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Top L.A. firms show robust profits for 2005 Fueled by an improving economy, Los Angeles-based firms reported impressive revenue gains in 2005, with many of the region’s largest firms posting double-digit growth, according to a survey by the NLJ and its sister publication, The Recorder. In a sign that firms are busier and raising billing rates, revenue per lawyer was up at most firms, too, with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher edging past the $1 million mark on that yardstick. In 2004, only a handful of New York-based firms had revenue per lawyer above $1 million. Leading the way on total revenue was Latham & Watkins, which grossed $1.4 billion, a 17% increase from 2004. Profits per equity partner leapt 14% to $1.6 million. “We had very strong gains, which reflected some significant growth in many practice areas and many regions around the world,” said Scott Haber, a member of Latham’s executive committee. Gibson Dunn also saw profits per partner hit the $1.6 million mark, an 8% increase from 2004. Overall revenue at the firm was at $746 million. “We were busy in all sectors and litigation was firing on all cylinders,” said Kenneth Doran, Gibson Dunn’s managing partner. The firm’s London office grew in capability and headcount with the addition of a litigation and commercial arbitration practice there last summer. Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton reported 15% gains in revenue, revenue per lawyer and profits per partner, even as headcount remained flat. That put profits per partner at $785,000. N.Y. system for electing judges violates rights The system of electing trial-level judges in New York violates the rights of voters and judicial candidates and must be scrapped, a federal judge held recently in a scathing ruling that could change forever the way judicial offices in the state are filled. U.S. District Judge John Gleeson enjoined the New York State Board of Elections from using the unique-and likely unconstitutional-system of conventions and delegates that now determines which candidates for Supreme Court judgeships appear on election ballots. The Supreme Court is the state’s trial-level court. Gleeson said Supreme Court justices should be nominated by primary elections until the state Legislature enacts a new statute to replace New York Election Law Section 6-106. Lopez Torres v. New York State Board of Elections, No. 04 CV 1129. Sullivan & Cromwell hikes salaries to $145K Sullivan & Cromwell has increased associate base salaries by $20,000 across the board, with first-years now due to receive $145,000 a year before bonus. The move, announced internally last week, tops the recent round of salary increases led by Los Angeles firms, where first-year base salaries rose to $135,000 from $125,000. But Sullivan & Cromwell’s salary increase, which applies to all associates except certain individual cases, does not necessarily mean total pay will go up. The firm, like the other top New York firms, has in recent years made year-end bonuses a greater proportion of compensation. 2 circuits overturn ban on ‘partial birth’ abortion The Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 is unconstitutional, the 2d U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last week. Agreeing with a lower court that the act was unconstitutional under U.S. Supreme Court precedent because it lacked an exception for the health of the mother, a divided three-judge panel said “substantial medical authority” supports the idea that banning the procedure known as “dilation and extraction” or “D & X,” could place women’s health in jeopardy. National Abortion Federation v. Gonzales, No. 04-5201-cv. The ruling came the same day as the 9th Circuit upheld a similar finding on the act’s unconstitutionality issued by a federal judge in San Francisco. The 2d Circuit’s ruling addressed only the lack of a health exception. The 9th Circuit went further. It affirmed a lower court finding of unconstitutionality based on the lack of a health exception, but also cited the burden the law places on a woman’s right to have an abortion and what the court regarded as its vagueness. Planned Parenthood v. Gonzales, No. 04-16621.

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