On May 22nd, over 500 guests gathered at Cipriani 42nd St in New York for Chambers and Partners' ninth annual Chambers USA Awards for Excellence. These awards shine a spotlight on the firms and individuals that have excelled above all others in the US legal market over the period 2013-14
The results are not simply tied to the rankings in Chambers USA. They also reflect a law firm's recent achievements, which may include, for example, significant new matters handled during the past twelve months, expansion into a particular practice area, or the recruitment of high-profile partners.
We were also honored to recognize the careers of two luminaries in their respective fields. Max W. Berger of Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossman received an Outstanding Contribution to the Legal Profession Award, and Paul Tagliabue of Covington & Burling received a Lifetime Achievement Award.
For the full USA Awards 2014 shortlist click here.
2014 Categories and Winners
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD: Paul Tagliabue - Covington & Burling LLP
Paul Tagliabue is one of the most influential names in American sports law. Hailed as “a brilliant man of integrity and character,” he was Commissioner of the National Football League from 1989-2006, an impressive tenure bookended with private practice at Covington & Burling, where he is currently Senior of Counsel. His industry knowledge and strategic insight are invaluable to clients, who describe him as “knowledgeable and a real power player. He’s a major asset.” As the firm’s strategic risk and crisis management leader, Tagliabue handles the most high-profile and sensitive of matters, including the recent investigation into the New Orleans Saints’ alleged bounty program. He also advises a range of major international businesses and serves as Chair of the Board of Directors of Georgetown University.
OUTSTANDING CONTRIBUTION TO THE LEGAL PROFESSION AWARD: Max W. Berger - Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann LLP
Max Berger is the senior founding partner of Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossman and the nation’s foremost securities litigation plaintiffs’ attorney. Berger is warmly lauded by peers, who are nevertheless loath to find him on the other side of the table; said one source: “There was a point at which Max Berger had the defendants over a barrel and just played it perfectly.” His numerous headline-grabbing successes include billions of dollars in securities fraud settlements from Bank of America, Citigroup and Wachovia, among others. Berger is a standard-bearer for the profession; according to one peer: “Max is a very tough opponent and very principled. He prides himself on representing the shareholder classes. He takes his responsibility to his plaintiff class very seriously.”
Awards by legal practice area
ANTITRUST: Dechert LLP
This accomplished group is routinely sought after to handle some of the most significant litigation and transactions in the antitrust world. Commentators are quick to assert the team's excellent judgment and practical, business-oriented approach. Recent highlights include acting for OfficeMax in its merger with Office Depot and the subsequent FTC investigation into the transaction, and representing US Airways in its high-profile merger with American Airlines.
BANKRUPTCY: Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP
Weil has propelled itself to the top of the US bankruptcy market thanks to its presence on the most significant debtor-side matters of late, including its representation of AMR and affiliates in their Chapter 11 proceedings and reorganization through a merger with US Airways. The practice regularly acts for major organizations from the financial sector including Barclays, Citibank, Financial Guaranty Insurance Company and National Public Finance Guarantee Corporation.
CONSTRUCTION: Peckar & Abramson, P.C.
Last year's winner has a superb reputation across the USA for the high quality of its representation of leading construction managers and general contractors on a broad array of legal matters. The firm has continued to impress with its expertise on disputes, regulatory and compliance matters. Peckar & Abramson has substantial expertise and an enviable track record advising clients on policy issues and government contracts.
CORPORATE/M&A: Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz
Wachtell's reputation for excellence in this sphere continues unabated, with the corporate team having played a leading role in a number of phenomenally sophisticated high-value deals. Most impressively, the firm advised Verizon in connection with the $130 billion acquisition of a 45% stake in Verizon Wireless from Vodaphone. The deal is widely reported to be the third-largest corporate transaction of all time.
EMPLOYEE BENEFITS & EXECUTIVE COMPENSATION: Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP
Morgan Lewis’s employee benefits and executive compensation practice is singled out for its devotion to finding a resolution for clients and its phenomenal level of service provision. It routinely handles the benefit and executive compensation aspects of complex transactions; advises employers and sponsors of retirement and health plans on their ERISA, MPPA and ACA obligations; it also provides fiduciary advice to plans and providers of fiduciary services. The firm’s clients include Aramark and Bank of America.
ENERGY/PROJECTS: OIL & GAS: Vinson & Elkins LLP
This premier energy group enjoys a formidable reputation for its expertise in the financing and development of upstream, midstream and downstream projects and for its LNG work, with recent standout work including its representation of Pioneer Natural Resources on the sale and agreement with Sinochem Petroleum USA to form a long-term horizontal drilling development partnership for total consideration of $1.7 billion. Commentators are particularly quick to acclaim this stellar team's creative, commercial and client-focused approach.
ENERGY/PROJECTS:POWER (INCLUDING RENEWABLES): Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP
The attorneys in this formidable practice are singled out for their thoughtful advice and creative problem-solving. The team is frequently seen on the largest power and renewable energy projects and has earned itself a reputation among utilities and power companies for its expert handling of M&A, securities and other transactional work. The firm’s expertise also extends to project finance, often advising lenders and private equity sponsors.
ENVIRONMENT (INCLUDING CLIMATE CHANGE): Hunton & Williams LLP
The group at Hunton has a distinguished position in the market due to the high quality of its advice to clients on policymaking, litigation and regulatory matters. The team's expertise spans the broad spectrum of environmental matters – including water, air, waste and climate change and it is particularly lauded for its track record on precedent-setting litigation. Key clients include Utility Air Regulatory Group, Smithfield Foods and ExxonMobil.
FINANCE: Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP
Cravath's prestigious commercial banking and securities practices are highly respected for their expertise in advising major banks and corporations on the full array of complex and sophisticated banking and capital market transactions. The market-leading team recently represented lenders and underwriters in connection with $12.3 billion of debt financing made available to Community Health Systems to fund its acquisition of Health Management Associates and to refinance certain indebtedness.
HEALTHCARE: Manatt Phelps & Phillips LLP
Manatt's heavyweight healthcare group offers coast-to-coast strength, attracting market-leading providers and insurance companies. Recent work includes representation of Continuum Health Partners in the formation of the new Mount Sinai Health System, one of New York's largest private health systems. The team operates at the forefront of health reform implementation and is sought after by states across the nation to advise on eligibility and enrollment in insurance products and payment and delivery reform.
INSURANCE (POLICYHOLDER): Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman LLP
Kasowitz has grown into a powerhouse over the past year with its presence on behalf of policyholders nationwide. Highlights include a decisive jury verdict against several of the nation’s largest insurers in favor of Warren Pumps facing thousands of asbestos-related bodily injury lawsuits, and representation of Convergys in securing the order for its insurer to cover defense costs of two significant privacy class actions.
INSURANCE (INSURER): Debevoise & Plimpton LLP
This elite New York corporate firm lends its extensive transactional expertise to some of the insurance market’s most significant and high-value M&A transactions, as well as handling corporate finance and insurance capital deals on behalf of industry clients. The team's strength was recently exemplified by the representation of Resolution Life Holdings in its acquisition of Lincoln Benefit Life from Allstate Life Insurance for $600 million.
INTERNATIONAL ARBITRATION: Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP
An outstanding group with extensive global reach and a remarkable international client base, including numerous illustrious names such as BG Group, ConocoPhillips, Repsol, Siemens and sovereign governments worldwide. The team has accumulated a wealth of expertise in advising energy giants, and demonstrates masterful handling of investment treaty claims and commercial disputes under a range of institutional rules, in addition to UNCITRAL rules and ad hoc arbitrations.
INTERNATIONAL TRADE: Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP
A respected proponent of US manufacturing, Skadden astutely advises numerous domestic clients in cases involving antidumping and countervailing duty issues, and assists with international trade negotiations between the US and foreign governments. The group is celebrated for its CFIUS expertise, and admired for the strength and support of its excellent corporate practice and its remarkable ability to understand and guide the rhythm of a transaction.
INVESTMENT FUNDS: Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP
This impressive East Coast group remains strong across the board on investment fund issues, with particular prominence in transactional, regulatory, formation and governance work relating to registered funds and private funds. The team has also made waves in the market with significant additions to its trading and markets and derivatives expertise, enhancing its ability to handle some of the most sophisticated pieces of work in that area.
IP INCLUDING PATENT, COPYRIGHT, AND TRADEMARK: Sidley Austin LLP
Life sciences, telecommunications and technology remain key areas of strength for this stellar practice, which is particularly renowned for its high-caliber trial capabilities. The team is also noted for its ITC experience and garners much acclaim for its excellent client service. Among its recent standout work is its representation of Microsoft in landmark trials against Motorola that established principles for resolving RAND disputes and licensing rates.
LABOUR & EMPLOYMENT: Jones Day
This behemoth of a labor and employment team is noted for its impressive talent pool of lawyers, home to excellent strategists handling game-changing matters with wide-reaching implications across the USA. The firm's client roster includes household names like Verizon Wireless, IBM and McDonald's, and its areas of expertise include class and collective actions across the full spectrum of discrimination issues and wage and hour claims.
LITIGATION: WHITE COLLAR CRIME & GOVERNMENT INVESTIGATIONS (INDIVIDUALS): F. Joseph Warin - Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP
The last year has continued to showcase Joseph Warin's top-flight white-collar criminal defense and securities enforcement practice, highlighting his exceptional expertise across areas such as FCPA investigations and regulatory compliance. Warin served as co-counsel in negotiating BP’s criminal resolution arising from the Gulf spill, counsel to the Siemens FCPA compliance monitor, and defense counsel for HP and Weatherford in recent FCPA settlements. He chairs the firm’s DC litigation department.
LITIGATION: BUSINESS TRIAL LAWYERS (INDIVIDUALS): Dan K. Webb - Winston & Strawn LLP
Winston & Strawn Chairman Dan Webb is a giant of the trial Bar, commended for his top-flight civil and criminal litigation practice. He handles diverse cases for big clients like Microsoft and Verizon. Recent successes include a win in one of the highest-profile criminal cases involving insurance executives in US history and, as a special prosecutor, a guilty plea from a former mayor's nephew in a decade-old manslaughter case.
MEDIA & ENTERTAINMENT: Jenner & Block LLP
This firm has an outstanding reputation in the media and entertainment space, offering clients in the motion picture, television and music industries exceptional representation in precedent-setting litigation. Market-leading teams in New York, DC and California are heading up many of the nation’s highest-profile content protection matters, and recently secured a high-profile victory for the major US movie studios in a landmark copyright case against the BitTorrent site isoHunt.
PRODUCT LIABILITY: Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP
This litigation heavyweight has made huge strides in the product liability space, cutting a swath through the market by adding an international roster of products liability superstars to its venerable practice. Global clients – including Pfizer, Colgate, Koch Industries, Intuitive Surgical, Forest Pharmaceuticals, Endo, and Occidental – regularly call on Quinn Emanuel to handle their companies’ most sensitive products liability issues, including serving as trial and national counsel in MDL litigation.
REAL ESTATE: Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP
Cleary has had an excellent year advising on high value and complex real estate financings including loan originations, restructurings and securitizations. It has frequently represented Goldman Sachs on financing matters including the recent origination of a loan with an aggregate value of $555 million to General Growth Properties, secured by a portfolio of shopping centers located in Kentucky, Minnesota and Florida.
SECURITIES REGULATION (INCLUDING ADVISORY & ENFORCEMENT) AND FSR: Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP
Davis Polk & Wardwell is perennially at the forefront of regulatory developments in both the financial services and securities spaces, with a hugely impressive bench of leading practitioners advising banks, financial institutions, broker dealers and public companies in the full range of compliance and enforcement matters. The client roster of this elite firm reads like a Who's Who of the financial services and corporate communities.
TAX: Debevoise & Plimpton LLP
The Debevoise & Plimpton team has continued to win admirers, with an enviably strong bench having been responsible for some stunning work of late. Perhaps most impressive has been the team's counseling of the Special Committee of the Board of Directors of Dell in connection with its $24.94 billion sale to a group led by company founder Michael Dell and private equity firm Silver Lake.
Client Service Awards
Client Service awards go to firms who have been consistently singled out by clients during the course of our research for the quality and range of their client service. We don’t give out client service awards in every practice area, but we believe that this year the following awards are thoroughly deserved:
Corporate M&A: Morrison & Foerster LLP
Morrison & Foerster has recently handled some phenomenally high value and sophisticated deals, including the closing of SoftBank's $21.6 billion acquisition of a 78% share of wireless operator Sprint. The team is experienced in a range of industry sectors and has an impressive global network. In the States, clients enjoy seamless service from groups in California, DC, New York and Virginia.
International Arbitration: Chaffetz Lindsey LLP
This impressive boutique is in the ascendancy and praised for its exceptional prowess in arbitration. The team is commended for its professionalism and dedication to an international client base including AEI, Bayer AG, Samwhan, Aster Petroleo and the Republic of Liberia. Skilled in handling disputes involving sovereigns and sovereign entities, the team has advised on disputes across Europe, Asia and the Middle East, and has wide-ranging experience assisting companies based in, and investing in, Latin America.
Investment Funds: Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP
Paul, Weiss has a leading alternative asset management practice that handles a diverse range of fund types in the marketplace. The firm is adept at working with both private equity and hedge fund managers on complex, high-value matters and advising on every phase of the life of an alternative asset manager, from fund and management company formation, to strategic partnerships, to crisis management and dispute resolution.
IP (including Patent, Copyright & Trademark): Covington & Burling LLP
Sources reserve acclaim for the problem-solving skills of this fine outfit, which is particularly noted for its trial expertise and experience before the ITC. Among recent achievements, the firm obtained a favorable resolution for Samsung Electronics in an ITC Section 337 investigation involving LED technology. In addition, Covington secured victories in two Hatch-Waxman cases for Warner Chilcott against generic pharmaceuticals manufacturers.