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McGuireWoods merging to form 900-lawyer firm McGuireWoods is merging with Helms Mulliss & Wicker to form a law firm with about 900 lawyers in 17 offices. Helms Mulliss, with 145 attorneys, is known for its finance and litigation practices, and has offices in three North Carolina locations: Charlotte, Raleigh and Wilmington. Scott Vaughn, practice leader for Helms Mulliss’ finance group, will serve as managing partner of the Charlotte office, which will have 160 lawyers. The firms expect to complete the merger on March 31 and will operate under the McGuireWoods name. McGuireWoods ranked as the 45th largest U.S. law firm in The National Law Journal‘s 2007 survey. The merger will put the Richmond, Va., firm closer to the 30 largest firms by number of attorneys. Senate committee clears cameras in federal court The Senate Judiciary Committee approved legislation last week authorizing the chief judges of federal district and appellate courts to permit cameras in courtrooms and another measure that would limit protective orders. The so-called Sunshine in the Courtroom would allow photographing, electronic recording, broadcasting or televising of court proceedings except when it would violate the due process rights of any party. The House has a similar bill pending final floor action. Under the bill, a district court, upon the request of any witness in a trial other than a party, may order the face and voice of the witness to be disguised or otherwise obscured. Cost control, retention seen as top future issues A study released by British law firm Eversheds predicting law firm trends for the next decade found cost control and retention of legal talent foremost on the minds of clients and attorneys. According to the “Future Law Firm” study released on March 4, 41% of clients pegged controlling costs and justifying fees to clients as the top challenge facing law firms. But 36% of law firm partners identified lawyer retention as a top issue that could affect client services. For the study, Eversheds hired RSG Consulting to interview 50 partners at 25 global law firms and general counsel, legal directors and finance directors at 50 companies. Some partners shifted to nonequity at Jenner Chicago-based Jenner & Block recently shifted about 10 equity partners to nonequity status, firm Chairman Anton Valukas confirmed last week. Valukas said “some very productive equity partners” have chosen to work as nonequity partners because it is less pressured � though not all moves were voluntary, he added. The firm shifted between 15 and 20 equity partners to nonequity status last year, with some being asked to leave the firm and a smaller number moving voluntarily toward retirement. But Valukas said the firm, which now has a total of 163 equity partners, is in good fiscal health. DLA Piper plans to open Houston office DLA Piper is expected to announce on March 10 the opening of a Houston office with the former head of the energy projects practice group at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. Also joining DLA Piper are the former head of Howrey’s global litigation group and another partner from Howrey. Associates from those firms will also move to DLA Piper to “appropriately support the partners,” said Terence O’Malley, DLA Piper’s U.S. managing partner. Coming from Akin Gump is Jack Langlois, who will join the law firm’s corporate practice. Jack O’Neill, who previously led Howrey’s global litigation group, and Mark White, a toxic tort and products liability lawyer, will become part of DLA Piper’s litigation and regulatory practice. The firm expects to have 25 attorneys in Houston by the end of the year, O’Malley said. DLA is the nation’s largest law firm, with 3,623 attorneys in 64 offices.

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