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Monthly Archives: October 2017

Overcoming the Obstacles to Women Becoming Equity Partners

Women attorneys are leaders in their practice fields, in their families and in their communities – but not in their law firms. Only about 18 percent of equity partners in major law firms are women, according to the American Bar Association’s 2017 survey. That’s remarkably little progress since 2006, when 16 percent of equity partners were women. Another sobering statistic: even “women-friendly” firms that recognize the importance of offering benefits like parental leave and flexible working hours have largely failed to promote women to leadership roles.  Of the 50 firms cited in Working Mother’s Best Law Firms for Women 2017 only 20 percent of all equity partners, on average, were women – the same as the last two years. So, how can more women ascend to the top ranks of major law firms? One initiative that bears watching is the ABA’s Resolution 113, which urges law firms and corporations to create more opportunities for diverse attorneys at all levels, and calls on clients to direct a greater percentage of the legal services they purchase, both currently and in the future, to diverse attorneys. Since passage of ABA 113 in September 2016, a growing number of Fortune 1000 companies have pledged their support, including Walmart whose general counsel, Karen Roberts, has been one of the leaders in promoting this initiative. Recent corporate additions to the pro-diversity list include HP, MetLife and Facebook, which now require 33 percent women and ethnic minorities on its outside law firm teams. It is unfortunate that we need a resolution to tip the scale on these inequities but at least this resolution serves to get to the heart of the issue.  The power or equity in a firm has always been and always will be driven by who controls the business, and this Resolution goes to the heart of that issue. In addition to addressing this push from clients, Big Law firms should look closely at their internal policies and practices to see how they can better tap the diverse pool of legal talent in their firms.  Along with offering family-friendly work-life policies, major law firms should offer a clear path to equity partnership, along with mentoring and coaching support for the firm’s future leaders, specifically as it relates to learning how to capture business.  Both women and men like to know the ground rules for moving up in the firm, and that there is a level playing field on all levels. The most important step in advancing gender parity – and one that is often not discussed in legal article or blogs – is the importance of fostering the marketing and business development skills that bring in new clients.  A woman who is seen as a “rainmaker” is far more likely to be considered for an equity partnership than one who plays a supportive role to her colleagues.  Having the economic power that comes with a robust book of business is the key to break through Big Law’s glass ceiling. If women lawyers continue to focus on that conversation, the numbers will follow. The post Overcoming the Obstacles to Women Becoming Equity Partners appeared first on Women Criminal Defense Attorneys.
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Alexandra Shapiro leads another victory at Second Circuit

Recently Alexandra Shapiro was successful in overturning the corruption conviction of Dean Skelos, a former New York state senator and majority leader.  Skelos and his son, Adam Skelos, had been charged in 2015 by the United States Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York (SDNY) with bribery, extortion and conspiracy relating to accusations that the father’s office pressured a developer, a medical malpractice insurer and environmental company to give his son consulting work that resulted in hundreds of thousands of payments. The father and son were convicted at trial in December 2015. Alexandra represented the ex-senator on appeal and another lawyer represented the son. Both convictions were overturned.  This isn’t the first time Alexandra has been victorious at the Second Circuit.  We have blogged about her seemingly golden touch before in a blog post, Alexandra the Great. The grounds for appeal were largely based on the United States Supreme Case ruling in McDonnell v United States which limited the application of the federal bribery statute 18 U.S.C. §201.  The Court ruled that an official act is a decision or action on a “question, matter, cause, suit, proceeding or controversy” and that it must involve the formal exercise of a governmental power, be something specific and focused that is “pending” or “may by law be brought” before a public official.  The Court clarified that setting up a meeting, talking to another official or organizing an event, without more, does not qualify as an “official act” per McDonnell. In the Skelos appeal, the panel found that the jury instruction given in the Skelos case was too broad, and considering the ruling in McDonnell, the definition of “official acts” provided to the Skelos jury could not be ruled harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. The Skelos appeal ruling was instant big news and reported in the New York Daily News and in the New York Times, where Shapiro was quoted as stating that Dean Skelos was grateful for the ruling and that “[w]e believe that as events unfold, it is going to become clear that this is a case that never should have been brought.” Joon H. Kim, the acting U.S. attorney for the SDNY has already indicated that the office intends to retry the father and son and was quoted in the New York Times as stating, “We look forward to a prompt retrial…” Oddly enough, even former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who no longer would need to comment, felt compelled to weigh in on the ruling on Twitter. Regardless of what the future holds for this case, this victory lap is sweet and another well-deserved win for Alexandra Shapiro, who has her own firm Shapiro Arato, in New York City.  Alexandra continues to be at the center of many of the most influential white-collar appeals in this last decade and she continues to be a shining example of the great work that women are doing in our field. The post Alexandra Shapiro leads another victory at Second Circuit appeared first on Women Criminal Defense Attorneys.
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Susan Brune Prevails in “Impossible to Win” Securities Case

Leave it to a powerful woman in the investment world like Lynn Tilton to appreciate the value of a fighter and seasoned trial lawyer like Susan Brune.  Lynn Tilton, the owner of Patriarch Partners and frequently dubbed the “Diva of Distressed,” is a well-known private equity investor.   She invests in companies that are in severe financial distress, with the aim of turning them around to profitability.  From 2003 to 2007, she raised more than $2 billion via structured finance vehicles known as collateralized loan obligations (CLOs). By nature, Tilton doesn’t shy away from a challenge.  When the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) came knocking in 2009, it was no surprise then that she turned to Brune, an experienced white collar securities lawyer, to represent her during the investigation and then to help her defend against the charges. In 2015, the SEC charged Tilton and Tilton’s company, Patriarch Partners, with a matter relating to their operation of three CLOs known as the Zohar Funds. The SEC sought approximately $240 million in disgorgement, in addition to fines and a lifetime bar from the securities industry. The agency chose to file the charges in the SEC’s administrative forum.  Tilton decided to take the case to trial, insisting that the highly sophisticated investors had been fully informed about the investments.  Going to trial against the SEC is a risk for any client, but in administrative proceedings the odds are particularly stacked against respondents, who have only limited discovery rights and less due process protection than in federal court. The trial was held before Administrative Law Judge Carol Fox Foelak in October and November of last year.  Brune worked closely with co-counsel at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, which had amassed a large team.  Together, they presented a convincing argument on behalf of Tilton.  During the trial, Brune did a scathing cross of two fund “victims” and conducted the examination of Tilton when she took the stand in her own defense, testimony that spanned almost four days.   The defense that Brune had developed over the years that Tilton had been under investigation played out as planned and led to the dismissal of the case. In a 57-page order, the judge stated that Tilton didn’t hide anything from her sophisticated institutional investors – thus ending Tilton’s long battle with the SEC.  “While respondents did not maximize the ease of finding it, they also did not conceal — omit to state — material information such as the amount of interest actually being paid and the interest rate and principal on the portfolio companies’ loans,” Judge Foelak said in her ruling. This complete vindication is a huge victory for Tilton and for Susan Brune, who has been fighting alongside Tilton for eight years as the SEC investigated and then filed charges. “I am thrilled that she has now been fully cleared,” said Brune, whose past victories include the high-profile acquittal of a Bear Stearns hedge fund manager in a federal jury trial. Like Brune, Tilton was ecstatic to get the verdict. “I have never been one to accept injustice or cower in the face of challenging obstacles, and I knew the truth would ultimately prevail,” Tilton said in an interview.  “I can only hope that this vindication will deter the future abuse of power that comes with government overreach.” “People told me my case would be impossible to win,” Tilton said in post-trial interview on CNBC’s “Power Lunch,” as she reflected on the power of the SEC.  And, as she told Bloomberg News, she looked to Brune and Gibson Dunn because they were “willing to get in there and fight.” I think that before this victory, many would have opined that this was an impossible case to win in the SEC’s administrative court proceeding.  Not so, at least with this defense team. The post Susan Brune Prevails in “Impossible to Win” Securities Case appeared first on Women Criminal Defense Attorneys.
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