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$412M in fees awarded to ‘fen-phen’ law firms Attorney fees of more than $412 million were awarded last week to plaintiffs’ lawyers from more than 70 firms for their work on the massive fen-phen diet-drug litigation, marking the beginning of the end of the “supermegafund” class action. In In re Diet Drugs, No. MDL-1203 (E.D. Pa.), Chief U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle III said the case was “nothing short of a herculean effort spanning almost a decade.” Bartle found that the plaintiffs’ lawyers had logged more than 578,000 hours and said “just to put this time into perspective, it is the equivalent of approximately 24,000 days, or almost 66 years, of around-the-clock work on this litigation.” Arnold Levin, Michael Fishbein and Laurence S. Berman of Philadelphia’s Levin, Fishbein, Sedran & Berman were lead plaintiffs’ attorneys in the litigation. Steady pace for law firm mergers in start of 2008 Law firm merger activity kept a steady pace in the first quarter of 2008, according to MergerWatch, a tracking service of Hildebrandt International. So far this year, U.S. law firms have completed 21 mergers, compared with 23 for the same time period last year. The largest merger for the first quarter was between Husch & Eppenberger and Blackwell Sanders to create Husch Blackwell Sanders, with about 630 attorneys. Other large combinations included Mayer Brown with Johnson Stokes & Master in Hong Kong; and McGuireWoods with Helms Mullis & Wicker. Dewey & LeBoeuf to close three U.S. offices Dewey & LeBoeuf will close three of its U.S. offices in an attempt to focus resources in major worldwide capital markets, the New York firm announced last week. The closures affect about 50 lawyers, who will have to transfer to alternative branches. The firm will be closing its offices in Jacksonville, Fla.; Austin, Texas; and Hartford, Conn. All the lawyers based in those offices have been asked to stay with the firm. The Jacksonville office, which has 10 lawyers, will close in December. The Hartford office, which has 22 lawyers, will close in February 2009. The Austin outpost, which currently houses 16 lawyers, will close the following month. N.Y. chief judge files suit to force salary hikes Stymied for a fourth straight fiscal year in securing a pay raise for New York state judges, Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye sued the Legislature and Governor David A. Paterson last week to force the first judicial salary increase in New York since 1999. Kaye and Chief Administrative Judge Ann Pfau sent a message to the 1,300 judges saying that the exclusion of a pay raise in the budget adopted in Albany on Wednesday was the last straw. “At this point, we are left with no choice but to take legal action to address this intolerable situation,” the judges said.

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