The 2012 Summer Olympics opened in London over the weekend, providing an array of opportunities for leading Am Law 200 and international firms, as well as competitive opportunities for a pair of former Dewey & LeBoeuf clients in Oscar Pistorius and Caster Semenya.
 
Dewey represented Semenya and Pistorius, sprinters who are part of South Africa’s Olympic contingent, on a pro bono basis over the past few years as they fought to participate in international competition. The firm has since filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after months of partner losses and mounting questions about its financial condition. 
 
Semenya beat out Pistorius for the honor of carrying South Africa’s flag at the opening ceremony in London last Friday. Former Dewey global litigation practice chair Jeffrey Kessler, who also coheaded the firm’s sports group, successfully represented Semenya in an agreement with track and field’s governing body in 2010 that settled a gender test controversy that threatened her career.
 
Semenya is no longer a client of Kessler’s, but the former Dewey partner told The Am Law Daily in an email Monday that her selection as flag bearer for South Africa was “another great achievement for equality.”
 
Kessler, who took his 60-lawyer Dewey team to Winston & Strawn in May, is himself headed to London on Thursday to see Pistorius race for the first time. Dewey defended Pistorius, a double amputee who races with the aid of prosthetic limbs, in 2008 amid his attempt to qualify to compete in the 400-meter dash at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.
 
Pistorius was unsuccessful in that effort, but only after a Kessler-led Dewey team prevailed before a three-judge panel of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne, Switzerland,  which overturned a ruling that barred the sprinter from competing against able-bodied runners. The legal victory led Kessler to promise Pistorius that he would see him race in person if Pistorius ever qualified for the Olympics.
 
When Pistorius qualified to compete for South Africa earlier this month in both the individual 400-meter race and 4×400 meter relay, Kessler says he booked his ticket. “It is an extremely proud moment for all disabled athletes, and a very moving moment for me,” he adds.
 
The Winston litigator will also be on hand to see U.S. sprinter Sanya Richards-Ross, who he is representing in a litigation and arbitration dispute with a sponsor. Richards-Ross has been vocal about protesting sponsorship rules at the Olympics. She’s also married to Aaron Ross, a defensive back for the National Football League’s Jacksonville Jaguars, whose agent is Kessler’s son Andrew.
 
“I have never had the experience before of having one, let alone three, clients and friends competing in the Olympics,” Kessler says. “So this is an event I simply could not miss.”
 
That tally leaves out some of Kessler’s clients. Carmelo Anthony of the National Basketball Association’s New York Knicks, and Chris Paul, who plays for the league’s Los Angeles Clippers, are both members of the star-studded USA Basketball’s men’s national team, which beat France 98-71 in their first game on Sunday.
 
Kessler represented the two while he was still at Dewey during last year’s NBA lockout. Anthony served as a lead plaintiff in an antitrust suit filed against the league, while Paul was a member of the National Basketball Players Association’s executive committee. Dewey earned millions in fees for its work representing the players union, according to our previous reports, and the lockout was eventually resolved in November.
 
Of course, the Olympics aren’t just an alumni gathering of former Dewey clients. Arent Fox counsel Maidie Oliveau, whose Los Angeles–based practice focuses on sports transactions, is serving as the U.S. representative for an ad hoc division of CAS that will adjudicate disputes that arise at the Games, according to a report earlier this year by sibling publication The National Law Journal. (Other members of the ad hoc panel include lawyers from Malaysia, Puerto Rico, and Sweden.)
 
The official provider of legal services for the festivities is Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, which won a tender process three years ago to advise the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG). Lawyers from the Magic Circle firm, which plans to use the games to motivate and engage employees through a variety of themed events, shadowed the Olympic torch relay to prevent ambush marketing, according to a recent report by The Guardian
 
DLA Piper and British firms Mishcon de Reya and Charles Russell are among 17 firms serving on a pro bono panel at the London Olympics,  according to U.K. publication Legal Week. It was Charles Russell who  Legal Week reports was recently hired by Dublin-based bookmaker Paddy Power for a suit against LOCOG for allegedly removing signs from its pop-up advertising campaign.
 
While the Olympics themselves are often a money-losing event for the host city, they have in the past served as ideal networking and marketing opportunities for local businesses, including law firms. But not in London, whose Olympic budget has hit the $19 billion mark.
 
The Am Law Daily reported earlier this month that the expected surge of Olympic-themed parties by big firms with offices in London had failed to materialize, a result of exorbitant costs, unprecedented levels of security, and concerns by in-house legal departments that accepting tickets and other measures of hospitality could violate the U.K.’s tough new Bribery Act. ( Sibling publication Corporate Counsel has more on anticorruption compliance in London.)
 
The Am Law Daily also noted in April the measures being taken by many firms with offices in London to avoid travel delays and adjust working hours for employees. The London offices of K&L Gates and Reed Smith have made contingency plans to cope with the influx of visitors to the nation’s capital during the games, according to the Pittsburgh Business Times.
 
Other firms, such as London-based Eversheds, are taking the opportunity to sponsor athletes competing in the games. Montreal-based Lavery, de Billy is backing Canadian diver Alexandre Despatie in his efforts to win gold in London.
 
Meanwhile, several leading British firms are busy advising clients on post-Olympic plans. Legal Week reported last year that Eversheds, HBJ Gately Wareing, and Trowers & Hamlins were representing various parties seeking to take over the Olympic Stadium through a bidding process that was recently extended. London-based Nabarro, selected last year as a legal adviser to the English Sports Council, has also won a key role on a multibillion-dollar redevelopment project for the city’s Olympic Park.
 
The next Olympic games have also lined up their own legal counsel. Legal Week reports that Allen & Overy, DLA, Freshfields, Hogan Lovells, and White & Case have all been named to a panel to advise on the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.