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A WilmerHale & Hearty Goodbye December has been a month of goodbyes at WilmerHale’s securities department. Last week, JPMorgan Chase & Co. scooped up Stephen Cutler, co-chairman of the department, who had rejoined the firm in 2005 after serving as director of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Division of Enforcement. Cutler will join the bank in February as an executive vice president and general counsel and will head up legal and compliance activities worldwide. During his six-year tenure at the SEC, Cutler led the agency’s crackdown on corporate fraud, including efforts against banks such as JPMorgan for their roles in the Enron and WorldCom scandals. He also spearheaded the SEC’s efforts against Wall Street banks’ illegal initial-public-offering allocation practices and research analysts’ conflicts of interest. “In a perfect world, we’d want him never to leave,” says William McLucas, co-chairman of Wilmer’s securities department and himself a former SEC Division of Enforcement chief. But McLucas describes Cutler’s JPMorgan job as “an enormous, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be the general counsel of the third-largest bank in the country.” On the heels of the Cutler news, New York law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison announced that it had snagged Charles Davidow, a WilmerHale partner of 20 years and co-chairman of the firm’s securities litigation and enforcement group, for its 28-attorney D.C. office. Davidow says, “It was a very hard decision to leave.” But he notes that he was excited by the opportunity to create Paul, Weiss’ securities enforcement practice in the District. Paul, Weiss currently has a securities enforcement practice based in New York, and Davidow’s hire marks the beginning of the firm’s efforts to expand it to Washington, says Paul, Weiss chair Alfred Youngwood, and the firm expects to bring more securities enforcement lawyers on board in the District. Davidow starts at Paul, Weiss this week. Meanwhile, earlier this month, J. Kevin McCarthy, a New York-based partner with WilmerHale’s securities and litigation departments, left to serve as the general counsel for Cowen Group, an investment bank. “We are not happy to see any of these guys go,” McLucas says, but notes that with a securities practice as prominent as WilmerHale’s, the headhunters are always swarming. McLucas says the firm has made plans about adjusting workload and client relationships in light of the departures but has made no decisions about whether to name new co-chairs.
Rank and File Law firm performance surveys are a dime a dozen these days, and they critique everything from diversity ratios to practice areas. But BTI Consulting Group’s latest provides some interesting statistics on how corporate counsel feel their top law firms are measuring up. Released Nov. 28, the report’s findings come from interviews with 250 individual Fortune 1,000 corporate counsel. Bottom line: Law firms aren’t doing so hot. The report found that only 25.4 percent of corporate counsel believe their primary outside law firm is the best at client service. And those firms shouldn’t count on getting referral business, because according to the survey, only 32.1 percent of corporate counsel surveyed would recommend their primary law firm. Two of the biggest trends BTI saw this year: a demand for law firms to know the client’s business inside and out after the stock backdating scandals and Hewlett-Packard’s legal woes, and a desire for better value for the money spent on legal fees, according to Michael Rynowecer, president of BTI. “Whenever [scandals] happen, there is a skyrocketing of demand by clients that law firms understand their business,” says Rynowecer. Not all news was negative. Sidley Austin topped the list, receiving top honors for client service, client focus, and best understanding of clients’ businesses. It’s the third year Sidley received top honors on BTI’s Client Service 30 list. Holland & Knight, Latham & Watkins, and Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz also got nods as the best-performing law firms overall. But don’t think attitude doesn’t count. Corporate counsel took law firms’ “arrogant” attitudes to task for refusals to take on matters, extremely high fees, and poor experience on the other side of matters, among other issues. Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom; Cravath, Swaine & Moore; Sullivan & Cromwell; Kirkland & Ellis; and Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Nicholson Graham were the firms corporate counsel most often cited as arrogant.
Meating of the Minds Since Simpson Thacher & Bartlett’s expansion into Washington in September 2005, the New York powerhouse had yet to make a big splash until Dec. 4, when the firm was named as an intermediary in a breach-of-contract suit filed by National Economic Research Associates against Smithfield Foods in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. It might not have been the way the firm wanted to be noticed, but it needn’t have worried. It took all of three days for the suit to be dropped. The complaint says that earlier this year, Simpson Thacher attorneys in New York — partners Kevin Arquit and Aimee Goldstein — hired NERA, a consulting firm, to perform economic analysis for Smithfield, which was looking to buy Cook’s Hams, a Nebraska-based producer of smoked meat. The complaint says NERA was retained in a formal written agreement drafted in January, though not executed until May 15. Simpson Thacher attorneys corresponded “often several times a day” with NERA over a three-month period about the group’s research progress, according to the suit. Then, on March 16, Simpson Thacher told NERA that the potential merger was off. At that point NERA claims their fees and expenses totaled just under $275,000. David Murray, a partner at Willkie Farr & Gallagher, who represents NERA, declined commenting on the suit, other than to say that everything is copacetic and bygones are now certainly bygones.
Model Citizen Douglas Hastings was appointed chairman of Epstein Becker & Green’s board of directors, a move the firm has hailed as an important step for ushering in a new generation of leaders. “The board decided that naming a chair of the board was appropriate,” he says. Hastings, 57, also serves as chairman of the firm’s health care and life sciences practices. “From what I read, more and more law firms are adopting corporate models,” says Hastings. “We clearly think a corporate model is a good approach to running a modern law firm.” George Sape will continue as the firm’s managing partner. . . . In another D.C. move, Sarah Reznek, former chief counsel of consumer protection at the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG), joined Bingham McCutchen as of counsel and senior consultant at the firm’s Bingham Consulting Group. A Bingham representative says Reznek, who is also a former trial attorney at the Federal Trade Commission, has just the right background after nine years with NAAG. “Everyone knows congressional investigations are coming,” says Nicholas Gess, a principal at Bingham Consulting Group. “She’s a very significant addition for us because clients who come into investigations need to be concerned about action coming from the states as well as Congress.”
Keeping Score is Legal Times ‘ weekly column devoted to the legal business scene. Got a tip for Alexia or Anna? Contact them at [email protected] or [email protected].

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