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The Fourth of July is coming up, so it’s no time for serious news. Here’s my roundup for some oddly amusing/curious news and gossip for you to digest by the pool or beach:
Eat (or Drink) Your Heart Out, You Snotty New York Law Firms! Who would have thought that one of the most pedestrian law firms in our nation would land the most glamorous deal (and the most glam client) in the land?
Well, it’s true. Lawrence Waks, counsel at Wilson Elser, a firm best known for its insurance and personal injury work (and definitely not paying Big Law associate wages), is representing dreamboat George Clooney and his tequila company Casamigos in its $1 billion sale to Diageo plc, a U.K. spirits company.
Waks told Texas Lawyer that the transaction was right up his alley as “he heads Wilson Elser’s corporate and M&A practice in Texas, does entertainment law and represents food and beverage companies.” (Query: Who knew Wilson Elser had an M&A and entertainment practice? And in Texas, of all places?)
Big dollar amount, sexy client, sexy deal: How did this one get away from Big Law? I mean, didn’t Amal Clooney, herself a former Sullivan & Cromwell associate, steer George toward a big name firm? (Or perhaps knowing how much Big Law charges, she advised using Wilson Elser instead?)
In any case, S&C would have been conflicted out, since it’s on the other side, representing Diageo, a longtime client. Alas, the fancy folks from S&C will be negotiating with the lawyer from humble Wilson Elser. It must be sweet for Waks—though probably not nearly as sweet as swigging tequila with George, which he apparently did as part of his due diligence duties.
Ballsiest Lawyer Award Goes To: Tax Judge Who Cheated on Taxes! Who says tax types are dull and boring? Not Diane Kroupa, a former judge of the Minnesota Tax Court. She just got herself sentenced to 34 months (her hubby Robert Fackler is also going to the slammer, though for a shorter term), plus an obligation to pay $457,104 in joint restitution, reports TaxProfBlog.
Both entered guilty pleas. They were charged with evading their tax obligations between 2004 and 2012—while Kroupa served as a tax judge. (George W. Bush appointed her to the U.S. Tax Court in 2003, and she retired in 2014.)
So what did she and her husband claim as deductions? Among other fun things: Pilates classes, spa treatments, jewelry, Chinese language tutoring and lots of vacations to exotic places.
It certainly takes guts, boundless hypocrisy and a straight face to sit in judgment of others for tax fraud when you’re a cheater yourself. One can only hope that she was an uncommonly empathetic judge.
Law Firms Dominate Best Employer Rankings. Really. The Brits are either a lot more progressive than we Yanks—or they’re just way, way more advanced in the public relations game.
In a recent survey, law firms comprised 32 percent of the best 50 employers list in the U.K. And get this: The main criteria for this honor are promoting mobility for lower socioeconomic groups and diversity. That would be a tall (impossible) order for law firms anywhere, but we are talking about Great Britain, which, I think it’s safe to say, is not exactly a free-flowing, classless society.
The U.K.’s 50 most socially mobile employers include no less than 16 law firms.
Legal Business reports that Berwin Leighton Paisner was the top-ranked law firm, earning eighth place. The other firms on this honor roll include Baker McKenzie, Pinsent Masons, Burges Salmon, Clifford Chance, Linklaters, Herbert Smith Freehills, Hogan Lovells, Simmons & Simmons, Eversheds Sutherland, Brodies, Holman Fenwick Willan, DLA Piper and Stephenson Harwood.
As Legal Business notes, it’s pretty noteworthy that law firms made up almost one-third of the top employers for social mobility, “given that the legal industry employs a little over 1 percent of the UK workforce,” adding dryly, “self-selection apparently played a major role in the heavy legal representation with submissions being used in the research process.”
Contact Vivia Chen at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @lawcareerist.