge Joseph Proskauer, a name partner at the firm who died in 1971.
Charities Seek to Shut Off Fossil Fuel Investments
A group of 17 leading nonprofits with nearly $2 billion in investments banded together this week and announced that they would begin withdrawing money from fossil fuel companies and put those assets into clean energy.
The 17 signatories to the mass divestiture have joined up with a student-led climate movement under the “Divest-Invest Philanthropy” banner. The Am Law Daily grabbed the most recent Form 990 filings for several organizations taking part in the movement to see which firms have been handling their legal work.
The Boston-based John Merck Fund, which has $75 million in assets, paid $63,400 in 2012 to Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler for legal services. The Wallace Global Fund, a Washington, D.C.–based nonprofit with $165 million in assets, paid $92,612 that same year to Morgan, Lewis & Bockius for legal services. And the Westport, Conn.–based Educational Foundation of America paid $222,188 for legal services to Robinson & Cole in 2012.
Mann Foundation Keeps Its Outside Firms Busy
This week our sibling publication The Litigation Daily reported on a patent win for the Santa Clarita, Calif.–based Alfred E. Mann Foundation for Scientific Research and its lawyers from Morgan Lewis.
Founded by the billionaire philanthropist of the same name, the foundation was awarded $131 million by a federal jury in an IP dispute with hearing implant maker Cochlear, which was represented by Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton. The foundation’s lead lawyer in the case was Morgan Lewis partner Daniel Grunfeld, who joined the firm’s Los Angeles office last year from Kaye Scholer.
The Lit Daily reports that Grunfeld, now head of Morgan Lewis’ West Coast litigation practice, subsequently helped his new firm win a beauty contest to continue representing the foundation. The foundation’s most recent tax filing from 2011 shows that it paid $894,096 that year to Kaye Scholer for legal services, as well as another $165,465 to El Segundo, Calif.–based Henricks Slavin & Holmes and $166,728 to Washington, D.C.–based Wilkinson Barker Knauer.
Stem Cell Science a Lure for Lawyers
Stem cells are considered by many as the next frontier in medical science—Japanese scientists touted a potential major discovery in the field this week in Nature—but stem cell laws and legislation remain a contentious issue in the United States.
This week our colleagues at the Lit Daily reported on a case in front of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit pitting nonprofits Consumer Watchdog (CW) and the Public Patent Foundation (PPF) against the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF).
According to the Lit Daily, the Federal Circuit asked the Justice Department and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to weigh in on whether CW and PPF have standing in a case they filed back in 2006 challenging WARF’s patent on human embryonic stem cells. Court filings show the plaintiffs are being represented by the American Civil Liberties Union and the New York–based PPF’s executive director Daniel Ravicher, while WARF has turned to a legal team led by Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner and Drinker Biddle & Reath.
Senate records show that WARF paid $240,000 in 2013 to Drinker Biddle for federal lobbying work on a range of issues, including stem cell legislation and patent litigation reform. A tax 2011 tax filing by the Madison-based nonprofit shows it paid nearly $2.7 million to Quarles & Brady, $766,345 to Milwaukee’s Andrus, Sceales, Starke & Sawall and $723,781 to Milwaukee’s Boyle Frederickson, all for legal services. CPA Global, a leading legal outsourcer, received another $1.3 million from WARF for “patent legal/annuity service.”
WARF’s adversaries at CW and the PPF had more modest legal expenditures. A 2011 tax filing by CW shows it paid $450,000 that year to its founder—Santa Monica lawyer Harvey Rosenfield—and $157,309 to the Zohar Law Firm in Los Angeles. The PPF listed no outside legal costs in 2011, although Ravicher was paid $110,000 as its president.
—The scandal over the mysterious September closure of the George Washington Bridge connecting New Jersey and Manhattan has already enlisted lawyers from Covington, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Jenner & Block and Patton Boggs, according to reports by The Am Law Daily and our sibling publications. Late Thursday, The Star-Ledger reported that Garden State Gov. Chris Christie’s office had agreed to pay lawyers from Gibson Dunn a discounted $650 hourly rate to represent key members of his Republican administration in an investigation being conducted by Reid Schar, a partner at Jenner & Block, which reportedly has its own ties to New Jersey Democrats. In a column this week for Reuters and the Columbia Journalism Review, The American Lawyer’s founder, Steven Brill, opined on the circumstances that led to Gibson Dunn’s hire and potential conflicts stemming from the firm’s retention.
Two more firms have also now found themselves in the spotlight. Wolff & Samson and DeCotiis, FitzPatrick & Cole were named in a New York Times story Wednesday looking at political pressure allegedly applied by the office of embattled Gov. Chris Christie to the mayor of Hoboken. WNYC reported this week that Wolff & Samson—whose founding partner David Samson is chair of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey—saw the value of its state lobbying contracts rise from $40,000 to more than $1 million under Christie. By day’s end, the Rockefeller Group had severed its ties to Samson’s firm.
—Saul Ewing was paid $190,000 by Rockville, Md., for an internal investigation into various workplace matters pertaining to discrimination and harassment, the results of which are now being fought over in discovery in a wrongful termination suit filed against the city by a former employee, according to the Montgomery County Sentinel.
—Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney and Dickstein Shapiro are vying for an 18-month, $360,000 lobbying contract that could determine the fate of a controversial light rail system between Chevy Chase and Bethesda, Md., according to Local News Now. Buchanan Ingersoll has already secured a one-month contact for $20,000 to advise the Town of Chevy Chase on transportation and infrastructure issues.
— The Colorado Springs Gazette reports that the city won’t spend more than $10,000 on an outside lawyer from Hogan Lovells to handle the firing of the city council’s legislative assistant.