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BAR PASS RATE FALLS BELOW 50 PERCENT Fewer than half the applicants for the July bar exam passed, the California State Bar announced Monday, setting what could be a modern-day low for the July exam. Of the 7,788 applicants for the summer test, only 3,848 passed, for a rate of 49.4 percent. That’s a drop from last year’s 50.5 percent and is even lower than the 50.3 percent who passed the July 1987 exam. Bar officials couldn’t be reached Monday to confirm whether this year’s pass rate is an all-time low mark. But in a prepared statement, Jerome Braun, the State Bar’s senior executive for admissions, said the pass rate could be the result of the Committee of Bar Examiners’ decision to delete a policy that previously let test takers request at the end of the exam that their answers not be graded. “In the past, approximately 25 to 30 applicants would formally file such a request,” Braun said. “Usually the request is due to illness or the realization that they were not adequately prepared.” The pass percentage rate of first-time applicants — of which there were 5,364 — was 63.5 percent overall, with a 71.5 percent pass rate for first-timers who attended a California law school approved by the American Bar Association. For the 2,424 repeat applicants, the pass rate was only 18.3 percent. — Mike McKee S.F. JURY GIVES HURT IRON WORKER $18.7M A San Francisco jury handed a construction worker and his wife an $18.7 million net verdict last week after finding a general contractor and subcontractor primarily responsible for a 2001 workplace accident that left the man a paraplegic. The plaintiff’s lead counsel, Robert Arns of the Arns Law Firm in San Francisco, said the net judgment for his clients will be about $20 million, including $1.2 million in prejudgment interest. One of the defense attorneys, Duane Grummer of San Francisco’s Lynch, Gilardi & Grummer, said the defendants are disputing that prejudgment interest. Iron worker Jason England was paralyzed from the waist down when he fell through a gap in the metal decking he was laying between steel beams and landed one story below, Arns said. Arns contended that subcontractor SME Steel Contractors Inc. failed to remove obstructions that had prevented England from laying decking to cover the gap, Arns said. But SME argued England controlled his work area and created the conditions that led to the accident, said Grummer, that company’s lead attorney. The jury found SME’s negligence was a substantial factor in England’s injury, and that general contractor Swinerton Builders Inc. negligently exercised, or failed to exercise, its control over safety conditions at the work site, according to court documents. The jury put a $20.7 million price tag on the economic and non-economic damages suffered by the couple. But the net verdict was less because the jury concluded England was 10 percent responsible for the harm, SME was 67 percent responsible, and Swinerton Builders Inc. was 23 percent responsible. — Pam Smith FISH & RICHARDSON REELS IN NEW PARTNER Pennie & Edmonds partner Paul DeStefano has jumped to Fish & Richardson to launch a corporate and transaction practice in the firm’s Silicon Valley office. DeStefano, who opened Pennie & Edmonds’ Palo Alto office in 1992, said Fish & Richardson combines “first-class patent capabilities with a strong corporate practice across all of its offices.” While Pennie has had four people in Silicon Valley working on corporate and transactional work, Fish & Richardson has 35 to 40 firmwide. DeStefano said he would like to add six or seven attorneys to the group in Redwood City in the near term. He said he could not say whether other lawyers from Pennie & Edmonds would be joining him. The 172-attorney Pennie & Edmonds has been in merger discussions over the past two years, first with Jones Day and then with Cooley Godward. Jones Day recently resumed talks with Pennie, although recruiters knowledgeable about the discussions said Jones Day might be interested in taking a chunk of attorneys rather than the whole firm. DeStefano said he had decided to join Fish & Richardson some time ago and his decision had nothing to do with Jones Day. DeStefano said he submitted his resignation Nov. 18 and at that time no one at Pennie & Edmonds had received an offer from Jones Day. DeStefano specializes in formation, funding and management of early and intermediate stage life sciences companies and in advising international and domestic institutions and venture funds. Prior to joining Pennie, he spent two years at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati and before that was chief corporate counsel at Genentech Inc. for six years. — Brenda Sandburg DECHERT IMMIGRATION GROUP FORMS NEW FIRM PHILADELPHIA — Saying that the practice and fee structure does not fit with Dechert’s strategic plan, the firm’s six-attorney immigration law group will form an independent boutique. The new law firm, Klasko Rulon Stock & Seltzer, will open its doors Jan. 1. H. Ronald Klasko, chairman of Dechert’s departing immigration group, said earlier this fall that he was contemplating breaking off from Dechert for a variety of reasons. He made the plans official last week after debating the merits with Dechert Chairman Bart Winokur. “Our [practice] group has expanded at a rapid rate — 20 to 30 percent increase in revenue each year,” Klasko said. “It came down to the fact that Dechert wanted to curb our growth, and we wanted to continue down that path. Dechert’s strategic plan did not include room for a large immigration practice, and that’s what we want to be.” Klasko joined Dechert in 1988 and started the firm’s first full-time immigration practice. It has grown from three to six lawyers and also boasts 11 paralegals and five law clerks. In addition to having the largest support staff contingent of any practice, the immigration group also operates on a fixed-fee basis, something that is tough to fit into large firm business plans, Winokur said. — The Legal Intelligencer

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