Contributed by Arnold & Porter LLP
The Year of the Agile Contractor
With contractors often caught in partisan crossfire, the too-familiar trends of budget politics and ramped-up oversight are major current influences on the contracting landscape. Nevertheless, the market remains huge, diverse, resilient and active — and is generating new opportunities and players in response to innovation and evolving threats.
The New Normal
Facing shrinking budgets, U.S. agencies are seeking to maximize value with their procurements, while also negotiating lower rates and more favorable terms on existing contracts, and recovering money from contractors whenever possible. To take advantage of opportunities, contractors must navigate the regulatory and bureaucratic realities of government work and maintain rigorous internal controls, while still promoting creativity and efficiency.
Companies failing to strike this balance will find themselves unable to crack the government marketplace, or, worse yet, run afoul of a powerful government oversight and enforcement community. Contractors must be prepared for a wide range of challenges, from high-stakes litigation to careful long-term planning, from regulatory compliance to internal investigations, and more.
Contractors Caught in the Crossfire
Partisan political battles waged over Federal spending have disrupted the appropriations cycle that supports the Federal marketplace. Flat percentage cuts known as “sequesters” have been applied to broad swaths of the Federal civilian and defense budgets.
Despite near-universal condemnation of this chainsaw approach to budget reduction, members of both parties indicate that they are girding for yet another spending standoff. Funding uncertainty prevails. Budgeting-by-crisis may be the new normal in the government marketplace.
The Impact of Budgeting-by-Crisis
As agencies scramble to figure out exactly what resources are still available and how they can be spent, contractors face many challenges.
• New Rules: Contractors struggle to comply with Human Resources and employment regulations — and with meeting the terms of subcontracts signed before the budget cut.
• No Payday: Contractors may risk effectively “donating” work when there are no appropriated funds (or such funds have been cut out). Observers theorize that sequester cuts will lead to claims by contractors unable to perform at reduced contract levels.
• Fight to Win: Contract modifications, terminations and related disputes seem inevitable. As Federal contract dollars grow scarcer, litigation options to win or preserve work will be considered more frequently.
These marketplace upheavals have led many firms to adjust business strategies, including strategic acquisitions and divestitures to better align resources and capabilities with opportunities. There is also greater attention to non-Federal government customers, both internationally, and at the state and local level.
Funding is not the only concern. Agencies continue to escalate oversight and enforcement activity, as Congressional voices clamor for more contractor suspensions and debarments. Recent high-profile actions prove no contractor is “untouchable.”
Contractors must address compliance and regulatory obligations with increased vigor to keep up with the increasing demands.
• Aiming to prevent counterfeit parts from entering the U.S. government supply chain, DOJ and DoD have initiated several major investigations and regulatory changes.
• Prosecutions under the False Claims Act have markedly increased.
• DoD’s audit agency, DCAA, has initiated a cost recovery program that will generate new claims against contractors.
• Transparency laws have been given new teeth, as the government's System for Award Management (SAM) automatically releases significant information about contractors, and new pro-disclosure guidelines have increased FOIA requests by competitors. • The budgets, authority and activity of agency Inspectors General Offices continue to expand.
• New DOJ and SEC guidelines implementing the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) align with dramatic increases in prosecutions.
• Congress has passed strict limitations on IT contracting with Chinese-owned companies. Complex controls restricting exports of critical technologies present traps for the unwary, in international and even domestic business pursuits.
Compliance systems are now obligatory. Pressure to discover, investigate and disclose compliance failures has escalated with the advent of mandatory reporting requirements. This can generate problematic tension for public companies, as well as difficulties when the government seeks access to internal investigation materials.
Technology: New Opportunities , Players & Threats
In the past year, the first major cloud infrastructure procurements were conducted by the defense and intelligence communities. Agencies are now experimenting with so-called “big data” storage and exploitation technologies enabled by new networked storage technology.
These procurements have brought large “new economy” household-name companies into the Federal marketplace for the first time. New technology has also created increased opportunities through research grants and small business innovation programs.
Seller Beware: The Federal government is often aggressive regarding its rights to technical data provided or used in connection with a government contract. Contractors should take measures to protect intellectual property consistent with the unique regulatory provisions applicable to government contracts.
Cybersecurity: Innovation of a more sinister kind is driving government investment and contractor activity, as cyberattacks from China, Iran and other foreign sources increase. In response, the Department of Homeland Security and other security entities have expanded cyber operations, snapping up qualified programmers and contracting with companies that specialize in responding to such attacks. Cybersecurity is front and center on the U.S. government’s agenda and will drive significant policy and procurement activity for years to come.
Government: Government Contracts - Nationwide
THE FIRM Arnold & Porter remains a sound choice for contractors with a focus on national security matters and classified projects. The team numbers 57 attorneys and is home to former general counsels of the CIA and NSA. The firm continues its representation of leading technology companies such as Raytheon and Computer Sciences Corporation, while also representing a mix of companies from the professional services, communications and pharmaceuticals industries. In the past year, the group also successfully represented the Wisconsin Physicians Services Insurance Corporation in Government Accountability Office (GAO) protests involving two major Medicare administration contracts.
Client Service "A very responsive, customer-centric and knowledgeable firm that appears to pay close attention to the quickly changing environment of government contracting, and ensures its clients are kept similarly knowledgeable."
Commercial Awareness "Arnold & Porter has lawyers who were formerly officials at government administrations. They have a depth and breadth of skills that we find particularly helpful."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Department head Mark Colley "continues to distinguish himself," according to sources, and his practice focuses on False Claims Act and bid protest matters. Colley is chair of the American Bar Association public contract law section, and has assisted a number of organizations performing highly classified contracts supported by the US armed forces and intelligence agencies outside of the USA.
Paul Pompeo's reputation for high-quality work in the cost accounting and cost dispute arena continues unabated.
The "absolutely excellent and very knowledgeable" Ronald Schechter is admired for his understanding of how the federal contracting system works. Schechter also represented the Wisconsin Physicians Service Insurance Corporation in the protests outlined above.
Jeffrey Smith is renowned for his work in the field of national security, and is described by clients as being "extremely well connected."
THE FIRM The team at Crowell & Moring is comprised of over 50 government contracts specialists, and has growing expertise in bid protests. Notable clients include BAE Systems and the Military & Veterans Services wing of UnitedHealth Group, but the firm also continues to see expansion in its client base of small and mid-sized businesses. The past year saw the team successfully defend an award made to Spectrum Healthcare Resources, and then defeat a subsequent appeal relating to the contract to build and operate two family health clinics for the Department of Defense, which was valued at over $220 million. Crowell achieved victory on behalf of its client after multiple rounds of bid protests.
Client Service "They keep us updated on things they do in our area, which allows us to key our strategy in a particular direction. I feel like they're an extension of our company and can't imagine not having the firm at our fingertips. Our company would be less well off if they weren't around."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Chair of the group Angela Styles maintains a practice focused primarily on suspension and debarment matters.
Clients sing Terry Albertson's praises for his work in the government contracts arena, saying: "He really is one of the leading lights in that regard." Albertson represents a number of defense contractors, and has amassed great expertise in counseling on matters relating to contract costs, price, accounting and termination issues.
Sources are impressed by Thomas Humphrey's "extraordinary wisdom in analyzing cases." In the past year, Humphrey has demonstrated his dynamism in bid protests, successfully defending an award made by the Army to BAE Systems in relation to the development of a 'next-generation common infrared countermeasure system for helicopters'.
Stanfield Johnson continues to counsel clients in the most complex government contracting issues.
Daniel Forman is gaining increased recognition for his expertise in technology-related bid protests, and is championed by clients as an "excellent advocate."
THE FIRM This formidable group numbers in excess of 80 government contracts professionals, and boasts the expertise to cater to a broad client base which includes Lockheed Martin, UnitedHealth, IBM and BP North America. The firm is currently representing Honeywell International in the face of ongoing potential debarment issues arising out of the 2012 Appropriations Act, and has assisted the client in avoiding any associated loss of federal work or projects in connection with this matter to date. McKenna also has a large number of attorneys in possession of top-level security clearances, enabling it to adeptly handle classified program matters.
Sources say: "Their advice has been excellent across the board." "They have deep government contracts expertise, so if a related question needs to be pursued they have the best people to pursue those matters."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Based in Los Angeles, James Gallagher and Thomas Abbott spearhead the West Coast limb of McKenna's government contracts team. Clients are hugely impressed by Gallagher, remarking: "He's a terrific lawyer - very knowledgeable about government contracts-related issues. We have full faith in him."
Ray Biagini has developed a niche in obtaining SAFETY Act coverage for clients so as to minimize tort liability arising out of terrorist attacks for organizations that develop and deploy anti-terror products and services. Biagini assists the Port Authority of New York/New Jersey in obtaining coverage for the numerous high-value terrorist targets situated within the region. He also has a successful track record in tort litigation, and sources praise his persuasive arguments in addition to his "ability to build a rapport with judges quickly."
Thomas Papson worked with Jason Carey in a successful protest on behalf of AT&T which challenged the terms of a contract solicitation and excluded AT&T from the competitive range. The duo were successful on both counts, and similar successes have led observers to enthuse about Papson's "top-drawer" approach within the world of bid protests. "It's a bit like a chess match and he's very good - a bright litigator," say sources. Similarly, observers admire Carey's "keen intellect - he's able to see the issues and evidence, and craft an argument in a compelling way which is clearly articulated."
Stanley Dees's practice embraces all elements of government contracts law, and has included false claims and debarment actions in addition to bid protests and costs recovery.
THE FIRM Wiley Rein's continuing dominance in the world of government contracts can be attributed to its strong relationships with Fortune 500 companies such as Fluor, AECOM and Hewlett-Packard. The firm continues its ongoing representation of long-standing client Boeing, handling bid protests, convenience terminations, claims assessment and litigation, compliance matters, pricing issues, audits before the Defense Contract Audit Agency and internal investigations on its behalf. The sizable group comprises 39 attorneys based predominantly in DC.
Client Service "The group works very well - they staff effectively, respond quickly to client desires, and understand how we operate and expect them to operate."
KEY INDIVIDUALS "Exceptional" Rand Allen secured a victory on behalf of Booz Allen Hamilton, successfully opposing a proposed debarment of its San Antonio location and securing an administrative agreement in the client's favor.
Paul Khoury is renowned for being "a fantastic bid protest attorney." He was victorious in a bid protest on behalf of Verizon Wireless, which challenged the terms of a General Services Administration (GSA) solicitation estimated at around $1.6 billion.
Observers state that Scott McCaleb is "going great guns" at Wiley. In the past year, he has counseled CGI Federal on a broad range of matters, including bid protests and general compliance matters.
Daniel Graham continues to gain ground in this field, with clients affirming that "Dan Graham leads the next generation of Wiley protest lawyers. He does outstanding work and gets good results for us."
Nicole Owren-Wiest is praised by sources for her "outstanding efforts," and assisted Allen in facing the proposed debarment of Booz Allen Hamilton outlined above.
THE FIRM Gibson Dunn has a particular focus on representing aerospace and defense contractors in high-value government contract litigation. This global firm is revered by sources for its extensive resources and ability to marshal assistance from other practice groups as needed. Notable clients include Northrop Grumman and Raytheon, on whose behalf the group won a significant $59.2 million judgment in a case which arose pursuant to the sale of four Raytheon businesses with underfunded post-retirement benefit plans. The team also defeated government counterclaims totaling over $18 million in the process.
Sources say: "The team at Gibson Dunn is highly aware of our commercial operations and need for pragmatic solutions." "They have an expert-level knowledge of suspensions and debarment and government administrative actions."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Karen Manos is once again highlighted for her impressive skill in handling cost disputes and cost accounting issues. The aforementioned Raytheon matter is one in which she excelled, and sources report that Manos is "extremely confident and capable. She is very good at making rational arguments and explaining them so that non-accountants can understand."
Joseph West has great experience in handling suspension and debarment matters. Observers are impressed, attesting that "he is a fierce advocate for the client. He's willing to take a tough position with government representatives." West's recent work includes providing ongoing counseling to a diverse group of clients, including the Bank of New York Mellon and Enterprise Rent-a-Car.
THE FIRM This firm is well known for its impressive abilities in federal procurement law, regulatory compliance and IT government contracting, and for its adeptness at dealing with a range of government agencies. In the past year, Hogan Lovells has experienced significant growth in its bid protest practice, achieving success in protests on behalf of Lockheed Martin in relation to a contract worth over $4 billion governing the operation and maintenance of information systems managed by the US Defense Information Systems Agency. This global firm caters to government contractors across a broad spectrum of industries, including pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, federal research and energy. Clients include Pfizer, General Dynamics, Accenture and Google.
Commercial Awareness "They understand everything immediately. They are thoughtful, prepared and have the trust of the government, which makes things easy. They can distill very complicated things into easy to understand pieces, which is helpful."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Agnes Dover is considered by sources to be "a go-to person in respect of regulatory compliance, particularly in the Department of Energy and defense spaces." Dover's practice also focuses on Department of Homeland Security issues and federal contracts matters arising in the education sector.
Thomas McGovern is a leading figure in the growing bid protest practice at Hogan Lovells, and has special expertise in the fields of aerospace and defense. Clients appreciate the close attention he pays them, with one reporting that "Tom provides an efficient service and keeps us up to date on the latest legal and regulatory developments."
Michael Mason led on the Lockheed Martin matter outlined above, and has also represented TechAmerica in government procurement matters. Mason impresses sources, who state that "he is a phenomenal lawyer."
THE FIRM Jenner & Block handles matters on behalf on major US defense contractors, including L-3 Communications and General Dynamics. The group comprises approximately 20 attorneys based primarily in DC, and has substantial experience handling fast-paced bid protests before the GAO and US Federal Claims Court. The firm deals with both government contracts litigation and transactional work, including handling contractor mergers and acquisitions.
Sources say: "The firm does an exceptional job for us on a number of matters."
KEY INDIVIDUALS David Churchill and Jay DeVecchio are cochairs of the practice and have an impressive number of government dispute victories between them. Churchill is praised by sources for his versatility: "He's a very good government contracts generalist and also an exceptional litigator - those skills have been well honed." Meanwhile, observers are quick to enthuse about DeVecchio's specific areas of focus, stating: "Jay is terrific at government contracts data rights and intellectual property issues." DeVecchio successfully resolved a costs dispute in favor of Lockheed Martin, recovering $107.6 million from the Air Force in relation to the F-22 aircraft program.
Kevin Mullen's ongoing work in the bid protest world is highly regarded by sources, who report that "Kevin is a top protest lawyer. He is somebody that I have a lot of respect for in this arena."
THE FIRM This well-regarded litigation boutique has offices in San Francisco and DC. The firm is renowned for its bid protest work, and also has a particularly strong presence on the West Coast. In the last year, the group successfully represented Assisted Housing Services and the North Tampa Housing Development Corporation in a GAO bid protest of the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s proposed use of cooperative agreements to obtain services. The group's success enabled an entire class of qualified contractors to meaningfully compete for a minimum ten-year contract to the value of around $260 million a year.
Sources say: "It is an extremely good value proposition using the firm." "Rogers Joseph O'Donnell has conducted work well, and the attorneys here always make themselves available to me if I need information on federal procurement."
KEY INDIVIDUALS The "terrific" Neil O'Donnell receives praise for his pragmatism and depth of experience: "I like going to Neil for things that are not so run of the mill and which require more in-depth analysis. He's very good at thinking through how things will work in the long term." O'Donnell continues to impress in bid protest matters for pubic construction and infrastructure companies.
THE FIRM This team comprises 45 attorneys with broad government contracts expertise, enabling it to guide clients through a wide range of issues, including bid protests, fraud investigations, costs control and costs recovery work, small business subcontracting reviews, country of origin compliance reviews, patent litigation and audits. Clients hail from a varied selection of industries, including hi-tech, aerospace and defense, healthcare, power and utilities.
KEY INDIVIDUALS The past year has seen John Chierichella assist clients in matters relating to the False Claims Act, as well as with audit responses and claims against various government agencies. Sources admire his ability to get to grips with a matter, stating that "he's a quick study - he homes in on the issue rapidly and asks relevant questions to get the information he needs. We appreciate that efficiency."
THE FIRM The Fried Frank team has vast experience in representing clients in bid protests before the GAO and US Federal Claims Court. In the past year, one significant victory for the firm was achieved in reinstating Hawker Beechcraft Defense in the competition for a US Air Force award of $355 million for the manufacture of 20 light air support aircraft to be used in Afghanistan. Other key matters include counseling in government investigations, contracts-related litigation, and handling corporate transactions between contractors.
Sources say: "The group offers efficient, effective representation."
KEY INDIVIDUALS James McCullough leads the Fried Frank team in handling post-award disputes and contract formation matters. He has extensive experience in enforcement matters which involve voluntary disclosure and suspension and debarment issues. McCullough has also honed his skills in resolving contract disputes via mediation and arbitration.
THE FIRM This group maintains its focus on bid protests, and is defending Raytheon's Missile Systems Division against a protest in relation to a multimillion-dollar weapons contract awarded by the US Marine Corps. The team has also enjoyed success in suspension and debarment proceedings, and is positioning itself well in the growing field of state government contracting. Holland & Knight's additional proficiency in the areas of white-collar crime and compliance further strengthen its ability to counsel contractor clients operating within this sphere.
Commercial Awareness "They helped us position ourselves during a time-consuming, complex renegotiation of a contract. We've relied greatly on these attorneys."
KEY INDIVIDUALS The past year has seen David Black represent Blackstone Consulting in protests before the GAO, in addition to providing general counseling services in relation to contract compliance and administration. Black is equally adept at responding to government investigations and audits, as well as assisting clients with issues arising out of terminations. Sources are enthusiastic about his skills: "David understands business. I'll shoot off a quick query and he doesn't filter the work down or accrue unnecessary hours - he'll give a quick response."
THE FIRM In the past year, Mayer Brown successfully represented Lockheed Martin in a high-profile bid protest relating to a contract valued at approximately $1.8 billion for support of the US Antarctic Program. The group also assists with a high number of FCA recoveries and civil fraud investigations, working with traditional government contractors in addition to companies that do not traditionally work within the procurement industry. Other notable clients include BAE Systems, Bechtel Infrastructure and Siemens.
Client Service "The team at Mayer Brown is cost conscious in the fact that they don’t chase down every possible alleyway for no good reason – they know what will lead to success."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Best known for her substantial work in bid protests, Marcia Madsen took the lead on the Lockheed Martin matter outlined above. Along with colleague David Dowd, Madsen receives impressive feedback from sources, who state: "She knows when to arc in and when not to. The combination of the two of them is dynamic – you don't need to deal with anyone else. They are value for money." Alongside Madsen, Dowd also continues to counsel Lockheed Martin in multiple ongoing government contracts and litigation matters.
THE FIRM Pillsbury fields 26 lawyers with experience handling government contracts matters from DC to the West Coast. The group has particular expertise in assisting clients with bid protests, conducting internal investigations and defending clients in cases concerning alleged violations of the False Claims Act, in addition to advising on international government contracting opportunities.
Sources say: "The attorneys with whom I work are excellent - they are knowledgeable in their field, hard-working and responsive."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Clients clearly rely on Alex Tomaszczuk, stating that "he is amazingly available when we need him to be." Tomaszczuk's work predominantly involves high-value government contracts litigation and advising on ethics issues relating to contracts.
Similarly, observers admire John Jensen's abilities, stating that "he is a tenacious advocate for his clients and very diligent in what he does - a worthy adversary." Jensen leads the group at Pillsbury, and focuses on assisting clients with matters pertaining to federal government contract law.
THE FIRM This boutique firm specializes in government contracts and construction law. The group's industries of focus include large weapon systems, IT, food services and electronics. The firm is based in Tysons Corner, Virginia, and comprises approximately 19 practicing government contracts professionals.
Sources say: "Smith Pachter McWhorter is a premier boutique in this area - the group is very capable."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Sources tell us that the "terrific" John Pachter is "very knowledgeable and well respected - you can rely on him." Pachter's bid protest experience has seen him litigate before the Boards of Contract Appeals, the US Federal Claims Court and the GAO.
Meanwhile, clients are thrilled with Gregory Smith's skill in costs matters: "I consider him to be the person for cost accounting issues. This can be a minefield for businesses, and our team holds the cost accounting work he does for us in really high regard."
THE FIRM Venable's growing practice incorporates 15 attorneys, and notable clients include Dell Federal, E-Merging Technologies and Securitas Security Services. The past year has seen the group counseling clients on the potential impact of sequestration, advising on matters arising in relation to the GSA schedule and claims litigation, investigations, and suspension and debarment matters. Additionally, the team is populated by a number of former government officials, boosting the firm's resources.
Client Service "They operate effectively and coordinate very well between practice groups to ensure the client gets the benefit of the advice of various experts. They are aware of the commercial environment and the economic challenges that their clients face, and work well with them. They have always been very responsive to my needs and realistic in their approach to helping me address the issue."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Thomas Madden is praised by observers for his depth of knowledge in this field: "He is one of the go-to lawyers in the country in this area. He's one of a handful of guys who knows US government contract law like the back of his hand."
Cochairs Scott Hommer and Paul Debolt also draw positive reviews. Clients are impressed with Hommer's knowledge of the bid protest process as well as his "ability to ensure fair treatment by the government in contract disputes." Similarly, "Paul pursues cost-effective solutions, always displaying an understanding of the economic pressures that are exerted on companies that deal directly or indirectly with the government." Debolt's knowledge extends to the competitive source selection process, and he also has vast experience in the corporate aspects of government contracting, having dealt with contractor mergers and acquisitions.
THE FIRM This 23-attorney group carries out ongoing representation of PAE Government Services as protestor of the award of a Navy contract for support services at the Navy support facility in Diego Garcia, as well as as an intervenor in a protest against the award of a contract to PAE from the Department of State for its work providing support services at the US embassy in Baghdad. Other clients include Microsoft, Johnson & Johnson, and Novartis Vaccines & Diagnostics.
Sources say: "They really know how to deal with people. They are great listeners, and are able to put things in layman's terms."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Alan Pemberton is cochair of the practice at Covington & Burling, and impresses sources with his ability to get things done. "He's never failed to work with us and help us make things happen," said one interviewee. Pemberton's areas of expertise include bid protests and procurement litigation, in addition to performance and compliance of contracts and suspension and debarment issues.
THE FIRM Dickstein Shapiro has six offices spanning the USA, incorporating 19 practicing government contracts professionals. Clients include leading helicopter services companies such as Caron Helicopters and VIH Cougar Helicopters. The group assists clients in navigating the complex regulations affecting their abilities to succeed in securing government contracts, and provides effective counsel in associated litigation. The team also has experience in False Claims Act investigations and congressional investigations.
Commercial Awareness "It's a very cohesive group which brings common sense skills and unique capabilities together for collaborative purposes. They also get to issues cleanly and understand the nuances of a matter. We rely on Dickstein and have confidence in their results."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Clients of David Nadler are immensely satisfied: "He pays attention to us as a client, and he'll make sure our matters are appropriately handled. He makes us feel we're his number-one client." In addition to the general matters handled by the practice, Nadler has expertise in bid protests, cost accounting issues and matters arising in relation to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
THE FIRM The practice at DLA Piper incorporates 16 dedicated government contracts attorneys, able to draw on the additional strength of an impressive task force of over 50 experienced procurement, defense, and infrastructure lawyers across the globe. Clients include GE and UPS, and in the past year the firm acted as lead negotiator for Accenture on a substantial contract to put in place a statewide health insurance exchange, known as the California Healthcare Enrollment, Eligibility and Retention System.
Sources say: "They send along other reminders and updates that are useful to our day-to-day business. They look after our best interests, and I can just pick up the phone and ask them anything."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Carl Lee Vacketta assists Trade Center Management Associates, advising on administration, compliance and negotiations relating to a multi-year contract with the GSA to operate the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in DC. Sources tell us: "Carl brings a lot of weight to our discussions – if he's involved then people know he'll be fair. He understands the outcome and imparts a lot of wisdom to our team."
Head of department Richard Rector filed a successful state-level bid protest on behalf of UPS challenging an award to a competitor of a contract for statewide delivery of small packages. The contract was ultimately awarded to UPS. Observers state that "his depth of knowledge and ability to take relatively complex issues and craft them in a manner that works at a business level are really impressive."
THE FIRM The government procurement team at Foley & Lardner caters to a broad spectrum of clients across a range of industries, including healthcare, energy and defense. The firm has 19 offices across the US and a dedicated contracts group comprising 11 attorneys. Clients include Oshkosh, Cisco Systems, BAE Systems and Sony Corporation of America, and the group is adept at counseling contractors through the bid process, including handling contract negotiations, in addition to representing clients before federal and international tribunals in suspension or debarment matters.
Sources say: "There is excellent communication between the firm's various offices." "These people are wonderfully detail-oriented, which is critically important."
KEY INDIVIDUALS In addition to the matters outlined above, department chair David Ralston has great experience in bid protests, defending contractors against fraud and bribery charges and assisting clients in the face of corporate investigations. Clients value his communication skills, explaining that "David puts language in a businessperson's framework."
THE FIRM Vinson & Elkins's client base includes illustrious names like AREVA, BAE, Fluor, GE and Shell. In the past year, the group represented Kuwaiti company KGL Food Services in a successful bid protest at the GAO relating to a multibillion-dollar contract covering the supply of food products to US troops. The team also represented TriWest Healthcare, which provides healthcare to the armed forces, in one of the largest bid protests ever to be filed at the GAO.
KEY INDIVIDUALS Michael Charness led on the KGL bid protest, and handles complex commercial litigation arising out of government contracts. One client enthused: "Mike is easy to work with and watches my back."
Similarly, sources affirm that David Johnson "coordinates all activities well. His counsel is invaluable in identifying practical and pragmatic approaches for resolving issues." Johnson played an active role in the TriWest Healthcare bid protest outlined above, and has also litigated before the Federal Aviation Administration and US Federal Claims Court.
In the past year, Alston & Bird LLP practice head Jeffrey Belkin successfully obtained a dismissal in a qui tam suit against his clients Dell, Insight, PC Mall and PC Specialists. Sources admire "his understanding of the law and his ability to take the facts and figure out a good strategy moving forward. He gets a really sound resolution."
Marshall Doke of Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP is considered by observers to be "the preeminent government contracts lawyer in the country. His advice and counsel are exemplary – he's very well respected."
At K&L Gates, Stuart Nibley has shown great skill in representing civilian and defense contractors in a range of government contracts contexts, including boards of contract appeals, federal and state courts, and international arbitration forums. Commentators affirm that Nibley is "incredibly knowledgeable."
Richard Vacura of Morrison & Foerster LLP is representing Global Linguistics Solutions before the Court of Federal Claims in defense of a multiple contract award for foreign language support services made by the US Army to the value of $7.6 billion. Other clients include Honeywell and DynCorp International.
Lorraine Campos is new to the rankings, and is thought of by clients as "very practical in her advice: Lorraine is good at pointing out the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches." Campos leads the team at Reed Smith LLP, where she provides ongoing counsel to McKesson in relation to a US Department of Veterans Affairs pharmaceuticals contract valued at approximately $4 billion a year to supply pharmaceuticals to more than 700 locations.