10:30, July 24 316 0 law.com

2017-07-24 10:30:05
White House Sours on Kasowitz, But What About Other Clients?

President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Marc Kasowitz to reads a statement to members of the media, Thursday, June 8, 2017 at the National Press Club in Washington. Kasowitz, seized on former FBI Director James Comey’s affirmation that he told Trump he was not personally under investigation. Though Comey said he interpreted Trump’s comments as a directive to shut down the Flynn investigation, Kasowitz also maintained in his written statement that Comey’s testimony showed that the president “never, in form or substance, directed or suggested that Mr. Comey stop investigating anyone, including suggesting that that Mr. Comey ‘let Flynn go.’” (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

While Marc Kasowitz’s role on President Donald Trump’s legal team has been diminished, the “uberlitigator” still has a bevy of commercial cases on his plate back in New York.

A partner at Kasowitz’s firm, Michael Bowe, said Friday that Kasowitz would now have a “lower profile” on the Trump team, though he remains a part of it.

As the president’s chief personal attorney, he was the subject of tough scrutiny this month by ProPublica, which questioned whether he could obtain a security clearance due to an alleged struggle with alcohol abuse. ProPublica then published profanity-laden emails that Kasowitz sent to a stranger who urged him to resign.

Kasowitz denied he has struggled with alcoholism, but said he would apologize for his emails, which he called inappropriate.

Bowe, who has been assisting Kasowitz on Trump’s team, denied that the ProPublica reports or the firm’s representation of the president would have an effect on firm business or client relations.

He said in an email Friday that “the only client feedback we have received has been overwhelmingly, if not exclusively, supportive,” adding that feedback has also been “critical of the unsourced, highly personal reporting.”

Speaking generally on law firm reputation considerations, Jason Winmill, managing partner at ArgoPoint and consultant to Fortune 500 corporate legal departments, said bad PR for any law firm would be a point of concern for its current or potential clients.

Very few corporate legal de-partments are solely dependent on one firm for a particular type of work, he noted. “For most work, they have many choices and they do really screen and evaluate their law firms,” Winmill said. “They [clients] would be comparing a law firm that is getting bad PR to a law firm that has a squeaky clean reputation and low profile.”

Morgan, Lewis & Bockius en-countered blowback this year when client H. Scott Wallace, of the Wallace Global Fund, fired the firm in a scathing letter condemning its representation of President Donald Trump, after partner Sheri Dillon appeared alongside Trump at a January news conference.

While companies often say they hire lawyers, not law firms, they are buying the law firms’ infrastructure, brand and reputation, Winmill said. “That brand is an important consideration of a holistic assessment of a firm,” Winmill said. “You’re not writing a check to Joe Lawyer.”

One general counsel at a Fortune 500 company who didn’t want to be named said it’s hard to change gears with new counsel in a major case involving tens of thousands of documents that is headed for trial. But companies “may think twice” about using a law firm in a scandal for the next case, the in-house lawyer said, speaking generally.

‘All We Care About’

Still, amid the controversial headlines out of Washington, Kasowitz Benson Torres and its managing partner have been taking on new cases for clients who appreciate his pitbull approach. And two clients of the Kasowitz firm, who spoke on condition of anonymity, brushed off the recent firm publicity.

“Would I have rather not have the scrutiny of somebody who is speaking for us in some form or fashion? Yes,” said one in-house lawyer, calling Kasowitz’ email exchange “a silly thing to do.”

But the in-house lawyer said the Kasowitz firm includes many good, talented and hardworking lawyers, and the recent publicity doesn’t rise to the level of affecting the client’s hiring decision.

The lawyer called Kasowitz Benson Torres one of the rare firms that both has expertise to handle sophisticated, complex matters and can be very aggressive. That’s “difficult to find in this market,” the lawyer added.

Another client of the firm said the law firms they use “are very competent in their fields and that’s all we care about.”

A look at Kasowitz’ court filings and case appearances show the litigator has been working on other major matters while representing Trump amid probes into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia.

Kasowitz himself has appeared as counsel in more than half a dozen new litigation cases filed in New York state court this year.

For instance, just two weeks before he defended the president at the National Press Club in Washington on June 8, he signed off on court documents in a lawsuit in which he represents record label Aspire Music Group, which is suing Cash Money Records, alleging missing profits from Drake albums.

Less than two weeks after the National Press Club appearance, he filed a lawsuit on behalf of Reed Smith against four-attorney firm Wohl & Fruchter, claiming it is entitled to $6.75 million in legal fees as co-counsel from the settlement of a class action suit. Reed Smith claimed it was the “obvious catalyst” for the settlement discussions in the underlying case.

Kasowitz also appeared as counsel in court documents last month in two cases representing retailer J. Crew, which was battling with lenders challenging debt transactions.

Reputation is a baseline consideration for law departments hiring a law firm, said Lauren Chung, a managing director in the law department consulting practice at HBR Consulting. But the deciding factors in continuing a relationship with a firm, she said, usually boil down to how the firm manages matters and “the results they deliver.”