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D.C. CIRCUIT PANEL PROSPECTS TILT TO THE RIGHT One practical outcome of the new 7-4 Republican majority on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit is dramatically stacked odds in favor of litigants landing judges placed on the bench by Republicans. With the addition of the newly confirmed Janice Rogers Brown and Thomas Griffith, cases in the D.C. Circuit will now be about twice as likely to be decided by three-judge panels consisting entirely of Republican appointees. And there’s only a 2 percent chance of getting a panel made up of three of the court’s four judges named by Democrats: Jimmy Carter choice Harry Edwards, and Bill Clinton appointees Judith Rogers, David Tatel, and Merrick Garland. Throw into the mix Brett Kavanaugh, nominated by President George W. Bush to fill the court’s remaining vacancy, and factor in the possibility of the 65-year-old Edwards taking senior status this fall, and the court tilts even further to the right. The court’s current three senior judges — all Republicans — aren’t regularly scheduled to hear cases. If Edwards takes senior status, litigants would have a 34 percent chance of getting an all-GOP appointed panel and less than a 1 percent chance of drawing all of the remaining three Democrats. Lawyers who know the court well, however, often caution against predicting the outcome of the circuit’s regulatory cases based on the perceived partisanship of the judges. But it does raise concerns for Elliot Mincberg, vice president and legal director for People for the American Way and a critic of many of Bush’s judicial nominees. “It’s a greater partisan imbalance on the D.C. Circuit than we’ve had on the court in a while,” Mincberg says. “This puts the D.C. Circuit with courts dominated by conservatives like the 4th and 6th circuits.” In the 1990s, Republican lawmakers maintained that the court should have only 10 judges. Yet with Brown and Griffith, there are now 11 active D.C. Circuit judges, including three of Bush’s choices, and Kavanaugh would make 12. Where are all of these judges going to work? Still up for grabs are eight brand-new chambers in the court’s $100 million, 350,000-square-foot annex, which the judges could move into as early as this fall. Circuit Executive Jill Sayenga says there’s no word on who will get new digs. — Lily Henning OUT Twenty-nine-year Howrey veteran Margaret Zwisler departed for Latham & Watkins last week with three other antitrust partners. The moves are the latest in a series of defections from the firm and come after a shake-up in the antitrust practice last month, which ended Zwisler’s role as a vice chair of the group. Zwisler, who left with partners Eric McCarthy, William Sherman, and Los Angeles-based Charles Samel, is likely to take millions of dollars’ worth of business out of Howrey, according to former Howrey lawyers and a recruiter. Among Zwisler’s current cases: defending the Ford Motor Co. and the U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co. in two separate class actions. But Zwisler is notoriously difficult to work with, current and former Howrey attorneys say. Eric Bernthal, managing partner of Latham’s D.C. office, says he’s not concerned about such comments. “She’s an antitrust lawyer of real experience and real renown,” he says. Zwisler did not return calls for comment. Sean Boland, Howrey’s antitrust co-chair, says, “In a group of 220 antitrust lawyers, the loss of four people is really not that substantial.” — Emma Schwartz GOOD GEP DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary has netted former House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.), who retired from Congress in January. In an interview with Influence, Legal Times’ sister publication, Gephardt says he had been in “preliminary discussions” with the firm since last summer. Jeffrey Liss, co-managing partner of DLA Piper, says Gephardt’s friendship with John Zentay, who chairs the firm’s legislative practice, was instrumental in landing the former 14-term congressman. Gephardt, who starts work at the firm this week, is barred from lobbying for one year. Says Gephardt: “I’m going to be giving strategic advice.” But Gephardt’s boss, Liss, says that “once he’s able to, he’ll lobby if that’s something that might be useful.” Liss says Gephardt will focus on labor and financial issues. Gephardt will split his time between DLA Piper and Goldman Sachs, where he serves as an adviser. — Andy Metzger, Influence CASHING IN The ethics troubles of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay may have stymied his political agenda, but it has brought loads of money to his legal team. Between July 2004 and March 2005, DeLay’s Legal Expense Trust paid out $409,890.78 in legal fees, according to the most recent public filings. The largest payout went to the recently renamed Bracewell & Giuliani, which received $220,000. The firm, from the Texas Republican’s home state, has had a long relationship with the majority leader, having defended him in 2000 and 2001 in a racketeering suit filed by congressional Democrats. Austin-based attorney William White was paid $95,000. McDermott Will & Emery, led by Bobby Burchfield, received $56,501.80, paid between October and December 2004. And D.C.’s Cooper & Kirk — a small boutique whose name partner Charles Cooper was a co-chair of Lawyers for Bush-Cheney — took in $24,388.98 during the same period. Even with such steep legal bills, DeLay doesn’t seem to have much trouble finding cash. During the first quarter of 2005 — the most recent period for which records are publicly available — his trust raised $47,750, which is $13,744.93 more than it paid out. — Emma Schwartz FEE FIGHT Conventional wisdom says it’s not in anyone’s best interest to bite the hand that feeds you. But with fierce competition among legal recruiters, a few seem to have turned to an unconventional method of operation: suing law firms. Last week Keith Barrett, a one-time legal recruiter at the firm formerly known as Barrett & Alpert, settled a lawsuit he filed in D.C. Superior Court against Sonnenschein, Nath & Rosenthal in February. Although both sides are mum about the suit, citing the terms of their settlement, court documents reveal a bitter fight between recruiters for business. Barrett says that Sonnenschein failed to pay him a $250,000 placement fee — 25 percent of the expected first-year salary of partner Joseph Andrew, whom he claims he introduced to the law firm in 2004. Instead, the firm paid Gary Klein, a legal recruiter with Klein Landau & Romm Inc., who had been working with Andrew. Barrett wrote in an e-mail sent to Andrew in August of last year that Klein had “made it clear that he would ‘torpedo’ any potential deal with Sonnenschein,” according to court records. The Sonnenschein dispute isn’t the only one. Holland & Knight is being sued in Montgomery County, Md., by Alembic Consulting Inc., a legal recruiting shop based in Rockville. Alembic is seeking placement fees for five partners it says it introduced to the firm in 2004. A former Alembic principal who has since left the firm claims he deserves the fee for some of the same attorneys and has sued Alembic and Holland & Knight for the funds. Holland & Knight has withheld payment, claiming the dispute is between Alembic and its former employee. — Emma Schwartz COUDERT’S CUTS Late last month, international public relations firm Ruder Finn issued a press release entitled “ Coudert Brothers LLP Selects Ruder Finn to Elevate Awareness of Firm’s Achievements.” The announcement came on the heels of the defection of Coudert’s London and Moscow partners to Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe. So far, the retention of new PR advisers hasn’t stemmed the tide of news about Coudert’s difficulties. Over the past three weeks, the firm has announced the closing of its 12-attorney San Francisco office as well as its German outposts in Frankfurt and Berlin. Additionally, according to the British newspaper Legal Week, its 20-partner Belgian practice has approached firm management to discuss compensation and its future with the firm. Neither firm chairman Clyde Rankin nor D.C. managing partner Richard Dean returned calls. But the firm appears to be confident about its prospects in at least one overseas office: Late last month it signed a new 10-year lease for 11,000 square feet of space in downtown Sydney, Australia. — Jason McLure HEADING NORTH Baltimore-based Venable has long made its name inside the nation’s capital with political luminaries like Benjamin Civiletti, attorney general under President Jimmy Carter. But the 460-attorney firm has remained a creature of the Baltimore-Washington area — until now. Last week Venable announced the opening of a New York office through the acquisition of the 12-attorney litigation and white collar boutique Heard & O’Toole. The venture doesn’t bring Venable any transactional capabilities, which many firms moving into the New York market look for. But it helps position the firm outside the mid-Atlantic region. (The firm’s Irvine, Calif., office is a one-man shop for former Rep. James Rogan (R-Calif.), now a partner at Venable.) “In an increasingly competitive world, a firm has to have more to offer than a boutique can,” says C. Stephen Heard, a name partner at Heard & O’Toole. The firm brings about $7 million to $8 million worth of business and clients, including JT International S.A., along with a few private equity firms, a foreign bank, and a mutual fund company, Heard says. — Emma Schwartz TOP SPOT For the fifth year in a row, New York’s Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom has been named the best corporate law firm in the United States, according to a Corporate Board Member survey. The magazine polled 1,483 directors and 284 general counsel of publicly traded companies. “We’re gratified to have again been recognized,” says Robert Sheehan, Skadden’s executive partner. Rounding out the top five were: New York’s Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz; New York’s Cravath Swaine & Moore; New York’s Sullivan & Cromwell; and Jones Day. — Trey Wydysh

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