Washington Wrap is a weekly look at the biggest legal industry news and Big Law moves shaping the legal business in Washington, D.C. Send tips and lateral moves to Ryan Lovelace at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Among the topics at Georgetown Law’s annual corporate counsel institute this week was one that has dogged the legal industry for decades: How can lawyers in positions of power make their colleagues prioritize diversity in the profession?
Joseph West, the Washington, D.C.-based chief diversity and inclusion officer at Philadelphia’s Duane Morris, oversaw hundreds of millions of dollars of outside legal spending as associate general counsel at Wal-Mart Inc. from 2007 to 2011. There, he said, he learned that “you could meddle in [firms’] business” to advance reforms promoting diversity of ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation.
“I think one of the things that people don’t talk about when they talk about the economic downturn, 2009 or so, is that corporate clients became more discerning consumers of legal services,” West said.
West, who joined Duane Morris in 2015, said that years ago he and then-Wal-Mart general counsel Tom Mars realized at an outside counsel conference that diversity reforms were necessary in part because of the “sea of white male faces” in attendance.
In response, West said, the company “essentially fired all of the relationship partners, required all of the firms to submit a list of five candidates, at least one had to be a woman, one had to be a person of color, and the incumbent could be submitted as well.”
West said that within 18 months of the shift about $60 million of business had changed hands to women and minority relationship partners.
“It’s amazing how the loss of money clarifies the mind and encourages the spirit,” West said of the tools lawyers could use to push for diversity at big law firms.
Wal-Mart won accolades from the American Bar Association for being a corporate leader on diversity during Mars’ tenure. Mars left Wal-Mart in 2013 and joined Atlanta-based Taylor English Duma a year later. He’s now senior counsel at Friday Eldredge & Clark in Little Rock.
The speakers at Georgetown this week also had tips for attorneys hailing from outside Big Law. When an attorney for a smaller boutique questioned how his firm should address its shrinking diversity profile because of the exodus of a partner to a foreign market, PepsiCo in-house counsel Aida Babalola said it’s important for firms to explain the reasons for such changes, rather than leave it to surveys to reflect the internal composition of their firms.
“What I don’t want to happen though is for people of color or women to just be interchangeable pieces, to fill your quotas or your numbers or to make your survey look better,” Babalola said. “So that’s why to me the story underneath is more important.”
Law firm moves, news and notes:
King & Spalding added intellectual property trial partner Lori Gordon as a partner in Washington. Gordon formerly co-chaired the patent trial and appeal board practice at Sterne, Kessler, Goldstein & Fox as a partner.
Greenberg Traurig’s Washington, D.C., offices grew with the addition of Lee Ann Anderson, who joined as a shareholder in the firm’s corporate practice in D.C. and New York. Anderson previously served as a partner in Ashurst’s Washington and New York offices after several years at Sullivan & Cromwell as special counsel.
Anderson counts Credit Suisse, JPMorgan, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, and Wells Fargo as former clients. Alan Annex, co-chairman of Greenberg Traurig’s global corporate practice, said Anderson is joining the corporate practice at a “pivotal time” of development and expansion.
Beveridge & Diamond formally welcomed John Cruden to its Washington office as principal this week, after he joined the firm near the start year. Cruden formerly served as the assistant U.S. attorney general for environment and natural resources before joining Beveridge & Diamond. In attendance for Cruden’s formal welcome reception this week were Albert Beveridge, the Washington firm’s surviving namesake, and Environmental Protection Agency counsel Matt Leopold, who was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in December 2017.
Richard Westling, an Epstein Becker & Green litigation and health care partner, joined the legal team defending Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman in the crosshairs of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections.
Westling works from the firm’s D.C. and Nashville offices, and brings experience as a federal prosecutor in New Orleans and from the tax division at Main Justice in the 1990s.
The first of two trials Manafort is set to face is scheduled for July 10.
Barry Pollack, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s D.C.-based attorney, left Miller & Chevalier for a smaller law firm and told The National Law Journal he is representing a client in the Mueller probe whom he declined to identify. Pollack said he is only representing Assange in relation to an ongoing criminal investigation in Virginia and that Assange has not yet been contacted by Mueller.
Pollack’s former Miller & Chevalier colleague, Kevin Downing, similarly left the firm last year in order to continue representing Manafort, who was charged a few months after Downing left Miller & Chevalier.
Assange said on Twitter that Pollack is a “decent man and an excellent trial lawyer.”
The leader of an influential right-leaning think tank that advocates for lower taxes is planning to exit the institution next year, just as President Donald Trump’s tax bill takes effect.
Arthur Brooks said this week he will quit the American Enterprise Institute in 2019 after 10 years as the influential think tank’s president. In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, Brooks said he thought “social enterprises” such as AEI excel when the top leaders refuse to stay much longer than a decade.
“[W]hat worries me most today—not for AEI, but for America—is that the competition of ideas is under attack,” Brooks wrote. “I remain optimistic that think tanks, universities, and the media will continue to play a central role in American democracy.” (Sorry, law firms!)
Late-night TV host Jimmy Kimmel used his platform at ABC to encourage viewers to help cover the legal fees of Stephanie Clifford, aka “Stormy Daniels,” who sued Trump last week after her silence was allegedly purchased before the 2016 election by Trump lawyer Michael Cohen.
Kimmel directed viewers on Thursday to a website for Daniels so that they “can give money to a porn star, just like the President of the United States.”