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T oday is the day. At 9 a.m. Pacific Standard Time, William Lerach is slatedto step into a press conference in the Garden Room of a University ofCalifornia building in San Francisco, where he’ll unveil his amendedcomplaint against a bevy of Enron Corp. insiders and outside advisers.Lerach, the lead partner in Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach’s suit torecover losses suffered by Enron investors, is expected April 8 to nameseveral major investment banks that worked with Enron. The corporate scourgeis also widely expected to name two elite U.S. law firms: Vinson & Elkinsand Kirkland & Ellis. The legal community has been speculating for months about the possibilitythat one or more major law firms could be hauled in to court thanks toEnron’s demise. That speculation ends today.Enron was Vinson & Elkins’ largest client. Since the energy trader implodedlast fall amid allegations of self-dealing and deceptive accounting, theHouston-based firm has been taking fire on all sides. A report prepared for a committee of Enron’s board sharply criticized thefirm’s work for Enron. The Securities and Exchange Commission subpoenaedfirm records, and congressional investigators summoned managing partnerJoseph Dilg to a hearing that resembled a public shaming. It comes as no surprise that Milberg Weiss, which represents a class ofshareholders led by the University of California, would go after Vinson &Elkins. Still, Harry Reasoner, a senior V&E partner and a firm spokesman onEnron matters, says he thinks Milberg will be overreaching.”The Enron tragedy simply does not make it legitimate to sue everyone Enronhad dealings with,” he says, adding that his firm was not involved with “thethings that are thought to have led to Enron’s collapse.” Unlike Vinson & Elkins, Kirkland has largely avoided bad publicity. But thefirm did represent for at least three years off-balance-sheet ventures,including Chewco, LJM Cayman, and LJM2, cited by the Enron board’s report askey elements in the company’s failure. Now Lerach is going to thrust Kirkland onto the Enron stage. “Kirkland neverrepresented Enron and has no responsibility for the accounting judgments andrelated public disclosures that are at the center of the case,” says D.C.partner Laurence Urgenson. “We think what’s under way is an effort tomanufacture liability where none exists under existing precedent.”Ethics experts say that while it’s relatively rare for corporate lawyers tobe found liable in connection with their clients’ misconduct, law firmsstill make attractive targets.”What the plaintiffs have going for them is the fact that firms don’t liketo have their affairs aired in court,” says New York University School ofLaw’s Stephen Gillers. “As a result, they are more likely to settle.”

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