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Law Firm News and Updates for January 2021: Law Firm Merger, Diversity in Legal Industry and Law School News
Thursday, January 21, 2021

We hope that your 2021 is going along well all things considered.  We wanted to extend a big thank you to our law firm publishing partners for helping the National Law Review surpass 25,000,000 page views in 2020.  2020 Go-To Thought Leadership AwardYou can read about some of the articles and authors we noted as exceptional high flyers in our press release from earlier this week.  Additionally, we recognized roughly 70 exceptional authors and contributors in our 2020 Go To Thought Leadership Awards issued a few weeks back which you can read about here. But enough about us and our talented authors, here are some recent updates from around the legal industry.

Law Firm Hires and Promotions

Ballard Spahr named Damon O. Barry the Office Managing Partner for the Denver office of the firm. Mr. Barry is an experienced deal and government affairs attorney, working on mergers and acquisitions, recapitalizations and other sophisticated commercial transactions.  The Denver office of Ballard Spahr is the epicenter of the firm’s western United States Labor and Employment, Public Finance Data Privacy and Cybersecurity practices.  Mr. Barry praised the Denver office of Ballard Spahr, pointing out the attorneys located there do exciting work with industry leaders in the region, and said, “I’m looking forward to building on our previous success and continuing to deliver first-rate service to our clients, both existing and new, while simultaneously driving and increasing our commitment to the Denver community.”

Idan Netser and Andrew Harper joined Sidley Austin LLP in the Palo Alto office.  Both attorneys will join Sidley as transactional partners, joining the Emerging Companies and Venture Capital practice, and Mr. Netser will also join the Tax Practice.  Martin Wellington, Managing Partner of the Palo Alto office describes the addition of Mr. Nester and Mr. Harper as an important milestone in Sidley’s expansion into Northern California, and the emerging technology field of practice.  Wellington says, “Idan has a well-deserved reputation both as a trusted adviser to entrepreneurs and emerging companies in the software, security, and life sciences markets, and as a leading international tax counselor for some of the technology sector’s best-known brands. Andrew is a rising star with established relationships at an exciting roster of both companies and blue-chip venture investors. Together, they elevate our brand in the Valley and position Sidley for sustained growth in this market.”

Vedder Price announced that Wayne M. Aaron has joined the firm as a member of the Investment Services Group and Corporate practice in New York.  Mr. Aaron is an experienced securities regulatory lawyer, and his practice includes financial services advisory matters, broker-dealer regulation and enforcement, government and regulatory investigations and FinTech.  He regularly advises securities firms on complex sales and trading, and other regulatory issues, as well as in examinations, inquiries and enforcement proceedings before the Securities and Exchange Commission and other government regulators.  Corporate Practice Area Chair at Vedder, Jennifer Durham King indicated she is looking forward to Aaron’s addition to the financial services and corporate-related practices in New York.  She says, “Wayne is a terrific addition to our existing broker-dealer and regulatory investigations practices as we look to continue to grow and diversify those practices, including into other complementary areas, such as high frequency trading and FinTech regulatory work.”

Murray Plumb & Murray is pleased to announce that Katherine Krakowka has been elected a Director of the firm as of January 1, 2021, and  Stacey Neumann has been named to Murray Plumb & Murray’s Management Committee. 

Ms. Krakowka has been with Murray, Plumb & Murray since 2019, focusing on Business & Corporate Law and Business Reorganization & Insolvency, and she has been working with local businesses, navigating the COVID-19 pandemic.  Drew Anderson, Managing Director of Murry Plumb & Murray calls Katie a wonderful addition to the ranks, saying,  “She has been an active participant in the firm since joining our team and this year especially has played a crucial role in supporting our local business community as a thought leader on risk planning and a legal expert on pandemic assistance programs. We look forward to having the benefit of her wisdom, experience and intellect in this leadership role.”

Additionally, Stacey Neumann has been named to Murray Plumb & Murray’s Management Committee. Neumann is a Director at the firm and Chair of the Employment and Criminal/White Collar Defense Practice Groups, and she has extensive litigation experience with federal and state white-collar and other criminal defense, employment law with discrimination and other human resources matters, and Title IX investigations and other collegiate disciplinary processes.

Steve Zelkowitz
Steven W. Zelkowitz 
of Spiritus Law

Steven W. Zelkowitz joined Spiritus Law as Managing Partner, reuniting with Spiritus law founding partners Marbet and Robert Lewis.  Additionally, Jonathan Portuondo is joining Spiritus Law as an associate. Spiritus Law will be focusing on helping firm hospitality clients recover from the pandemic. 

Mr. Zelkowitz comes to Spiritus Law with more than 30 years of experience in real estate, financial services industries, including infrastructure and development, hospitality and public/private partnerships.  Zelkowitz also has government relations experience, and experience in assisting businesses establishing or relocating to Florida by leveraging tax and other financial incentives.  Additionally, Zelkowitz has a long-established relationship with the firm’s founders Robert and Marbet Lewis, which will translate into a productive and effective working relationship. 

“Spiritus Law is already known as a powerhouse nationally in the alcohol and hospitality industries. I am confident that my depth of experience will further cement the firm’s reputation in those industries in 2021 and beyond,” said Mr. Zelkowitz. “I am both humbled and excited to reunite with Marbet and Rob, and in applying my decades of experience growing law firms for the benefit of Spiritus Law and its clients at this pivotal moment in history.”

Dinsmore & Shohl Merges with Wooden McLaughlin

On January 1, 2021, Dinsmore & Shohl LLP has merged with Wooden McLaughlin LLP in Indiana, continuing Dinsmore’s growth across Indiana, adding offices in Indianapolis, Evansville and Bloomington.  Dinsmore added 47 Wooden attorneys, growing Dinsmore’s lawyer headcount by over 7 percent, and continuing Dinsmore’s goal of continued growth and strength in the Midwest.  George Vincent, Dinsmore Chairman and Managing Partner, says, “I’ve always believed in having a renewable five-year plan and working back from where you want to be. Five years ago, we wanted to be in Boston, Florida and Indiana, and we’ve done all of those things. We are in every state surrounding Indiana, so it is a natural place for us to be. There are significant opportunities for new and existing Dinsmore clients there, and Wooden has a great legacy.” 

The merger builds on both firm’s legacies of valued client relationships that can span decades, with an emphasis and value on diversity.  Wooden Partner, Misha Rabinowitch, says Dinsmore’s focus on diversity was an important element in the decision, saying, “I’m personally excited to continue working to make our offices as inclusive as possible, now with the assistance of Dinsmore’s diversity initiatives that are already in place and have great momentum.”

Law Firm Diversity: Norton Rose Fulbright and Blank Rome Tap New Diversity and Inclusion Officers, and Nelson Mullin’s Diversity Pipeline Outreach Program Recognized

Katherine Tapley Norton Rose
Katherine Tapley of Norton Rose

Norton Rose Fulbright announced that Katherine Tapley, a San Antonio partner, will replace Denise Glass as the firm’s new US Chief of Diversity and Inclusion.  She will chair the US Diversity and Inclusion Committee at the firm, and she will work closely with the US Management Committee to strengthen Norton Rose Fulbright’s diversity and inclusion efforts.  Tapley previously chaired the Women in Norton Rose Fulbright (WiN) Network.  Additionally, Tapley has served on the Real Estate Service Board of Directors for the San Antonio Area Foundation, and she currently chairs the Board of Governors of SA Youth, a non-profit working to improve the education, character and lives of high-risk San Antonio youth.  

Jeff Cody, Norton Rose Fulbright’s US Managing Partner: “Katherine championed diversity for several years at Norton Rose Fulbright, consistently looking for opportunities for the firm to make meaningful enhancements. While we have made notable progress in our diversity and inclusion efforts, this important area remains a priority for us.”

Norton Rose Fulbright achieved several honors related to their diversity efforts, including a Gold Standard Certification by Women in Law Empowerment Forum (WILEF) for their inclusion of women into leadership positions.  Norton Rose Fulbright also received a perfect score from the Human Rights Campaign Foundation on its Corporate Equality Index for policies related to LGBT workplace equality, and Diversity Lab announced Norton Rose Fulbright had achieved Mansfield Rule Certification 3.0 and Mansfield Certification Plus status, both benchmarks in the legal industry.

Ms. Tapley announced a desire to continue the firm’s work in this important area, saying, “Fostering diversity and inclusion is a critical component to being the best possible place to work for our people. I will work tirelessly to ensure the firm succeeds in this arena.”

Nelson Mullins Diverse Pipeline Outreach Program was selected by Profiles in Diversity Journal as a winner in its Top 10 Innovations in Diversity for 2020.  The Innovations in Diversity honors inventive solutions in workforce diversity, selecting corporations, organizations, and institutions for ground-breaking programs furthering inclusion and diversity in their respective fields. 

The goal of Nelson Mullins Diverse Pipeline Outreach Program is to combat a lack of diversity in the legal industry by working with Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the Carolinas and Georgia to provide students with an inside look at the legal profession.  By demonstrating the legal industry in action across a variety of areas and demystifying the steps to go to law school and become a practicing attorney and capping it off with a paid internship for one student at each school that participates. The first internship will begin in the spring of 2021.

The Nelson Mullins program is spearheaded by Ariel Roberson and Jack Slosson, partners in Raleigh and Charlotte, respectively.  Roberson says, “Diversity in the legal profession is tremendously lacking, but we all know how necessary it is to hear different perspectives in the courtrooms, boardrooms, classrooms, etc. across America.”   Slosson says, “I am hopeful that this unique program can have a real impact in growing diversity in the legal profession going forward.” 

Krystal Studavent Ramsey
Krystal Studavent Ramsey 
of Blank Rome

Blank Rome announced that Krystal Studavent Ramsey is the firm’s new Director of Diversity and Inclusion in Blank Rome’s Houston office.  As Director of Diversity and Inclusion, Ms. Studavent Ramsey will implement Blank Rome’s strategic DEI plans to create an inclusive environment within the firm, and to partner with clients on DEI plans and programs.  To further this goal, Studavent Ramsey brings her experience co-founding and co-chairing Blaxiom, a group of Black Axiom employees when she served as a senior legal consultant at Axiom, and her experience working as director of strategy and operations for the Diverse Attorney Pipeline Program, devoted to nurturing first-year, women of color law students. 

Studavent Ramsey calls her new role “an amazing opportunity” and praises Blank Rome’s foundation of DEI.  She says, “I am excited to join Blank Rome as its Director of Diversity and Inclusion, especially at such a pivotal time in our world . . . [T]his is an amazing opportunity . . . to make sustainable change and a positive impact throughout our firm, the legal industry, the communities we serve, and beyond.”

Law School Updates

Over 150 academics issued a joint statement saying “The violent attack on the Capitol was an assault on our democracy and the rule of law. The effort to disrupt the certification of a free and fair election was a betrayal of the core values that undergird our Constitution. Lives were lost, the seat of our democracy was desecrated, and our country was shamed.”

Citing their role as the educators of the next generation of lawyers, the academics claimed an obligation to “support the rule of law and preserve the integrity of the legal profession.”  The statement frowned on the actions of attorneys filing frivolous and ungrounded lawsuits challenging the election, filings unsupported by any evidence, saying they “betrayed the values of our profession” by doing so.  Additionally, the statement praised the lawyers and judges who worked hard to bring about an honest election in trying circumstances.  Read the complete joint statement and see a list of academics who signed the Joint Statement on the 2020 Election and Events at the Capitol.

John F. Kennedy School of Law at Northcentral University welcomed its first cohort of law students in the online Juris Doctor program, the university announced last week.  Since 1996, Northcentral University has been a leader in graduate-focused online education, with over 11,000 students enrolled in graduate programs across education, psychology and now law. 

The program is taught by faculty who are practicing attorneys, judges and other legal professionals, to bring real-world expertise into the virtual classroom.  Faculty areas of expertise include civil and criminal law, constitutional law, insurance defense litigation and public interest law.  Along with online classes, hands-on curriculum opportunities include clinical and internship experiences. Dean Hutton says the online JD program will have opportunities for students to get individualized feedback from faculty members.  He says, “"Students have multiple opportunities to apply legal doctrine throughout each course, along with personalized faculty feedback, allowing for a much deeper understanding of the material and greater preparation for exams and, ultimately, for the California Bar Examination."

Other law offerings at Northcentral include a Bachelor of Arts in legal studies and a paralegal certificate program, both approved by the American Bar Association.

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