The

National Lawyers Guild

 

Would Like to Cordially Invite First-Year Columbia Law Students to an Extravagant Reception to Discuss Their Values and Goals during the Firm Hiring Process*

 

*Unfortunately, the Russian Tea Room was booked, so we decided to write this booklet instead.

 

A guide to researching law firms prepared by

the National Lawyers Guild chapter of Columbia University

- MEMORANDUM -

To: Columbia Law Class of 2003

From: The National Lawyers Guild, Columbia University Chapter

Re: Your values, relevance to selecting a firm

 

I. Question Presented

A law student is looking for employment with a firm and is participating in the Early Interview Program. On these facts, are there issues the student should investigate beyond those presented by the firms and career services?

 

II. Brief Answer

Yes. There are a number of issues that the student should investigate, including the details of pro bono opportunities, the types of cases the firm takes, and the clients the firm represents — who are, after all, the source of the paycheck.

 

III. Facts

The writers of this booklet are fellow students who see a great deal of talent and potential among their classmates. We have also seen that you have an array of thoughtful principles and ideals. It is our hope that this booklet will help you engage those principles and ideals while you search for a job that meets your practical goals.

 

IV. Discussion

There are a number of issues for the student to investigate in order to assess which firms are most consistent with the student’s personal values. To illustrate the kinds of issues that might be relevant, a committee of eleven NLG members researched the ten largest firms in New York City according to JobFinder, using techniques described in the following pages. While the members of our committee do have very progressive points of view, the research methods we used can also be used to evaluate firms according to your own principles. In the course our research, we came up with three areas of concern that we think deserve attention: A) clients the firm has represented, B) specific cases the firm has taken, and C) pro bono programs.

 

A. The clients and their practices are the source of your paycheck

Are the clients the firm serves the kinds of organizations that you want to benefit from your talents? Also included in this booklet is The Multinational Monitor’s list of the 10 worst corporations of 2000 and results of our research to determine which firms represented them.

 

B. The cases you work on will have a social impact

Would you feel comfortable working on the cases the firm handles? The implications of your work may be less obvious than they seem. For each firm that we profiled, we highlight cases, clients, and deals that were offensive to us.

 

C. Pro bono programs vary considerably from firm to firm

Will you actually get to do both the type and amount of pro bono work that you want to do? Here are some things to take into account when researching pro bono opportunities: whether pro bono hours are billable, whether they are limited (officially or unofficially), who the pro bono clients are, and who in the firm actually does pro bono. There is a description of these and other pro bono issues at the end of this booklet.

 

V. Conclusion

This booklet is not meant to be comprehensive. There are many other ways to investigate these issues and others you find important (not the least of which is asking about them during an interview). Many of us came to law school with the goal of using legal skills to effect positive social change, and it is our hope that this booklet will help you think about how to accomplish this in the context of working for a firm.

 

The Process Exposed: How You Can Research Firms

The point of this book is not to just highlight a few firms. The point is to encourage you to go into your job search with your eyes open to the good and the bad. With a little extra digging you can empower yourself to make an informed decision about where to work. You will have to do research to prepare for interviews anyway. While you are at it, you might as well take a few extra minutes to find out if the firm is a place that matches (or at least doesn’t offend) your principles. The process of choosing a firm is different for everyone. For example, some people would never work for a tobacco company, while other people would not mind. You want to find a job that suits your personal convictions. It is only by approaching the process critically that you will be able to find the right job for you.

 

In the process of making this booklet we picked a few firms and learned by trial and error how to find information about them. The following is a description of the research methods that we found were the most useful and efficient. We hope these tips are helpful as you research firms.

 

Step 1: Find out whom the firm represents.

Try the firm’s web page, firms often list their clients, and which cases and deals for which they represented the clients.

 

Ask the firm directly.

 

Search case and news databases of Lexis and Westlaw.

 

Law.com also has a list of corporations and who represents them: http://www.law.com/special/professionals/nlj/nlj_clientlist1-50.html

 

Step 2: Go beneath the surface of the cases and corporate deals.

Once you find out the clients of a firm, find out more about the deals and litigation that the firm is doing on behalf of those clients. The firm’s web sites and associates are trying to recruit you to work for them, so of course they are going to try to make their firm look good. They will often make their work seem, if not noble, at least benign. It is important to go beyond what the firm tells you, and to do research on your own.

 

Read the cases that the firms have litigated. For the firms that do not do a lot of litigation, choose a few deals that they list on their web page and do a newspaper search about them on Lexis or Westlaw.

 

Research the environmental and social policies of the corporations that the firm represents.

 

Corporate Watch, and the Multinational Monitor web pages are good resources. Enter the client’s name in the search engines on these pages and you might get a list of articles about the client.
http://www.corporatewatch.org.uk/
http://www.corpwatch.org/
http://www.essential.org/monitor/monitor_resources.html
See if the client is being boycotted for their labor practices at:

http://www.unionlabel.org/donotbuy/default.htm

Check the article at the end of this book for a list of corporations with questionable social and environmental practices, and see if the firm represents them.
Another source of information on corporations is the "Corporate Dirt Archives" at http://www.corporations.org/corplist.html. It is obvious from the name of the web page that the information provided is often biased. However, it can give you a sense of the possible questionable practices of the firm’s clients. You can then confirm the information that you find on this web page by doing a Lexis or Westlaw news search.

Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld

 

"Initially, we strive to narrow the issues before trial. We do this through aggressive discovery and motions designed to posture the case toward the most favorable settlement or to restrict the trial to the fewest possible areas of legitimate dispute. We have won early dismissal of defendants and claims on statute of limitations, product identification, and other legal and factual grounds. In one case, for example, we won motions for summary judgment in D.C. Superior Court on behalf of 11 defendants on the ground that their gasoline products could not be traced to the workplace of three plaintiffs with leukemia. In another, we won summary judgment on all claims of increased risk of cancer from exposure to trichloroethylene and dismissal of the fear of cancer claims of 14 out of 18 plaintiffs.

Both of these cases were then settled on very favorable terms."

Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld website

 

Clients & Cases

Defended Xerox in litigation denying benefits under Xerox’s employee benefit plan to contract workers who performed work for Xerox through third party leasing.
Represented conservation-resisting property owners who sued the state of Texas for regulating usage and withdrawal of water from the Edwards Aquifer (the primary source of water for residents of the South Central Texas) despite a devastating drought that had depleted the Aquifer and was endangering the general economy and welfare of the state.
Defended Pennsylvania Commonwealth against claims by the City and School District of Philadelphia for additional state funding to remedy de facto segregation in the Philadelphia School District.
Defended an insurance company that refused to provide standard landlords’ insurance or provided insurance at less favorable rates and terms to landlords who rent to disabled tenants. The insurance company had cancelled plaintiff landlords’ homeowners’ insurance upon finding plaintiffs were renting to disable persons.
Defended Dow Chemical Company against small-scale Columbian fisherman for a spill of pesticides from a storage tank of a wholly owned subsidiary that resulted in numerous personal and economic injuries.

 

Pro Bono

Pro bono clients include asylum-seekers, non-profit organizations, and artists in need of assistance for intellectual property issues.
By their own estimates, 3-5% of the lawyers in the New York office perform some sort of pro-bono work on a yearly basis.
There is no maximum or minimum amount of pro-bono hours permitted, but their lawyers are allowed to count only 100 non-billable hours toward yearly bonuses.

 

Clifford Chance Roger and Wells

Clifford Chance Roger and Wells announces on their web-page that they have worked on the…

 

"Chad-Cameroon Oil Transportation Project: advising the lenders

on construction risk and contractual documentation of this benchmark project."

What they do not tell you on their web page is that…

The pipeline will cut across Cameroon’s tropical rain forest, home to indigenous people, popularly known as Pygmies.
Human rights and environmental organizations tried to stop the project by reminding investors that both Chad and Cameroon have a history of civil war and human rights abuses.
The people of Chad and Cameroon will not substantially benefit. In1999, Transparency International (an European corruption watchdog) named Cameroon as having one of the most corrupt governments in the world. The project is expected to generate $9 - 18 billion for the private sector consortium while the government of Chad will earn $ 1 billion. Local communities are expected to only receive $600,000 during the 25-year duration of the project.

 

Clients

Represents Shell Oil in litigation and transactions. Among other things, Shell Oil's environmental contamination in Nigeria has measured up to 700 times the levels allowed in developed nations. In the early 1990’s over 2000 men, women, and children died in clashes with the Nigerian military while protesting the pollution. Shell admitted making payments to the Nigerian Security forces, and importing weapons for use by the repressive Nigerian police.
Represented the Liggett Group in tobacco litigation. Over the course of the litigation this tobacco company turned over thousands of incriminating industry documents, and cooperated with the Justice Department criminal investigation of Big Tobacco.
Represented Mylan Laboratories in litigation involving price fixing of drugs that are used to treat Alzheimer's, anxiety and other afflictions. Mylan Laboratories and three other companies made $100-million agreement to settle the cases.

 

Pro Bono

Clifford’s pro bono projects include representation of asylum-seekers, and the Independent Journalists Foundation, and providing tax advice to non-profits.

 

According to the year 2000 Am Law 100, attorneys at this firm averaged 31 pro bono hours per lawyer for the year, with 38 per cent of attorneys logging more than 20 hours over the year.

 

Davis Polk & Wardwell

 

"Examples of our work…include…representation of Merrell-Dow, Babcock & Wilcox, Manville, and Exxon

in major cases concerning prescription drugs, nuclear power, asbestos, and oil spills, respectively." http://www.davispolk.com/practice/masstort.htm

Clients

Recently represented Texaco in a merger with Chevron. Texaco is currently being sued by indigenous people from Ecuador and Peru for contaminating waterways and rainforests during oil exploitation activities in Ecuador between 1964 and 1992. See Jota v. Texaco Inc., 157 F.3d 153.
Representing Suzuki Motor Corp. in suit against the Consumers Union of the United States for Consumer Reports’ rating of the Suzuki Samurai as "not acceptable" due to its purported tendency to roll over.
Represented Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) in joint venture agreement with Huntsman Corporation. ICI manufactured lead-based paint.

 

Cases

Johns Manville is an insulation manufacturer that admits that they knew the dangers inherent in their asbestos-based products before they alerted the public. Though making a profit at the time, Davis Polk helped the company file for bankruptcy in 1982 as a result of 16,000 civil suits being filed against them for asbestos related injuries and deaths. This was the first major company to file for bankruptcy to avoid paying civil suits. In 1988, Davis Polk helped Johns Manville restructure itself creating an independent trust that owned 76% of the shares in the company, keeping the company solvent while repaying their claims.

Sources: http://news.excite.ca/news/r/001223/12/business-johnsmanville-asbestos-dc, Denver Post 6/24/2000, Chicago Daily Law Bulletin 1/29/1992

 

Recently represented RJR Nabisco, parent company of Phillip Morris in tobacco litigation brought on by Las Vegas casino workers, the State of Rio De Janeiro of the Federated Republic of Brazil and the Republic of Bolivia.

 

Pro Bono

Pro bono projects include elder law, battered women, helping non-profits and arts organizations with tax issues, and arts organizations. 30% of their pro bono work is on political asylum issues, including conducting the Political Asylum Workshop with Columbia Law School’s Center for Public Interest Law.

 

Hours are billable. There’s no official maximum. 44% billed 20 hours or more. This information is from Amy Rossabi, pro bono coordinator (Tel. 212/450-4435).

 

"In 1999, Davis Polk lawyers worked on more than 300 pro bono matters, devoting a record 35,650 hours to pro bono work. This is a firm-wide average contribution of approximately 68 hours per lawyer, or nearly four percent of the firm's total billable hours for 1999." Per web page.

 

Debevoise & Plimpton

Debevoise & Plimpton announces they have¼

 

"been defending various corporations in connection with government and private actions

relating to their consumer advertising practices, product descriptions and warranties."

Clients

 

Since 1987 they have been counsel for Owens Corning, which has been named as a defendant in nearly 350,000 asbestos personal injury cases, of which about 27,000 are pending.

 

They represent the Council for Tobacco Research (CTR) in smoking and health cases, including class actions, individual suits, the Medicaid reimbursement actions brought by 40 states’ attorneys general, and international cases largely involving American tobacco marketing to children abroad. Also as counsel to CTR they are fighting RICO charges brought by union health insurance trusts seeking to recover medical expenses paid by them for beneficiaries’ smoking-related illnesses. Council for Tobacco Research, the organization that maintains that research does not show that tobacco is harmful.

 

 

Cases

 

They defended Tambrands in Toxic Shock Syndrome litigation. In one case, they defended Tambrands against women who had their hands and feet amputated as a result of TSS.

 

They represented Phelps Dodge Mining Co. against unions when the unions sued for anti-union behavior.

 

They defended Hooters restaurant in a Title VII sexual harassment case. The hostile work environment they defended included waitresses having to "play pin the tail on the penis" to get their sections assigned and managers who exposed themselves to the waitresses repeatedly.

 

Pro Bono

 

According to the year 2000 Am Law 100, attorneys at this firm averaged 93.5 pro bono hours per lawyer for the year, with 52 per cent of attorneys logging more than 20 hours over the year.

 

Ernst & Young

 

"Ernst & Young was again at the nerve center of the Miss America Pageant – a venerable, uniquely American extravaganza, now in its 79th year. Check out what’s behind this glitz-and-glamour event that keeps mothers and aspiring daughters (or maybe it’s the other way around) up late in front of the TV each year –

and draws on E&Y’s long auditing experience."

E&Y website

 

Clients

Proudly works with exploration and production, refining, chemical manufacturing, marketing, and transportation of the oil and gas industries, as well as with the electrical, coal and nuclear industries.
Lobbies on behalf of big pharmaceutical companies.
Hired by Nike to audit the company’s controversial enterprises in Vietnam. Thuyen Nguyen, director of Vietnam Labor Watch, says that it was "disingenuous for Nike to hire an auditor [E&Y] and call them an ‘independent monitor.’" The audit has been highly criticized for inaccuracy and bias.
Cisco, a client of Cap Gemini E&Y, one of the Big Three of the New Economy (joining Intel and Microsoft), paid no federal income tax in 1999 – due to the "wonders of stock-option accounting," according to Paulina Borsook.
Clients include: Cisco, IBM, Commerce One, Siebel, Oracle, SAP, J.D. Edwards, and PeopleSoft.

 

Concerns

Ethical issues also exist when accountants and attorneys blur their professional distinctions. According to the SEC chief accountant Lynn E. Turner, conflicts of interest are problematic for firms that provide both accounting and other services to clients (like legal services, for instance).
E&Y’s loyalty to clients is troublesome: "The parties to litigation pending in a federal trial court were recently stunned to discover that each had employed attorneys from the same French law firm to use as experts on French tax law. More surprising was the reaction of the French law firm, HSD Ernst & Young, which dropped the client that had the preexisting relationship with it in favor of the newer client because of that client's preexisting relationship with the domestic accounting firm of Ernst & Young LLP."
E&Y was the top single donor to both the Clinton and Dole campaigns in 1996. E&Y was a top-five donor to both the Bush and Gore 2000 campaigns.
What about loyalty to employees? Despite the overall trend of expansion and record revenues in the consulting business, "In July 1999, the firm laid off 500 consultants. In February this year, the firm cut another 400 consultants," pointing to its shift to e-commerce and Internet consulting.

Pro Bono

Unable to locate information about Pro Bono opportunities through the website.

 

Sources

www.ey.com, www.motherjones.com, www.americanlawyer.com, www.infirmation.com, www.vault.com, www.villagevoice.com, www.nlj.com

 

Linklaters & Alliance

"The key achievements [of the Linklaters-negotiated portion of a mining company acquisition in Zambia] included ... obtaining a moratorium on environmental law enforcement for 20 years."

- Linklaters’ website

 

Clients & Cases

Advised pharmaceutical giant SmithKline Beecham on its merger with pharmaceutical giant Glaxo Wellcome, resulting in "GlaxoSmithKline," the largest pharmaceutical company in the world — a company active in, among other things, quashing the distribution of low-cost anti-AIDS drugs in Africa. In a press release, a Linklaters partner commented, "We are delighted to be advising ... on a deal which will create ... the biggest force in world pharmaceuticals and one which is likely to trigger a wave of further consolidation in the industry."
Advised the Anglo American Corporation — once a pillar of the apartheid South African economy — on its 2000 acquisition of the assets of the government-owned Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines Ltd. Among the "difficult legal, commercial and political issues" Linklaters helped Anglo overcome was the enforcement of Zambian environmental laws.
Advised the Enron Corporation on the financing of Phase II of the controversial Dhabol Power Project, in Dhabol, Maharashtra, India. The project’s construction has been tainted by allegations of bribery, arbitrary arrest of peaceful protestors, anticipated harm to the local environment and economy, and allegations of police brutality and other human rights abuses by state security forces that were working under contract with a subsidiary of Enron.

 

Pro Bono

Linklaters’ New York office undertook "about 300 hours" of pro bono work in 2000. Linklaters’ website indicates that the firm has approximately 80 lawyers working in New York.
The 900 or so lawyers at the firm’s London office performed a total of 9020 hours of pro bono work in 2000. Linklaters’ Community Investment Coordinator explains that as an international firm based in London, they have a "very different" pro bono system than do strictly U.S. firms, and in particular "we have less litigation, so the needs of our communities are extremely different than that needs of the communities in the US. ... In the UK, we do not have the same target of billable hours that exists in the US."
The firm’s pro bono clients include organizations providing services to youth at risk, assistance with disability discrimination claims, housing assistance, and other legal services. The firm also provides day-to-day legal advice to the Episcopal Arch Diocese of New York. "Our NY office works mostly with Lawyers Alliance for New York, but also [with] Oxfam America and a number of other projects..."
"Pro bono hours are included in an individual’s contribution to the firm along with billable hours, marketing, know-how etc." There is no limit on the number of hours of pro bono work an associate may perform.

 

Shearman & Sterling

 

"Bold moves by big competitors inherently involve antitrust risk. Shearman & Sterling's Antitrust Group is focused on helping our clients turn prudent risk-taking into strategic advantage."

-Shearman & Sterling website

Clients

Viacom, in its acquisition of CBS.
Citicorp in its merger with Travelers, which broke new ground in challenging Depression-era limitations on the banking, brokerage and insurance industries, and created the largest financial services firm in the world.
Rhône-Poulenc S.A., Hoffman-La Roche, Ltd., and BASF in the vitamins anti-price fixing litigation, In Re Vitamins Litigation.
SmithKline Beecham in its merger with the British drug maker Glaxo Wellcome, creating the world’s largest pharmaceutical company. SmithKline Beecham has been investigated by the Justice Department for its drug pricing tactics.

 

Cases

Shearman & Sterling represented Rhône-Poulenc S.A., Hoffman-La Roche, Ltd. and BASF in the vitamins anti-price fixing litigation, In Re Vitamins Litigation. Hoffman-La Roche eventually agreed to pay $500 million, the largest antitrust fine ever imposed. The litigation was finally ended with a $1.1 billion settlement package. The world’s seven largest vitamin manufacturers were found to have engaged in a nine-year price-fixing scheme.
In representing Citicorp in its merger with Travelers, Shearman & Sterling facilitated Citigroup’s tightening grip on global communities through project financing. For example, in 1997 Citibank, subsidiary of Citicorp, financed a $2.2 billion oil-drilling project for DuPont's Conoco and Venezuela's PDVSA in the Venezuelan Orinoco River delta. The Orinoco delta is one of the world’s most pristine remaining river deltas, and is home to the indigenous Warao people. The dredging and drilling necessary for the project is predicted to lead to pollution of the waterway, deforestation of the surrounding rainforest, and displacement of the land-dependent Warao.

 

Pro Bono

Shearman & Sterling works with public interest organizations in New York including New York Lawyers for Public Interest, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and Corporate Council City of New York. They have prosecuted at the International War Crimes Tribunal in Rwanda, represented indigent women and victims of domestic violence in divorce proceedings, and defended the city of New York in civil cases.
According to the year 2000 Am Law 100, Shearman and Sterling attorneys averaged 32.7 pro bono hours for the year, with 23.6 per cent of attorneys logging more than 20 hours over the year.

 

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett

 

"We have advised our clients in all aspects of the planning and implementation of large-scale,

organization-wide staff reductions, both as a corporation downsizes and in connection with mergers."

Clients & Cases

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett was AOL’s lead outside counsel in its acquisition of Time Warner. In January, 2001, "AOL and Time Warner sites combined accounted for 32.7% of the time spent on the internet."
Represents Citigroup, which is currently acting as the chief financial advisor in the Chad/Cameroon pipeline project. Citigroup has also been charged with being involved in "predatory lending and denial of loans to African Americans" "firing of unionized janitors," and "financing redwood logging operations in California."
One of American Home Product’s ("AHP") most used outside counsel. AHP is the corporate parent of Wyeth, the corporation which produced both the diet drug "Redux", (which was found to be linked to heart valve failure), and Norplant.

Pro-Bono

3.6% of all work STB does is pro-bono
The average lawyer at STB does 70.6 hours
35.6% of the lawyers at STB do over 20 hours of pro-bono work per year.
First year associates are required to do "some" pro-bono work.

 

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP

 

Recent regional transactions include "The Beacon Group in connection with the exempt equity offering

by Bayside Ltd., a company organized under the laws of Antigua and Barbuda to develop

the largest single species forest in the Chilean and Argentine areas of Tierra del Fuego."

In Their Own Words

"Skadden, Arps attorneys have defended major corporations in a broad spectrum of industries in actions alleging personal injury, property damage or economic loss resulting from product defects or exposure to toxic substances. Our clients have included manufacturers of medical devices, prescription or over-the-counter pharmaceuticals, industrial equipment, tobacco, asbestos, chemicals, foods, computer equipment and various other consumer products."

Clients

Dow Corning – maker of defective breast implants. 980 F. Supp. 1452
Interneuron Pharmaceuticals – maker of fen-phen. 1999 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 14881
Liggett & Meyers – tobacco company. 191 F.3d 229
The American Tobacco Company 84 F.3d 734
U.S. Tobacco 124 F. Supp. 2d 46
The Flintkote Company – maker of asbestos products 914 F. Supp. 960
Wilmington Chemical Corporation – toxic dumping 769 F. Supp. 591
Chris-Craft Industries – manufacturer of DDT. 883 F. Supp. 1396
American Sterilizers Company - ETO sterilizers. 102 F.3d 194
Athlone Industries – water contamination. 1988 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 12548

 

Cases

Skadden Arps has represented Dow Corning in widely publicized lawsuits filed against it for manufacturing defective breast implants. 980 F. Supp. 1452. Women have blamed the implants for lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and cancer. Throughout the controversy, Dow insisted that its implants were safe; however, studies performed by Dow as early as the 1950s demonstrated toxic hazards associated with its silicone. Dow declared bankruptcy in May 1995 to try to escape liability.

 

Skadden Arps has represented Chris-Craft in a lawsuit filed by the State of California that held the company responsible for dumping an estimated 5,500,000 pounds of DDT and 38,000 pounds of PCBs into the Pacific Ocean. 104 F.3d 1507. As a result, birds like the brown pelican, bald eagle and peregrine falcon have been eliminated or substantially reduced in population.

Pro Bono

 

According to the year 2000 Am Law 100, attorneys at this firm averaged 58 pro bono hours per lawyer for the year, with 33 per cent of attorneys logging more than 20 hours over the year.
 

Sullivan & Cromwell

 

"We have assisted clients in responding to investigations conducted by, among others,

the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the Department of Justice,

the Treasury Department, national and state bank regulators, the FBI and foreign investigative agencies,

and self-regulatory organizations such as the New York Stock Exchange."

Sullivan & Cromwell website

Clients

Defended asbestos companies, including CSR, Gypsum Company, and Turner & Newell plc, in products liability and subsequent insurance litigation.
Defended Schmid Laboratories in litigation related to IUDs, whose product design was found by the FDA to cause bleeding and infertility in women.
Advised Union Camp Corporation in its recent merger with International Paper. Both companies have been cited for significant environmental damage in forest and water habitats.
Defended Microsoft in the recent antitrust litigation that resulted in the court-ordered break-up of the company.
Represented British Petroleum in its mergers with Amoco and ARCO.

 

Cases

British Petroleum’s mergers with Amoco and ARCO resulted in at least 18,000 jobs lost (LA Times, April 14, 2000). BP was one of three oil multinationals to violate the international oil embargo against apartheid South Africa, supplying oil to the white-controlled colonial government of Rhodesia before its independence in 1980. In 1996 British Petroleum (BP) and its partners last year signed a three year, US$60 million agreement with Colombia's Ministry of Defense under which the army agreed to supply a battalion soldiers to monitor construction of a pipeline to the Caribbean coast. BP provided training for these security operations through a British mercenary firm, and according to a recently surfaced report commissioned by the Colombian government, BP collaborated with local soldiers involved in kidnappings, torture, and murder. The report alleges that the oil company compiled on local people protesting oil activities, and passed the information on to the Colombian military which then arrested or kidnapped demonstrators as "subversives."

Pro Bono

Sullivan pro bono clients include asylum-seekers, non-profit organizations seeking tax assistance, creative professionals in trademark and copyright disputes, and victims of domestic violence in divorce proceedings. Sullivan also includes in pro bono hours participation in charitable organizations, such as hospitals and school boards, and bar association activities.
According to the year 2000 Am Law 100, Sullivan and Cromwell attorneys averaged 57 pro bono hours for the year, with 40 per cent of attorneys logging more than 20 hours over the year.

 

Pro Bono: What are the Odds?

Almost every major law firm has a page on their website or in their brochure bragging about their pro bono work. While these claims may encourage us to pick one firm over another or a firm over a public-interest job ("one of the forces driving law firms to do pro bono work is their desire to recruit law students") the reality of life as a first year associate can make meaningful participation in pro bono activities nearly impossible

 

Think about it this way: Law firms may expect anywhere from 1650 to 2500 billable hours per year. With that kind of workload, if pro bono hours do not count towards billable hours, what are the chances you will actually be able to both fulfill the firm’s expectations and your own moral commitments? The fact is that many firms do not live up to their stated commitments to pro bono work. The ABA Model Rule 6.1 suggests that all lawyers engage in at least 50 hours a year of pro bono work. Yet in terms of the average pro bono hours worked, the majority of law firms fall short of even this modest proposal. Furthermore, this statistic is not very meaningful: a firm may have several partners that do lots of pro bono work, but may frown upon associates who sacrifice billable hours for volunteer work.

 

Some law firms have experimented with strategies to encourage associates to take on pro bono work. If they have a specific expectation for billable hours per attorney, they may allow associates to count pro-bono hours towards this goal. Others have implemented a requirement of a minimum number of hours of pro bono work for first year associates. Even if they technically allow associates to engage in unlimited pro bono work, there may be informal mechanisms that serve to limit your opportunities. For example, at Lantham & Walker all hours are billable and there is no formal cap. Yet as one partner commented in response to the suggestion that an associate could log unlimited pro bono hours, "To be realistic, people don't do that, and the reason they don't do that is we have a partnership standard that they're trying to progress against."

 

In order to determine whether a firm’s stated commitment to pro bono work is more than lip service, it may be necessary to ask some difficult questions:

 

Does the firm have a billable hours target? If so, can pro bono work count towards it? Is there a limit on how much pro bono work can be counted?
Does pro bono work factor into performance reviews?
How does the firm decide which pro bono cases to work on?
Has the firm implemented any programs to encourage or require associates to engage in pro bono work?
What percentages of lawyers engage in pro bono work? What percentage engage in over (after soul searching, insert your own number here) hours per year? What is the average number of hours lawyers engage in per year? (And if the firm does not keep these statistics, why not?)

As Columbia students, we will be in high demand when we graduate and will be courted by some of the world’s most prestigious firms. By making pro bono work a priority in choosing our employment, we can and should demand that firms value pro bono clients as much as their corporate ones.

 

Working Backwards: Who pays the Bills?

Another consideration may be the clients of a firm because those clients supply, in effect, attorneys’ paychecks. The following list and commentary is an excerpt from Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman’s "Enemies of the Future: the Ten Worst Corporations of 2000" published by the Multinational Monitor in December 2000. The full article can be found at http://www.essential.org/monitor/mm2000/00december/ enemies.html.

Aventis: Making Human Guinea Pigs

Aventis is the producer of a biotech food: Cry9C corn, sold under the name StarLink. StarLink corn. Earlier this year, StarLink corn - which has not been approved for human consumption - contaminated Taco Bell brand taco shells sold in grocery stores by Kraft, as well as many other foods. In 1998, the EPA approved StarLink for non-food uses, but withheld approval for introduction into the food supply on the grounds that it did not have satisfactory data to show it would not trigger allergic reactions. The EPA’s approval was conditioned on Aventis notifying farmers that they had to maintain a buffer zone between the genetically modified corn and corn for human consumption. The corn supply contamination appears to have occurred because this buffer zone was not maintained, but Aventis claims it informed farmers.

Aventis has been represented by: Connolly, Bove, Lodge & Hutz and Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice.

Bat: Smuggler Of Death

According to internal company documents unearthed in U.S. state tobacco litigation, British American Tobacco (BAT), the parent company of Brown & Williamson, for decades engineered a worldwide cigarette smuggling scheme. Smuggling creates lower prices, which increase demand and improve the brand’s competitive position to stimulate overall market demand. The ultimate result is increased smoking, particularly in developing countries, among the poor, and among children. Among BAT’s alleged strategies are establishing business relations with intermediaries that directly or indirectly supply smugglers, building warehouses and stationing marketing personnel close to borders with poor customs controls, and organizing movement of cigarettes through several jurisdictions within an elaborate distribution chain, leading to difficulties in tracing the products.

BAT has been represented by: Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz; Chadbourne & Parke, L.L.P.; Simpson Thacher & Bartlett; Sedgwick, Detert, Moran & Arnold; Fitzpatrick, Cella, Harper & Scinto; Winston & Strawn; Jones Day Reavis & Pogue; and Kirkland & Ellis.

 

BP/Amoco: Lawbreaker

In February, BP Amoco's Alaska subsidiary - BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc. - was hit with a $500,000 criminal fine for failing to report the illegal disposal of hazardous waste on Alaska's North Slope. The company was also ordered to establish a nationwide environmental management system designed to prevent future violations. At the time BPXA pleaded guilty to this environmental crime, the company also agreed to a civil settlement involving related claims. Under the settlement, BPXA has paid $6.5 million in civil penalties to resolve allegations that the company illegally disposed of hazardous waste and also violated federal drinking water law.

In April, BP Amoco agreed to pay $32 million to resolve claims under the False Claims Act and administrative claims that the corporation underpaid royalties due for oil produced on federal and Indian lands since 1988. In July, BP/Amoco agreed to pay $10 million to settle a Clean Air Act case.

BP Amoco has been represented by: Bell Ryniker et al; Saul, Ewing, Remick & Saul; and Richardson & Colburn.

 

Doubleclick: Cookie Crook?

Earlier this year, Michigan Attorney General Jennifer Granholm commenced a legal action against DoubleClick, Inc., the world's largest Internet advertising business, and two web sites that it owns and controls, IAF.net and NetDeals.com. Granholm alleged that DoubleClick had violated the Michigan Consumer Protection Act and other laws by failing to disclose to Internet users that DoubleClick is systematically implanting electronic "cookies" - electronic surveillance files - on the hard drives of users' computers without their knowledge or consent. DoubleClick then proceeds to compile personal user profiles on consumers which, potentially, can be linked directly to a consumer's name, home address and e-mail account. On February 14, 2000, DoubleClick announced a new "privacy policy" in the face of growing public concern about its business activities. The fourth privacy policy DoubleClick has posted since 1997, it continues to be ambiguous about what DoubleClick will do with the consumer information it compiles.

Doubleclick has been represented by: Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe.

Ford/Firestone: Reckless Homicide?

Ford and Firestone knew of at least 35 deaths and 130 injuries before the U.S. federal government launched its probe earlier this year. They knew about these cases because they were being sued by the families of the victims. And as a condition of these settlements, Ford and Firestone were demanding that the lawyers who bring these cases not speak to anyone about what they found out during discovery. By 1996, state agencies in Arizona were reporting problems with Firestone tires on Explorers. By 1998, Ford and Firestone had entered into discussions over tire failures with authorities in Middle Eastern, Asian and South American countries. "Ford eventually decided to conduct its own recall without Firestone and replace the tires in the various countries in 1999 and 2000," Claybrook noted. But the companies failed to act to remedy the problem in the United States until this year, when the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration began investigating the problem.

Legislation proposed by Senators John McCain, R-Arizona, and Specter would have provided a structural remedy to deter future Ford/Firestone-style coverups by imposing jail terms on corporate executives for knowingly selling vehicles or parts with dangerous defects. But, instead, Congress passed only minor legislation that requires the auto companies to notify U.S. regulators when they replace motor vehicle parts in a foreign country and to turn over to federal regulators government data on warranty claims. While there is no longer a dispute over the danger of the Firestone-Ford Explorer combination, the two companies have sought to evade full responsibility by blaming each other for the problem.  

Ford/Firestone has been represented by: O'Melveny & Myers; Wheeler Trigg & Kennedy; Snell & Wilmer; Kirkland & Ellis; Hinckley, Allen & Snyder; Baker & Hostetler; Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan.

 

Glaxo Wellcome: Patents Over People

More than 35 million people around the world have HIV/AIDS, well over 20 million in sub-Saharan Africa. Thirty-six percent of adults in Botswana have HIV/AIDS. About 3 million Africans die annually from HIV/AIDS. In the United States, as well as other rich countries, drug treatments enable many or most of those with HIV/AIDS to survive. But the life-saving drug cocktails are very expensive - costing $10,000 to $15,000 or more per person per year. These prices are unaffordable for all but a tiny few in Africa, where per capita incomes generally register in the hundreds of dollars. So for Africans, an HIV/AIDS diagnosis is a death sentence.

Drug companies use patents and various intellectual property protections to block distribution of cheap, generic versions of HIV/AIDS and other drugs. Since the cost of drug production is actually very low, these generic versions can reduce prices by 95 percent or more. Glaxo Wellcome, now planning to merge with SmithKline Beecham, has emerged as a particular menace among the drug industry cartel. In August, Glaxo threatened an Indian generic drug maker, objecting to Cipla's distribution of a small amount of Combivir - a combination of two anti-AIDS drugs for which Glaxo claims to hold patent rights - in Ghana. Low-cost sales of AIDS drugs by Cipla and other generic manufacturers in Africa could suddenly make treatment within reach of hundreds of thousands or make it feasible for foreign aid and philanthropic efforts to be devoted to treatment options.

Glaxo Wellcome has been represented by: Cahill Gordon & Reindel; Hopgood, Calimafde, Kalil & Judlowe; Lester Schwab Katz & Owyer; Connolly Bove Lodge & Hutz.

Lockheed Martin: Testing Its Pollutant On Humans

In November, the Los Angeles Times reported that on behalf of military contractor Lockheed Martin, Loma Linda University is conducting the first large-scale tests of a toxic drinking water contaminant on human subjects - a step medical researchers and environmentalists called morally unethical and scientifically invalid. The Times reported that Loma Linda Medical Center is paying 100 people $1,000 each to eat a six-month daily dose of perchlorate, a toxic component of rocket fuel that damages thyroid function and is found in hundreds of water supplies in Southern California. The Loma Linda subjects are being fed up to 83 times the "safe" level of perchlorate currently set by the state health department, which is expected to review its perchlorate standards in coming months.

The paper reported that a former Lockheed plant is the likely cause of the contamination of water wells in San Bernardino County. In 2001, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will begin national testing of water supplies for perchlorate in preparation for setting national regulations on the chemical. The Times said the Loma Linda tests are apparently the first large-scale study to use human subjects to test a water pollutant. The EPA has set no protocols or regulations for human testing. In September the agency's science advisory panel said human testing should be used only with "the greatest degree of caution."

Lockheed Martin has been represented by: Crowell & Moring; King & Spalding; Seyfarth, Shaw, Fairweather & Geraldson

Phillips Petroleum: Deadly Employer

A massive explosion at a Phillips Petroleum plastics plant in Pasadena, Texas in March killed one person and injured 74. It was the third fatal accident at the sprawling petrochemical complex in the last 11 years, including a 1989 blast that killed 23 people and an explosion in June 1999 that left two dead. The explosion was also the fourth within the last year at the facility. The plant employs 850 workers who make high quality plastic resins for use in medical and consumer products.

After a six-month investigation, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) proposed fining the company $2.5 million. OSHA said that "failure to properly train workers" was a key factor in the deadly explosion. "Unfortunately, this tragedy is not an isolated incident, but one is a series of incidents at this site," says U.S. Labor Secretary Alexis Herman. "Three workers lost their lives in explosions at this plant in less than a year's time, and 23 others were killed in a major explosion in 1989."

The 1989 accident at the Phillips facility spurred Congressional passage of accident preparedness provisions as part of the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments. One of the provisions required facilities using extremely hazardous substances to publicly report an estimated worst-case accident scenario including the radius of vulnerability around the facility. For the Phillips facility, that worst-case accident scenario involved the butadiene used in their K-resin plant where the accident occurred. Last August, the Chemical Manufacturers Association (of which Phillips is a member) lobbied for legislation passed by Congress barring the worst-case scenario estimates from public dissemination.

Phillips Petroleum has been represented by: Dykema Gossett; Howrey Simon et al; Thompson & Knight.

Smithfield Foods: Pig Out

Things are not right in farm country. Family farmers in the United States are being driven off the land. Big corporations are taking over. In a merger than even stunned pro-big business allies like the Farm Bureau and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman, Smithfield Foods, the largest U.S. pork producer, announced that it was merging with IBP Inc., the second largest pork producer. Smithfield currently controls 18.4 percent of the U.S. hog slaughtering capacity while IBP controls 17.7 percent.

"Livestock producers, and especially hog farmers, would be injured enormously by this acquisition," says Fred Stokes, president of the Organization for Competitive Markets. "With the increased consolidation, loss of a buyer and Smithfield's increased ability to manipulate prices, farmers and ranchers are guaranteed to see lower prices" [see "In Firm Control," Multinational Monitor, July/August 2000].

Four companies now control 80 percent of the beef slaughter business. Four companies control 50 percent of the pork processing business. Smithfield argues that the merger will be good for small farmers. IBP will either merge with Smithfield or become a debt-ridden company through a leveraged buyout, says a Smithfield spokesperson. "In a Smithfield deal, you have a publicly traded company with financial strength to stand by communities when times get tough and not be forced to cut back to pay debt."

While wrecking havoc on the farm economy, the big hog companies are also destroying farm country [see "The Dirt on Factory Farms," Multinational Monitor, July/August 2000]. The rapid growth of factory farms and the resulting mountains of untreated livestock manure are fouling drinking water supplies and causing a public health risk throughout the United States. North Carolina has put a moratorium on new corporate hog farms after waste fouled rivers and entered the Chesapeake Bay. In 1996, the Environmental Protection Agency fined Smithfield $12.6 million after its processing plants discharged pollutants into the Pagan River. Earlier this year, the Justice Department sued IBP alleging that the meatpacker violated pollution laws at its facility in Dakota City, Nebraska.

Smithfield has been represented by: Hogan & Hartson; Mays & Valentine; Hunton & Williams.

Titan International: Union Buster

Titan International produces agricultural, off-road and construction tires, wheels and assemblies. Approximately 1,000 United Steelworker of America (USWA) workers at two Titan facilities have struck the company since 1998. In May 1998, 670 workers at Titan's Des Moines, Iowa factory went on strike when Titan refused to seriously negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement with them. In February 1999, an administrative law judge ruled the strike was an unfair labor practice strike, which means the striking workers cannot be permanently replaced.

The administrative law judge found that the company unlawfully denied necessary bargaining information to the union, unilaterally imposed a contract on the workers, moved equipment and jobs from the Des Moines plant, and discontinued insurance to workers on leave when the strike began. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) would later issue a complaint charging Titan with unlawfully firing workers at the Des Moines factory for exercising protected rights. More than 300 workers at Titan's Natchez, Mississippi facility went on strike in September 1998 after Titan fired the entire workforce in a fashion the NLRB has since alleged illegal.

Titan has been represented by: Pepper Hamilton.

 

Last but not Least: Federalist Society Donors

 

Knowing whether a firm financially supports any objectionable organizations can be useful, as well. To that end, here is a list of Federalist Society Donors.

 

"…The Federalist Society is greatly helped by corporate law firms that underwrite or give generous support to its many events…"

 

Cooper, Carvin & Rosenthal
Covington & Burling
Gibson, Dun & Crutcher
Munger, Tolles & Olson
Sidley & Austin
Steptoe & Johnson
Wiley, Rein & Fielding
Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering
Maupin, Taylor & Ellis
Rosenman & Colin
Winston & Strawn

"Although a law firm’s ‘support’ does not necessarily signify that all partners agree with the Society’s aims and stated purpose, nevertheless these firms’ contributions help to strengthen the Federalist Society’s financial base, as well as to give the Society added credibility both in prominent legal circles and among impressionable law students."

 

 

 

Of course, you might be a Federalist Society member. Even so, you might still want to know if a firm you choose to work for supports any organizations that you do not support — perhaps even the National Lawyers Guild.