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    October 23, 2008  
Williams & Connolly;

Big shout-out to the American University's Washington College of Law. Register for its upcoming 5th Annual Seminar on International Commercial Arbitration. Oct. 27-30 in DC. Please see ad to right.


What's this? For the first time in 22 years, Williams & Connolly has taken on a lateral partner. It's true—the exclusive litigation shop that likes to grow its own partners has picked up former Assistant to the Solicitor General and Scalia clerk Kannon Shanmugam. We made a beeline over to see him.


Kannon worked under the tutelage of Ken Starr at Kirkland before joining the SG's office from '04-'08, where he argued eight cases before the Supremes, including a unanimous win right out of the blocks in the Fourth Amendment case, Muehler v. Mena (2005). Williams & Connolly, noted foremost for its trial practice, doesn't have a dedicated appellate or Supreme Court group, but Kannon points out that 12 of the firm's 103 partners (38 of whom he met during the interview process) have High Court experience, including appellate dean John Kester. He envisions a practice bringing in appellate work but also representing existing Williams & Connolly clients when trial work bubbles up on appeal.


In one such D.C. Circuit appeal, he's testing whether the Boyle government contractor defense applies to his client, Titan Corp., which provided translators at Abu Ghraib. So how did he get in the door? When checking out firms at the end of the last Supreme Court term, Kannon says he received inklings from Harvard Law classmates Chris Manning and Ryan Scarborough (now W&C partners) that the firm might just be open to the right lateral candidate in the appellate area. After a brief stint playing Mr. Mom to 10-month old son Thomas, Kannon took up the firm's offer and started two weeks ago.

Return of the King

Lon Bouknight just couldn't stay away. Four years after the former Steptoe & Johnson chairman left to become GC of Edison International, he's come back to the fold. Edison Int'l is the holding company of longtime Steptoe client Southern California Edison, and during his GC stint, Lon lived in sunny San Marino. (We're very jealous, and also disappointed to hear Lon never picked up a surfboard.) Executive Committee Chair Roger Warin made Lon promise that if he returned to private practice, Steptoe would be his first call. He needn't worry: "It was my first choice by a huge margin," Lon says. 


Heading up the firm's 15-lawyer Electric Power Group again, Lon tells us he'll be focused on landing clients federal incentives for new transmission systems, including an ambitious SoCal Edison plan to transmit wind and solar energy to population centers. Steptoe is also representing SoCal Edison in long-running FERC proceedings in which the utility is asking for rebates for market manipulation at the wholesale level during 2001. (Remember Enron?) Lon tells us he's excited to be back from California and reunite with his old partners—except maybe one regret: "I've  heard rumors that there's something called winter here." Of course, if he drags his feet on those alternative energy incentives, global warming might take care of that.

O'Melveny Settles Massive Mortgage Cases

Uncertainty over the country's housing woes continues, but an O'Melveny team led by John Beisner may have pointed the way forward with a settlement between 13 state AGs and Bank of America earlier this month. On July 1, O'Melveny client BofA acquired Countrywide Financial, which faced alleged predatory lending suits and investigations in several states. John's team quickly hit the phones to the state AGs, ultimately resulting in a settlement under which BofA has agreed to restructure mortgages of Countrywide customers who have mortgages larger than the value of their homes.


John (who worked the master Vioxx settlement for Merck) tells us partner Brian Boyle became such an overnight expert on mortgage intricacies that state attorneys were quickly referring to him as "The Professor." The novel aspect of the settlement is it allows Countrywide customers to stay in their homes instead of imposing penalties on the lender. John says it also may "fill in some blanks" of the $750B bailout bill, which contemplated mortgage modifications but didn't set forth how that would happen. If all other states join the settlement (most have made inquiries), a nationwide program would cover some 400,000 hard-pressed Countrywide customers.

John Ford is Bisnow's Legal Editor, and his calendar is already filling with holiday parties. If you want him at yours (you know you do), get in touch at john@bisnow.com.

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