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News and Gossip: George Clooney, Tax Cheats and Cool Brits

Vivia Chen

July 5, 2017

It's midsummer, so it's no time for serious news. Here's my roundup of some oddly amusing/curious news and gossip for you to digest by the pool or beach:

George_Clooney-4_The_Men_Who_Stare_at_Goats_TIFF09_(cropped)1. 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 Tequilla 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 Tequilla with George, which he apparently did as part of his due diligence duties.

2. Ballsiest Lawyer Award goes to: Tax judge who cheated on taxes! Who says tax types are dull and boring? Not Diane Kroupa, former judge of 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 claimed 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 judgement of others for tax fraud when you're a cheater yourself. One can only hope that she was an uncommonly empathetic judge.

3. 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 advance 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 socio-economic 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.

UK’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."

 vchen@alm.com

Other firms that have made the list 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. The top-ranked employer overall was Grant Thornton with KPMG in second place.

The ranking, which was produced in partnership with the City of London Corporation, comprised 32% legal firms, a remarkable figure given that the legal industry employs a little over 1% of the UK workforce. Self-selection apparently played a major role in the heavy legal representation with submissions being used in the research process.

The index judged UK companies on seven criteria: working with young people; non-graduate routes into work; attracting talent beyond graduates of top universities; removing barriers that can affect those from lower socio-economic groups in the employment process; analysing the diversity of the workforce; strategies to help those from lower socio-economic backgrounds progress; and internal and external advocacy.

The index published this week by the Social Mobility Foundation, a UK charity championing low-income children, and the Government-backed Social Mobility Commission, featured Berwin Leighton Paisner as the top-ranked law firm, placed at number eight.

the UK’s 50 most socially mobile employers include no less than 16 law firms. 

The index published this week by the Social Mobility Foundation, a UK charity championing low-income children, and the Government-backed Social Mobility Commission, featured Berwin Leighton Paisner as the top-ranked law firm, placed at number eight.

Other firms that have made the list 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. The top-ranked employer overall was Grant Thornton with KPMG in second place.

The ranking, which was produced in partnership with the City of London Corporation, comprised 32% legal firms, a remarkable figure given that the legal industry employs a little over 1% of the UK workforce. Self-selection apparently played a major role in the heavy legal representation with submissions being used in the research process.

The index judged UK companies on seven criteria: working with young people; non-graduate routes into work; attracting talent beyond graduates of top universities; removing barriers that can affect those from lower socio-economic groups in the employment process; analysing the diversity of the workforce; strategies to help those from lower socio-economic backgrounds progress; and internal and external advocacy.

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About The Careerist

The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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