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First half of 2007 big for law firm mergers Law firm mergers for the first half of 2007 totaled 37, four deals above merger activity for the same period in 2006, according to Hildebrandt International, a law firm consultancy. Chicago, New York and San Francisco were the top cities for domestic mergers. Chicago, with six mergers, had the largest combinations, with one deal struck between Drinker Biddle & Reath and Gardner Carton & Douglas, and another reached between Reed Smith and Sachnoff & Weaver. The five mergers that occurred in New York were small, averaging only nine lawyers. The largest merger in California was in Palo Alto, with the combination of Schiff Hardin with Morgenstein & Jubelirer. Higher fees boost ‘SOX’ compliance spending Sarbanes-Oxley Act compliance spending by corporations on outside advisers climbed in 2006, while spending on internal compliance dropped, according to Foley & Lardner’s fifth annual survey. Higher audit fees, board compensation and legal fees have boosted Sarbanes-Oxley spending. Although compliance spending has decreased since the peak years of 2002 and 2003, public companies with revenues below $1 billion spent $200,000 for legal compliance last year, compared with $131,000 in fiscal 2005. Public companies with more than $1 billion in revenues spent $455,000 on legal fees in fiscal 2006 compared with $226,000 in fiscal 2005. N.J. bar dead-set against mandatory retirement New Jersey’s organized bar is calling on law firms to relent from mandatory retirement rules for partners, in favor of more flexible policies that recognize that older lawyers still have value. Spurred by New Jersey State Bar Association President Lynn Newsome, bar trustees on July 13 endorsed a position paper stating that forced retirement at a fixed age is “inconsistent with accepted employment practices, against public policy and not in the best interest of either law firms or their clients.” Law firms “should instead evaluate senior partners individually in accordance with their attributes and interests and the firm’s generally accepted performance criteria,” the trustees said. [See "Retirement a key ABA issue," Page 1.] DLA Piper opens its fourth office in Germany DLA Piper has continued its international expansion, opening up its fourth office in Germany. The firm opened a Munich office last week that will initially focus on the technology, media and commercial practice of partner Thomas Jansen. Jansen, along with two other associates, will be relocating to Munich from the firm’s office in Cologne, Germany. He will serve as the head of the new office. Besides Cologne and Munich, DLA Piper has two other German offices in Hamburg and Frankfurt. [NLJ, July 16.]. The firm will bring on new attorneys for the office in the next few months. Milberg Weiss hit with RICO suit for payments Milberg Weiss has been hit with a RICO action by six individuals who claim that the law firm made illegal payments to lead plaintiffs in class actions. The individuals were members of the classes represented by Milberg Weiss in two previous class actions. The plaintiffs in the Aug. 2 lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, themselves are seeking class action status against the law firm. Calling for treble damages, they allege several violations of the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, including bribery and mail fraud. The law firm was indicted last year for allegedly paying kickbacks to plaintiffs who served as lead counsel. Chicago prosecutors win 13% pay increase Prosecutors in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office in Chicago have won approval for a 13% pay raise that they have sought for months, giving them an increase that was already doled out to the county’s public defenders. The prosecutors, who work under State’s Attorney Dick Devine, have been demanding the raise since February, when they were bypassed for a promised boost, though one was given to lawyers in the Cook County Public Defender’s Office.

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