Kasowitz Benson comes to bury Berry, not to praise him. The firm has moved to dismiss the $77 million lawsuit filed against it by Gregory S. Berry, the former first-year associate at Kasowitz who claimed that the firm wrongfully terminated his employment due to its inability to handle his “superior legal mind.” Berry also alleged fraud, breach of contract, and a host of other claims.
On Wednesday, Kasowitz Benson filed its motion to dismiss Gregory Berry’s complaint, accompanied by a 22-page memorandum of law. The firm’s brief is fairly straightforward, advancing the arguments you’d expect it to make.
But there are a few fun tidbits here and there. Let’s have a look, shall we?
The big decisional news out of New York today is the guilty verdict in the Brooke Astor trial. Anthony Marshall, the son of the late socialite and philanthropist, was convicted in a scheme to defraud Mrs. Astor.
But we also have news of another notable ruling. Longtime readers of Above the Law will recall the case of Jeremy Pitcock, the successful intellectual-property litigator who was fired from Kasowitz Benson in December 2007. The firm issued an unusual statement saying that Pitcock had engaged in “extremely inappropriate personal conduct.”
Pitcock sued Kasowitz for defamation. Kasowitz turned around and sued Pitcock, alleging in its complaint that he “subject[e]d at least twelve of the firm’s female employees…. to a pattern of unwelcome sexual advances.”
Now a judge has ruled in both of the cases. From Nate Raymond of the New York Law Journal:
A nearly two year-long public brawl between Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman and a former partner it fired for sexual harassment could be quieting down now that a Manhattan Supreme Court judge has dismissed both parties’ lawsuits.
Justice Martin Shulman (See Profile) last week found “unavailing” and “unpersuasive” the arguments made against the firm by intellectual property lawyer Jeremy Pitcock, who sued for defamation, breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty.
The judge also found Kasowitz Benson failed to show how Mr. Pitcock had damaged the firm.
Executive summary (or West headnote): “A pox on both your houses.”
[Ed. note: This post is by MARIN, one of the finalists in ATL Idol, the "reality blogging" competition that will determine ATL's next editor. It is marked with Marin's avatar (at right).]
From ergonomic wrist supports to dual computer monitors, law firms wring every ounce of productivity from the attorneys they haven’t axed (yet). But while firms close branch offices and fire scores of lawyers, we submit that the answer to the current economic slump isn’t merging firms – it’s merging people. Everybody knows that two lawyers are better than one. It’s time for firms to get both and pay half; time for attorney mating.
No more legions of staff attorneys or filibuster roll-calls. Say goodbye to team meetings that resemble the Last Supper. Through attorney mating, firms can combine, say, the skills of master litigators with those of corporate powerhouses in order to produce uberlawyers with the efficiency of ten Aeron chairs. Using genetic samples from parent attorneys and the latest in Photoshop technology, we’ll give you a sneak peak at the offspring of some of the most sought-after combinations.
Read more, after the jump.
Some of you may recall the strange tale of Jeremy Pitcock, a successful IP litigator in New York. As we previously reported, he recently left Kasowitz Benson, where he headed the intellectual property practice, for Morgan & Finnegan. That’s par for the course, in this age of increased lateral partner movement. The weird part was that Kasowitz issued a statement, apparently in response to Morgan’s trying to tout Pitcock’s move as a hiring coup, in which Kasowitz said they fired Pitcock for “extremely inappropriate personal conduct.”
The plot thickens. A source informed us that Jeremy Pitcock is no longer at Morgan & Finnegan, which we have confirmed. His bio is no longer on the firm website, which has also been scrubbed of the press release touting his hire. If you try emailing him at his Morgan & Finnegan email address, which is the one provided in his LinkedIn profile, as we did, your message will bounce back to you.
We tried calling Jeremy Pitcock at the Morgan & Finnegan phone number listed in his profile. The nervous-sounding woman who answered the phone told us that he’s no longer with the firm, that she didn’t have forwarding information for him, and that his last day in the office was “last week.”
Did Morgan & Finnegan get rid of Pitcock after investigating the alleged “inappropriate personal conduct”? One source said it would be surprising. First, Pitcock is a superstar IP lawyer. Rumor has it that “when he left Simpson, he had a $6 million book of business, as a 6th or 7th year associate. He decided he wanted to be a partner [immediately, rather than waiting a few years,] and Kasowitz took him up on that.”
Second, some claim Morgan & Finnegan has a reputation for tolerating a certain degree of inappropriate personal conduct. One source tells us that “they aren’t known for being friendly to women — or in some cases, they’re known for being too friendly. There were partners who asked female associates on dates repeatedly and others who referred to female associates as ‘pretty young girls.’ Still others simply refused to work with women.”
We contacted the firm’s spokesperson to inquire about Pitcock’s departure; she wasn’t in, so we left a message. We haven’t heard back from her yet, but if we do, we’ll let you know.
If you have the 411, feel free to email us. Thanks. Update (2:30 PM): We just heard back from the Morgan & Finnegan spokesperson. She stated that the firm generally does not comment on internal firm matters. Update (6/6/08): Jeremy Pitcock has filed a $90 million defamation lawsuit against Kasowitz Benson. See here. Earlier: Musical Chairs: Kasowitz Attributes IP Head’s Departure to ‘Extremely Inappropriate Personal Conduct’
Jeremy Pitcock, 35, joined Kasowitz in March 2006 after being wooed from Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, where he was a senior associate. Kasowitz named him head of IP not long after. But after less than two years, Pitcock left the 200-plus-lawyer firm for 52-lawyer New York IP boutique Morgan & Finnegan.
Morgan touted Pitcock’s hiring as “an outstanding addition to our successful litigation practice” when it announced his move on January 8. But the Kasowitz firm says he was forced out following an unspecified incident.
“Mr. Pitcock was terminated for cause by Kasowitz, Benson in December 2007 because of extremely inappropriate personal conduct,” name partner Daniel Benson said in a statement.
So what prompted the firm’s statement?
Kasowitz’s statement followed the publication of an article in trade publication IP Law 360 last week, which reported that Morgan had lured Pitcock from Kasowitz. In his statement, directed toward the publication, Benson said, “It was inaccurate to use ‘nab’ in your headline, or to use ‘jump ship’ in your opening paragraph.”
“We were not looking to publicize this incident, but because of those incorrect news items, we felt compelled to set the record straight,” Benson said in a press release that the firm distributed online.
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Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past six years. You can reach them by email: email@example.com.
Deal flow has clearly picked recently up for most US associates, counsels and partners in Hong Kong/China and Singapore. We are on the phone with a lot of these folks on a daily basis, many of whom we have known for years. Further, the head of our Asia team, Evan Jowers, and Kinney’s founder and president, Robert Kinney, frequently meet in person with leading US partners in Asia to assess their needs and keep on top of the inside scoop at as many firms as possible. The need for legal recruiting help in Asia from experienced recruiters appears to be live and well. In March, Evan and Robert were in Beijing at such meetings, in April, Evan was in Hong Kong, and for half of June Evan will be in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Thus its pretty easy for us to tell when there has been an across-the-market pick up in capital markets and corporate work.
On an average day in Asia when Evan and Robert visit firms, they typically have 5 to 9 meetings a day, mostly with US partners in the market. The reason they have these meetings is not simply because Kinney makes a lot of US attorney placements in Asia and that a particular firm may have openings; instead these are just visits with friends. After years of working together as business partners, the folks at Kinney are actually these peoples’ friends. The firms Kinney work closely with in Asia (which is just about every law firm – call us if you want to know the one firm in the world we will never place anyone with again, ever, and why) look forward to the visits, or at least act like they do. After seven years in the market, many of the client partners are former associate candidates. Also, these US partners see Kinney as a very good source of market information as well, because they know how deep their contacts are in the market and how frequently they are speaking to counterparts at peer firms.
In a land that is right here and in a time that is right now, a technology has arisen so powerful that it can replace basic human document review. Is it time to bow down before our new robot overlords?
First, here’s a little story about me: my life in the legal world began as a paralegal. My first case was a GIANT patent infringement case that was already six years old and had involved as many as five companies, multiple US courts, the ITC and an international standards committee. I knew nothing about any of this.
On my first day, my supervisor (a paralegal with at least eight other cases driving her crazy) sat me down in front of a Concordance database with a 100,000+ patents and patent file histories. “Code these,” she said. I learned that “coding”, for the purposes of this exercise, meant manually typing the inventor’s name, the title of the patent, the assignee, the file date, and other objective data for each document. I worked on that project – and only that project – for at least the first six months of my job. After a week or so, time began to blur.
What I know, in retrospect and with absolutely certainty, is that as time began to blur, so did my judgment. So did my attention to detail. If you could tell me that I did not make at least one mistake a day – one inconsistent spelling, one reversed day and month, one incorrectly spaced title – I frankly would need to see your evidence. I would not believe it. The human mind is trainable but it is not a machine.
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