Paula Deen fires lawyers, hires powerhouse team

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By Vidya Rao

The former queen of Southern cooking is cleaning house.

Just a week after firing her longtime agent, Paula Deen has fired her legal team and hired a new set of lawyers on Thursday, TODAY confirmed after the story was first reported by NBC affiliate WSAV.

Deen was previously represented by the Savannah, Ga.-based law firm Oliver Maner LLP. According to court documents, Paula Deen Enterprises has hired a powerhouse team of attorneys including Grace E. Speights, Jocelyn R. Cuttino and Alexis M. Thomas from the Washington, D.C. office of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, an international firm, as well as Harvey Weitz, Malcolm Mackenzie III, and William Glass from Weiner, Shearhouse, Weitz, Greenberg & Shawe in Savannah.

The lineup includes attorneys with years of experience in wrongful termination and other employment matters. Speights is a partner in Morgan Lewis' labor and employment practice and is managing partner of the firm's D.C. office. And, WSAV confirmed, Patricia Glaser -- who has worked for the likes of Conan O'Brien and Keith Olbermann, will offer Deen general legal oversight and help with her career transition.

Deen has been embroiled in scandal after she admitted using racial slurs, a detail that came to light after a May 17 deposition transcript was leaked. Deen and her brother Earl "Bubba" Heirs are being sued by a former manager of one of Deen's restaurants over their allegedly discriminatory behavior toward their employees.

The controversy led to at least a dozen companies terminating their relationships with Deen, including the publisher who has since cancelled her forthcoming cookbook.

Oliver Maner, the firm fired by Deen, issued a statement on the matter Friday, saying, "Oliver Maner LLP has appreciated the opportunity to work on this matter and thanks the many professionals who have assisted to help make sure that the case is well-positioned for a favorable outcome."