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    August 6, 2008  
 
 
Ballard Spahr;
White & Case;
Sonnenschein;
Mirixa

 

Star in our midst: Ballard Spahr's Susan Eleff (yellow dress, below) will see her handiwork featured on the two-hour season premier of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition on September 28.

 

The episode tells the story of Felicia Jackson (pink blouse), a single mom caring for her own four children plus 10 of her sister, who passed away in '04. One of the kids' teachers nominated the family for the ABC show. Just one problem: In order to have your home made over on national television, you need a home to start with.

 

Montgomery County had been putting the family up in transient housing, but when it learned that Felicia was being considered for the show, it contacted Ballard Spahr with a mission to help get a deed in Felicia's name (with MoCo financing) on a nearly impossible deadline. Two days later, Susan was closing on a Poolesville property that had been taken back in foreclosure. Felicia was selected for the show, and Susan says that new house was built in a single week (while Felicia and the kids were treated to a trip to Disney World).


Latin America's Arbitration King
 

Everything seems a little sexier in South America. The food, the dancing, the . . . arbitration? Okay, perhaps some things can't be romanticized, but Jonathan Hamilton of White & Case has spent his career at the front of a trend in which Latin American countries have adopted laws and treaties encouraging resolution of commercial disputes in arbitration forums—and seeing their economies grow accordingly. Peru, Jonathan notes, had among the highest growth rates in the world in the mid-1990s, shortly after signing on to three such agreements. He was there at the time doing a stint at a top Peruvian firm, and 12 years later he's been named chair of the Institute for Transnational Arbitration's "Americas Initiative."  

 

He's currently defending Peru in an arbitration against a $150 million claim over an energy infrastructure project and, together with colleague Carolyn Lamm (ABA president-elect), is representing 19,000 Italian investors in a dispute over Argentina's payment on sovereign bonds. The ITA gig isn't Jonathan's only claim to fame; a Mississippi native, he met John Grisham during the future best-seller's stint as a state legislator. When the two had a chance reunion in Charlottesville during Jonathan's days at UVA law, he became a research assistant on some of Grisham's books. Appropriately in light of Jonathan's future work, they ran into each other at a grocery store called "Foods of All Nations."  


The Other Revolving Door
 

You won't be surprised to learn that this picture of Karen Litsinger, former Sonnenschein partner, wasn't taken at a law firm. Would you believe, though, it's at her Reston office, where she landed earlier this year as the first General Counsel of Mirixa, a 75-employee software and services provider to pharmacies and health care insurers? It's not the first time she's left law firm life for the in-house route, either: After starting at Arent Fox, Karen spent seven years at AOL, eventually overseeing its 30-member transaction team that handled everything from content licensing to M&As.

 

She's parked at Mirixa for now (get it?), but Karen says that attorneys "moving across fences" from in-house to government to law firm positions is good for the profession, as it leads to better understanding. You get a whole new perspective on broadly written subpoenas, for instance, when you're responding to one rather than writing it. Knowing what goes into those billables, of course, helps as well. The factor that brought her back to in-house work, Karen says, is breadth of issues (she was working on an amended stock option plan when we stopped in), and the chance to be a player in a business operation. She didn't mention the break room, but we're inclined to think that might be a factor, too.


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