The Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing, Mich., finally unveiled its long-awaited rebranding this month as part of an affiliation agreement reached last year with Western Michigan University in nearby Kalamazoo.
The registered nonprofit will now be known as Western Michigan University Cooley Law School, according to sibling publication The National Law Journal, which has covered many of Cooley Law’s various troubles in recent years. In July, the NLJ reported on the dismissal of two defamation suits filed by Cooley Law against plaintiffs lawyers over statements posted online seeking information for class actions filed by former students against the school for allegedly misrepresenting its postgraduate employment statistics.
Detroit-based Am Law 200 firm Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone has been representing Cooley Law in the litigation over the veracity of its employment data. The most recent federal tax filing by the school shows that it paid the firm $997,724 for legal services during the calendar year between Sept. 1, 2011, and Aug. 31, 2012. Those legal expenses have presumably continued to grow. Cooley Law, which back in 2010 paid nearly $1.5 million to sponsor a minor league baseball stadium in Lansing, has recently watched its current enrollment drop precipitously in a time when many law schools have had trouble recruiting new students.
Cooley Law recently slashed the number of law professors on its payroll and limited the number of first-year students at its campus in Ann Arbor, Mich., one of five operated by the school in Florida and Michigan. The law school isn’t the only Michigan client making it rain for Am Law 100 firms.
The Am Law Daily reported earlier this month that the legal bills in Detroit’s mammoth Chapter 9 case have also continued to grow, with Miller Canfield’s total haul as local counsel to the Motor City reaching upward of $2.3 million. Jones Day, lead counsel to Detroit, has earned at least $17.5 million, while conflicts counsel Pepper Hamilton’s tab stands at nearly $1.4 million.
Dentons, which was recently criticized for charging $27,000 per month to Detroit retirees for media services in the bankruptcy, has watched its earnings rise to $7.41 million.
Municipal Money Pot
New Jersey’s Bridgegate scandal, which exploded earlier this year following new revelations stemming from the controversial closing of several lanes on the George Washington Bridge in September 2013, continues to be a boon to several firms.
Sibling publication the New Jersey Law Journal has a landing page for its running tally of Bridgegate-related stories, two class actions of which were consolidated this month by a federal judge in Newark. Garden State taxpayers also saw themselves on the hook this month for another $3.26 million in legal bills for work done in March and April by lawyers at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, which earlier this year released a much-criticized report clearing Gov. Chris Christie of any wrongdoing in the Bridgegate affair.
The latest Gibson Dunn legal bills saw the firm’s total tab reach $6.52 million, while Jenner & Block has been paid another $840,000 for its role counseling Democrats in the state legislature conducting their own probe. Riker, Danzig, Scherer, Hyland & Perretti, one of New Jersey’s largest firms, has billed $272,654 to the state for its work on behalf of 17 state staffers caught up in the Bridgegate matter, according to The Star-Ledger of Newark.
Of course, connections between big firms and their political benefactors are nothing new. In Indiana, Republicans have accused former U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett, who joined Indianapolis-based Bose McKinney & Evans in July, of violating attorney campaign rules as he prepares to run for mayor of the city. The Indianapolis Star reported last month that Hogsett’s entry into the mayoral race could benefit Bose McKinney if it seeks future work from Indianapolis, which has paid nearly $9.4 million to Barnes & Thornburg since 2008.
Vermont has paid more than $1 million to outside counsel—including $855,800 since 2012 to Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo—for negotiating a big contract with a technology firm building the state’s beleaguered online health exchange, according to VTDigger. And The Times-Picayune in New Orleans reports that Hogan Lovells lawyers are billing the city between $423 and $797 per hour for their work negotiating a lease for a local hospital. The firm’s fees are not yet finalized.
Firms Feed at Industry Trade Trough
Trade associations, the organizations formed by businesses operating in specific industries, are yet another lucrative client base for Am Law 100 firms.
The International Swaps and Derivatives Association has made some big payments to a trio of global legal giants. The nonprofit’s most recent tax filing for 2012 shows it paid more than $1.9 million to Mayer Brown; a little over $1.7 million to Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft; and nearly $1.6 million to Magic Circle firm Allen & Overy. New York boutique Harry Jho LLC also received another $917,888 from the New York-based ISDA, which this week postponed until September a credit default swaps auction stemming from Argentina’s sovereign debt default. The auction had been challenged by some objecting to the method for paying out certain bondholders, according to The New York Times’ DealBook.
Meanwhile, Squire Patton Boggs—the newly merged legal giant that shored up its new Middle East affiliation this week—has designs on becoming the nation’s largest lobby shop. The firm has plenty of competition on that front, including from some legacy Patton Boggs partners, some of whom have joined Am Law 100 rivals.
One of them is Jonathan Yarowsky, who joined Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr in July 2013 to chair its legislative affairs and public policy practice in Washington, D.C. At Wilmer, Yarowsky brought with him a number of former Patton Boggs clients to build out his new firm’s lobbying group. Late last month Yarowsky and Wilmer sought $80,000 for their work in the second quarter on behalf of the American Association for Justice, the trial lawyers’ lobby, which paid $574,998 to Patton Boggs in 2012, according to its most recent tax filing.
Lastly, in light of the $16.65 billion mortgage settlement reached by Bank of America this week and $7 billion accord reached last month by Citigroup, we decided to see which firms were busy advising the Mortgage Bankers Association of America, the Washington, D.C.-based trade group that advocates for the real estate finance industry.
The MBA’s most recent tax filing for 2012 lists $230,000 in legal fees to Morgan, Lewis & Bockius. Records on file with the U.S. Senate show that the MBA has paid $60,000 so far this year to Holland & Knight for lobbying work on tax deductions for mortgage interest, government-sponsored enterprise mortgage reforms and refinancing legislation.
The Financial Services Roundtable, another trade group that represents leading Wall Street banks like BoA, Citi and JPMorgan Chase, hasn’t been shy about flexing its Beltway clout. The organization’s most recent tax filing shows it paid $750,227 for consulting work to Washington, D.C.-based legal shop Barnett, Sivon & Natter. Senate lobbying filings show that the boutique has already received $90,000 this year to advise on a spate of financial, foreclosure and mortgage reforms.
—Monkey selfie. So simple, yet so fraught with legal complications. For the uninitiated, earlier this month Wikipedia took the side of an Indonesian macaque in a dispute with a British photographer claiming to own the copyright on a photo of a mischievous monkey that took a sensational simian selfie after it absconded with his camera back in 2011. The photographer sought to have the photo removed from Wikipedia, which refused on the grounds that the image is in the public domain since it was taken by an animal that cannot own a copyright. This week the U.S. Copyright Office agreed, noting in an expansive update on copyright regulations that only works created by actual human beings are eligible for protection. The Washington, D.C.-based Wikimedia Foundation, which operates Wikipedia, presumably had its own lawyers review the matter. A 2012 tax filing shows it paid $323,885 to Cooley and $357,260 to San Rafael, Calif.-based Hiaring + Smith.
—The American Lawyer reported extensively late last month on Shearman & Sterling’s $50 billion win before the Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands, on behalf of shareholders in defunct Russian energy giant Yukos. Documents revealed as part of Shearman’s massive litigation battle with Mother Russia show that the firm was paid more than $70 million in fees—at rates ranging from $235 to $1,065 per hour—by GML Ltd., a Gibraltar-registered investment vehicle that held the controlling stake in Yukos, which was founded by exiled oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Baker Botts and Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, who advised the Russian government, incurred roughly $30 million in legal costs and fees for their efforts, according to U.K. publication The Lawyer.
—Yukos isn’t the only battle Russia has been involved in recently. The ongoing conflict in neighboring Ukraine has some firms seeking to shore up the latter’s support here in the U.S. Last month Wiley Rein filed papers documenting its role lobbying on behalf of the London-based Trident Foundation, which Senate records show supports “a free, independent and democratic Ukraine.” Wiley Rein, which in June lost out on its bid to have an Alabama county reimburse $2 million in legal fees the firm incurred fighting against the scope of the Voting Rights Act, has long represented the interests of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.
—Five months after its merger with Florida’s Fowler White Boggs, Pittsburgh-based Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney saw its second quarter lobbying fees in the Sunshine State surge to $732,953, according to the SaintPetersBlog. Tallahassee, the hub for Florida’s lobbying work, is one of five cities where the 100-lawyer Fowler White Boggs had an office, according to sibling publication the Daily Business Review.
—The Cleveland Clinic announced an exclusive cardiac care partnership this week with the Great Neck, N.Y.-based North Shore LIJ Health System that will give the former a direct link to the New York market. A tax filing by a North Shore subsidiary shows that the nonprofit paid more than $3.6 million in legal fees to Ropes & Gray in 2012.
—Fox News political analyst Juan Williams wrote an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal this week about the unrest roiling Ferguson, Mo., and America’s seemingly perpetual racial fears. Four years ago, Williams was fired from National Public Radio over controversial on-air remarks he made about Muslims. The ensuing row led NPR to hire Weil, Gotshal & Manges partner Yvette Ostolaza in Dallas to probe the circumstances that resulted in Williams’ ouster, which led to the subsequent replacement of the nonprofit’s top news executive. Ostolaza was one of several women part of a mass group of defections from Weil in Texas over the past year. NPR’s most recent tax filing for 2012 shows it paid $750,507 to Weil for the probe.
—Finally, one of the greatest rock bands of all time, Kiss, briefly reunited earlier this year for its induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. As previously noted in this space, halls of fame have been known to throw some work the way of Am Law 200 firms, and the museum and hall of fame on the shores of Lake Erie is no different. A federal tax filing shows that Thompson Hine was paid $143,568 for legal services provided to the Rock Hall in 2012.