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JUDGES TREAT MILBERG WEISS TO GAME OF HOT POTATO The kickback indictment of Milberg Weiss Bershad & Schulman last month is apparently a bit of an uncomfortable issue for the bench. In addition to the five Los Angeles federal judges who’ve now recused themselves from hearing the criminal case against the firm and its two main partners, jurists overseeing civil cases have had a range of reactions. First, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard Kramer said the indictment shouldn’t automatically jettison the firm from lead counsel status in a case. But a week later, a Minnesota federal judge took the opposite stance, kicking the firm out of its lead counsel position in a class action. And last week, a federal judge in Oklahoma decided to split the difference in a case where he had appointed Milberg to be co-lead counsel. While defendants in the securities fraud case against Williams Communications didn’t argue that the indictment should disqualify the firm, Judge Stephen Friot in the Northern District of Oklahoma decided it might be an issue. “The court takes judicial notice that the Milberg Weiss firm has been indicted,” Friot wrote in a footnote to an order certifying the class in the case. “If this development is of any consequence in the case at bar, that matter should be addressed without delay. “The court is considering the appointment of a master for the purpose of undertaking such investigation as may be reasonably necessary, antecedent to making a recommendation to the court as to whether this development should affect the status of Milberg Weiss as co-lead counsel,” he continued. At the end of his order, Friot asked for briefs on the matter to be submitted by June 27. � Justin Scheck DOWNSIZING IS GOOD People have asked Patrick Lawler why he’s moved to a small firm. Small is a matter of perspective, he replies. The former chief of Kirkland & Ellis’ debt financing group in San Francisco joined Chapman and Cutler this month. Kirkland and Ellis may have about five and a half times the number of lawyers that Chapman has, but for Lawler, Chapman is bigger. “I have a lot more people here doing what I do than I did at Kirkland,” the finance lawyer said. An added bonus, he said, is that he gets to round out his practice � heavy on representation of borrower companies � by developing lending-side clientele. “I have more latitude here.” With 200 lawyers doing all finance, all the time out of three offices across the nation, Chapman and Cutler cultivates a very tight niche, providing corporate and transactional counsel to financial services companies exclusively. The Chicago-based financial services firm has been trolling the Bay Area market for just the right kind of lawyers to augment its San Francisco office since it opened here in 2003. In June, it announced the hire of two of their favorite species: Lawler and Christopher Oliver, formerly with Morrison & Foerster. “They are exactly the sort of lawyers we have been looking for,” office co-chair David McMullen said. “They both have strong all-around financing skills and established relationships not only in California, but nationally. Their addition is a perfect complement and enhancement to our existing finance practice.” Lawler focuses on financing transactions with an emphasis on acquisitions and highly leveraged financings. His transactions have ranged in value between several million and several billion dollars. Oliver represents multinational banks, finance companies, commercial paper conduits, issuers and borrowers and others. The additions bring the total number of attorneys in San Francisco to 15. Chapman also recently added a group of 10 lawyers from Mabey Murray in its Salt Lake City office. � Petra Pasternak AN EYE ON MEXICO From politicians to business leaders, lots of Americans have their eye on Mexico’s July 2 election. And law firms interested in cross-border work are no exception. That interest prompted Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton to host a luncheon in honor of Ricardo Pascoe, Mexican presidential candidate Felipe Calderon’s chief of staff, in Los Angeles last Wednesday. Calderon, a lawyer and economist, is a member of the ruling National Action Party (PAN). He is considered a conservative, free-market candidate. The luncheon, which included business and community leaders, provided an opportunity for participants to hear from a candidate with a decidedly pro-business attitude. “Our law firm has a significant practice in Latin America and in Mexico in particular,” said Louis Meisinger, a senior adviser in the firm’s entertainment group. “Our interest is in seeing that the most positive environment for economic growth is part of Mexico’s game plan. That’s why we decided this was important for us.” Along with gleaning insights on Mexico’s future, it never hurts to show the business community that Sheppard, Mullin is in tune with cross-border politics. Jerry Gumpel, theleader of the firm’s Hispanic/Latino business group, gave the opening remarks. “I think it’s good for a law firm to be seen as conversant with the issues,” Meisinger said. The luncheon was fantastic, Meisinger said, and Pascoe’s impeccable English made him a captivating speaker. And while the food at downtown’s City Club was delicious, he said, burritos weren’t on the menu � just a tasty white fish. � Kellie Schmitt

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