The Work

March 4, 2011 7:00 PM

The Score: Skadden Trumps Proskauer Again in Lawyer Classic

Posted by Brian Baxter

Proskauer Finger

It might not be the Winter Classic, but for two Am Law 200 firms facing off at New York's Chelsea Piers on Thursday night for the fourth annual Lawyers' Cup, raising money for Ice Hockey in Harlem was the ultimate goal.

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and Proskauer Rose battled it out in the charity hockey game, where the only checking allowed involved retrieving messages from one's BlackBerry. The Am Law Daily first attended the contest three years ago to witness the friendly competition between firms that together serve as the National Hockey League's regular outside counsel.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is a former Proskauer associate, while deputy commissioner Bill Daly spent six years at Skadden during the nineties. The picture above notwithstanding, Skadden's blood red army won the inaugural match against Proskauer's boys in powder blue 7-2 and have prevailed in every game since. (Skadden's squad has the advantage of playing in a Chelsea Piers league, while Proskauer's team is thrown together, often with a strong contingent from the firm's Boston office, for the contest.)

This year, Skadden's skaters wore black armbands to honor name partner Joseph Flom, who died last week at 87. The New York Times's Dealbook has a nice game story about the ice capades, which ended with Skadden winning 4-2. Like an early eighties match from the Soviet Premier League, paraphernalia and propaganda from both firms, be it foam fingers or firm placards, are readily available at the annual affair.

Skadden's team captain is J. Gregory Milmoe, the cohead of the firm's corporate restructuring practice, whose family moved to St. John's, Newfoundland, when he was six. Milmoe, 63, lived in the province for two years and went on to play hockey as a freshman at Cornell. His Big Red teammates included goaltender Ken Dryden, a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame and lawyer up north. (Dealbook reports that Milmoe was quite happy to hoist his fourth Lawyers' Cup, which raised nearly $30,000 for charity.)

While the two firms are adversaries on the ice, off it, they work in concert for the NHL. Last year, Skadden and Proskauer helped the league scuttle a preliminary contract agreed to by left winger Ilya Kovalchuk with the New Jersey Devils. Kovalchuk subsequently inked another contract and after a rough start, has finally started earning his cash from the team.

NFL Labor Talks at Thirteenth Hour

The ongoing labor battle between National Football League owners and the league's players union reached an almost unprecedented level of media coverage this week as a federal judge in Minneapolis overturned a special master's ruling on $4 billion in television revenues earmarked for a so-called lockout fund.

The stalemate between the sides went into overtime late Friday, with the owners and players ultimately agreeing to a seven-day extension in labor negotiations. That marks March 11 as the new date when the current collective bargaining agreement expires.

As we've previously reported, Proskauer and Covington & Burling have taken lead outside counsel roles for the league, while Dewey & LeBoeuf and Weil, Gotshal & Manges are advising the NFL Players Association. Latham & Watkins and Patton Boggs--two firms that once employed current union executive director DeMaurice Smith--have taken background roles for the players, while Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld and Skadden are on the periphery for the league.

Vermont Law School professor Michael McCann has this excellent breakdown for on some of the issues involved in a potential lockout by NFL management and decertification by the players union. Star quarterbacks Drew Brees, Tom Brady, and Peyton Manning have reportedly agreed to be lead plaintiffs in any subsequent antitrust suit filed by the NFLPA.

Why all the fuss over a silly sports dispute? Fortune looks at some of the biggest losers behind a potential work stoppage in a billion-dollar industry like the NFL, which would affect everyone from advertisers, retailers, television networks, and local municipalities. Oh, and fans too, of course.

Around the Horn

-- The Dallas Business Journal reports that Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has prevailed in a civil suit filed against him by Ross Perot, Jr., the son of the late billionaire of the same name, who also once owned the basketball team. Perot sued Cuban in July 2009 for mismanaging profits from the franchise's arena, the American Airlines Center. Fish & Richardson partner Thomas Melsheimer, who heads his firm's Dallas office and represents Cuban in the suit, told the DBJ that an arbitrator ruled against Perot in October and ordered him to pay Cuban's attorneys' fees. Cuban's lawyers filed court papers this week asking a judge to confirm the award. Perot still has another case pending against Cuban, which involves the high-profile owner's alleged mismanagement of the Mavs.

-- The New York Mets are struggling to scrounge up cash after being hit with a mammoth civil suit by the liquidating trustee of Bernard Madoff's supersized Ponzi scheme. The team's owners put a 25 percent stake in the franchise up for sale in January, and two weeks ago former New York governor and current Willkie Farr & Gallagher of counsel Mario Cuomo was appointed to mediate the dispute with the trustee. This week, Cuomo told reporters outside a federal court in Manhattan that a swift deal was needed to resolve the matter, as mediation could not "go on endlessly." The Mets, represented by Davis Polk & Wardwell, appeared this week before a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

-- Rogers Clemens's lawyers from Cooley and Rusty Hardin's Houston shop struck back at federal prosecutors in court papers this week, according to the New York Daily News. Clemens's legal team contends that the six-court perjury and obstruction of justice case against their client is "constitutionally defective." Another former baseball star, Barry Bonds, pleaded not guilty again this week, three weeks before his trial on making false statements to a grand jury and obstruction of justice is scheduled to begin in San Francisco. The Recorder, a sibling publication, reports that Bonds's lawyers--led by Skadden's Allen Ruby and Cristina Arguedas of Berkeley's Arguedas, Cassman & Headley--made their final (and in many cases unsuccessful) pitch to keep out evidence by their client's former mistress and personal trainer, who was told if he didn't testify he could be sent back to prison for contempt of court.

-- Remember those vuvuzelas that blared in South Africa during last summer's World Cup tournament and drove you to the brink of insanity? A much catchier tune used by Coca-Cola in its World Cup promotions has been the subject of copyright infringement litigation in federal court in Miami with the soft drink giant defending itself against claims filed by songwriter Rafael "Rafa" Vergara Hermosilla. The Daily Business Review, a sibling publication, reports that Coca-Cola won a summary judgment ruling from U.S. district court judge K. Michael Moore that dismissed Hermosilla's claim by noting he assigned the rights to the song to Universal Music Group. Miami's Kaplan Zeena represents Moore, while Coca-Cola turned to Holland & Knight.

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