With offices in New York, Washington, DC; Hartford, Connecticut and San Francisco, Axinn maintains a specialty focus on litigation, particularly of the antitrust and intellectual property varieties. One appreciative client addresses the firm as “excellent, very accessible, responsive and reasonably priced.” This client goes on to note that “Axinn is also more diverse than most IP firms. ‘More diverse’ meaning not all white men and women.”
Operating in the DC office, Aziz Burgy defended Par Pharmaceutical in four separate suits filed by Horizon Therapeutics in various jurisdictions involving a generic version of the drug Ravicti. Collectively, the cases involved six different patents. The four lawsuits and inter partes reviews have all been dismissed and/or terminated in light of a favorable settlement, which grants Par a non-exclusive, perpetual, royalty-free license to manufacture generic Ravicti after July 1, 2025 or earlier under certain conditions. The July 2025 License Effective Date represents allows Par to enter the market nearly a decade before the latest expiring patents directed to Ravicti. Burgy also acts for Par in several other patent matters.
Over 75 years of honing the abilities of generations of talented litigators to their maximal potential and expanding into key jurisdictions have earned national law firm Blank Rome the well due distinction of being among the United States’ highest grossing firms. With 13 offices in the US and Shanghai, including locations in D.C., Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, New York, Chicago, and L.A, the crowning achievement of the firm’s litigation team is the prolificacy of its insurance recovery practice group. A notably rare trait among US based firms, the group does not represent insurers, but rather fully directs the trial-tested expertise of its 35 insurance litigators to representing insurance policyholders in disputes of all varieties involving insurers. The litigators of the insurance recovery group have been described by esteemed clients as having, “[A] very good understanding of the industry and good relationships with other lawyers and insurance professionals.”
Serving as chair of the insurance recovery practice, James “Jim” Murray is, in addition to playing the role of being one of the firm’s most vital leaders, among the nation’s most skilled insurance litigators with extensive experience representing policyholders in widely spectated sexual abuse liability disputes. In fact, it is in no small part due to Murray’s leadership and high-level familiarity with the insurance industry that the firm has cemented its preeminence in the sexual abuse liability space, having recovered over $1 billion for policyholders in related disputes. Among Murray’s current matters, he co-leads the firm as it serves as lead insurance coverage counsel to six of the eight Catholic Dioceses of New York State, including the Archdiocese, in liability proceedings arising from allegations of long-standing sexual abuse of minors on the part of multiple individuals among the dioceses’ priests and negligent hiring and supervision of the alleged perpetrators.
Linda Kornfeld of Blank Rome’s Los Angeles office is also a key member of the firm’s leadership and contributes her erudite mastery of cutting-edge corporate crisis and coverage law in her role as vice chair of the firm’s insurance recovery practice. In addition to her regular representation of global powerhouses of numerous industry sectors in highly sensitive insurance disputes, Kornfeld is among those spearheading the firm’s representation of the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles in a business interruption dispute arising from allegations on the part of the client that its property insurer, Factory Mutual Insurance, wrongfully denied it coverage following the team’s massive, COVID-19-related, financial losses. Kornfeld, along with fellow litigation star John Heintz, is also a founding member of the firm’s recently formed severe weather emergency recovery team which works with policy holders in navigating the ramifications of historically intense wildfire and hurricane seasons.
Further fortifying the remarkably capable team of the firm’s litigators are Grant Palmer, Mary Craig Calkins, John Gibbons and Barry Levine.
Cahill Gordon & Reindel remains a favorite with its stable of loyal long-time clients, which include global cornerstones of the financial industry, as well as embattled individuals who turn to Cahill practitioners for counsel but probably hope to never see the firm (or any litigator) again. One of Cahill’s clients voices appreciation for the “comprehensive advice, with excellent strategic game plan” that the firm has become known for. Cahill is best known for its concentration in the commercial, securities, antitrust and white-collar crime capacities.
Operating from both the firm’s New York flagship as well as its DC location, Brad Bondi has become known as a trusted advocate for white-collar and securities enforcement matters. Bondi leads a team that is representing five large hospital funds as plaintiffs in connection with potential claims against Allianz Global Investors arising from the catastrophic implosion of Allianz’s Structured Alpha investment products. The allegations concern violation of federal securities laws and state common law claims. Total losses claimed exceed $10 billion. Bondi also represents former a KPMG senior partner and executive who is charged, along with four others, in a high-profile case with wire fraud and other offenses relating to the misappropriation by the defendants of confidential inspection information from the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board. “Over the years I have some to know Brad well and have trusted him on several important projects,” testifies a peer. Bondi is not the only partner in this group earning acclaim; Nola Heller represents a former asset manager who is charged for her alleged role in a $63 million scheme to place fraudulent bonds in discretionary client accounts. In March 2020, Heller served as lead trial counsel in a four-day evidentiary hearing regarding the client’s motion to withdraw her guilty plea. The response is also strong for Anirudh Bansal, a younger partner who is making a swift ascent. “I think Anirudh is first-rate,” opines a peer. “He was a junior to [celebrated former Cahill partner] David Kelley so he got excellent training and then had big shoes to fill, which he did. He stepped up in a big way, and I expect you’ll see more of him.”
In the commercial capacity, Tammy Roy is another younger partner making a rapid rise. A client addresses Roy as “a rock star” who “[has] command of facts without getting lost in details. [She has a] bright future.” Roy has taken the lead on several notable engagements as of late. She represents S&P Global in five related actions alleging that S&P made reckless misrepresentations in connection with the rating of a life settlement securitization. In March 2019, several claims were dismissed but others were allowed to proceed and are now in discovery. Roy also represented UBS in connection with a defamation claim filed by a former UBS employee-turned-whistleblower after UBS publicly refuted the plaintiff’s claims, which were published in a book, regarding the details of his role in a tax-evasion scheme allegedly implicitly endorsed by UBS. UBS also denounced the plaintiff and highlighted lapses of credibility in his story. The parties settled the matter in September 2020. Roy also represented UBS Financial Services in a putative class action filed in the Southern District of New York in October 2020. The named plaintiff sought to represent an alleged class of US citizens living abroad who she claimed had their UBS investment accounts frozen, converted to cash or closed without timely notification. At a pre-motion conference that was filed for in January 2021 in anticipation of UBS’s motion to dismiss, the plaintiff conceded that the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction and subsequently filed a stipulation of voluntary dismissal of all claims.
Cahill has long serviced Credit Suisse in cases straddling an intersection of securities and antitrust issues. Joel Kurtzberg, a recent addition to Benchmark’s litigation stars, has proven his mettle in having taken the lead on several of these matters. “Get Joel on your radar,” advises a peer. “He has earned it.” The team also includes long-time stars Herb Washer and Elai Katz, the latter known primarily for his antitrust acumen and the former frequently pivoting between securities, antitrust and commercial cases. “Elai is an antitrust secret weapon,” confides a peer. “He comes on like a bit of a street fighter, but you can tell by his writing – and he does a lot of it – that he is really studious and geeks out on this stuff.” Washer is said to be able to “do it all, while all the while being one of the more pleasant and well-spoken litigators you’ll encounter.” Others servicing Credit Suisse in various capacities include Sheila Ramesh and future star Jason Hall, as well as David Januszewski, a seasoned partner who receives near-universal acclaim from peers in the market. “David is fantastic, he should get national recognition,” insists a peer. Beyond his work for Credit Suisse, Januszewski also acts for Deutsche Bank. On behalf of this institution, Januszewski led a team (including Ramesh) that litigated a six-day bench trial in Connecticut seeking to enforce a judgment, secured by the bank in a UK court in 2013, against Alexander Vik and his offshore investment entity Sebastian Holdings, seeking to hold Vik liable personally as the Sebastian Holdings’ alter ego in Connecticut. Januszewski also prevailed on behalf of Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas, securing a July 2020 dismissal in the Northern District of Illinois for a suit filed in March of that year in which plaintiffs filed their complaint against the bank, asserting claims for negligence, conversion, and contribution in connection with the transfer of securities alleged to have been funneled among various entities as part of a third-party’s long-running Ponzi scheme.
Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton stands out for its impressive global footprint – one of the most expansive in “big law,” with more offices located outside the US than within. Proudly bold in its international aspirations, its domestic-domiciled practitioners in New York and DC routinely attend to matters that cross borders. One peer offers in summation, “Cleary has distinguished itself by being more than just a group of servicers of the standard Wall Street crowd, even though their [New York] office is right there [in the Financial District.]” The firm excels in antitrust, white-collar and investigations work, securities, bankruptcy, commercial and even some intellectual property, and, unsurprisingly, it is also known as being one of the dominant forces in the international arbitration arena.
Cleary’s antitrust capacity benefited from the March 2020 recruit of Bruce Hoffman, a former leader of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, to its DC group. While this hire is viewed as significant benefit by a pronounced group of peers, one speculates, “It’s not like they needed any additional boost. That is already one of the strongest antitrust groups in the country.” A DC-based Cleary antitrust team scored a landmark win when secured federal merger clearance and won an unprecedented multistate lawsuit brought by 17 Attorneys General as lead antitrust counsel to T-Mobile and parent company Deutsche Telekom in connection with T-Mobile’s historic merger with Sprint Corporation. A peer marvels, “They won, to everyone’s surprise! The conventional wisdom in the press was that they were going to lose. There were betting pools that they were going to lose.” Peer praise is particularly strong for lead counsel Mark Nelson. One enthuses, “I saw him cross-examining an engineer on the other side and Mark ripped him apart! The guy was literally babbling by the end, he was flustered!” The team also included antitrust authorities David Gelfand, Jeremy Calsyn and George Cary. The latter is a perennial favorite among fellow antitrust practitioners. “He is just a master and has unquestioned credibility with the bench and the bar,” sums up one peer, who goes on to insist, “but he is not the only one doing great things there. George has a great team working with him. Leah Brannon for instance has really come up.” Cary and Brannon represent Keurig in massive multiparty monopolization litigation in the Southern District of New York. The litigation involves five complaints brought against Keurig by two individual competitors, two purported classes (direct and indirect purchasers), and an individual purchaser. Among other allegations, these cases allege that Keurig has unlawfully monopolized a market for Keurig-compatible single-serve coffee through a wide range of actions, from Keurig’s design and advertising of its 2.0 coffee brewer and related coffee to its contracts with suppliers, distributors, and other partners. In 2020, Keurig entered into a settlement agreement with the putative indirect purchaser class for $31 million.
Another area in which Cleary is routinely praised is the white-collar and enforcement area. “They have a good nucleus of a practice in DoJ and SEC and in DC and NY,” confirms a peer. Another elaborates, “When I have a huge case that I need to refer, I need the breadth and the depth, not just one star player. The Cleary team is smart, knowledgeable and experienced, and there are a bunch of them: David Brodsky, Joon Kim, Breon Peace, Lev Dassin, Victor Hou – these people are all a solid team.” Peace, Jennifer Kennedy Park and Lisa Vicens are representing Vale in an SEC investigation into securities disclosures related to the company’s dam safety in the wake of the 2019 Brumadinho dam collapse in Brazil. Peace and Vicens are also leading an internal investigation on behalf of Brazil’s national development bank, BNDES, of allegations of corruption in connection with a major Brazilian bribery investigation, and related US investigations, concerning BNDES’s extension of financing to certain companies related to the Brazilian conglomerate, J&F Investimentos, in relation to its acquisition of several foreign companies, including in the US, which Brazilian authorities alleged resulted in a loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in public funds. Vicens is viewed as particularly instrumental in pushing this Brazilian agenda. “Lisa has developed a fabulous South American practice,” confirms one competitor. “She is a homegrown talent, an unusual person in that respect.” Kim and Hou represent Nissan in regulatory investigations relating to executive compensation issues arising out of the arrest of the company’s former CEO, Carlos Ghosn. The Cleary duo assisted with the investigation and negotiated the settlement with the SEC, in which Nissan agreed to pay a $15 million civil penalty, and the SEC alleged that Nissan failed to disclose more than $140 million to be paid to Ghosn in compensation and retirement benefits. This same pair is also representing the former CEO of a publicly traded real estate investment trust in defending against criminal charges and SEC securities fraud charges.
A particularly versatile litigator with a diverse practice encompassing commercial and securities work as well as white-collar and enforcement, Hou is viewed as a standout by a near-unanimous level of peers. In an example of his securities acumen, Hou is representing Synchrony Financial, several of its officers, and its board of directors in a putative securities class action in the District of Connecticut against allegations of misleading statements and omitting material information. After a March 2020 dismissal in the client’s favor, plaintiffs appealed to the Second Circuit, who affirmed the dismissal in February 2021. Acting with Hou on this matter, Jared Gerber is a securities-focused star that has been similarly active of late. Gerber acted with Roger Cooper in representing the Hong Kong-based energy company Sky Solar and certain officers in another securities class action alleging material misstatements. Cooper also, along with Vicens, represents International Flavors & Fragrances, Frutarom Industries and two of IFF’s officers in a putative securities class action alleging that the defendants made material misstatements and omissions concerning IFF’s acquisition of Frutarom, the integration of the two companies, and IFF’s and Frutarom’s financial reporting and results.
Cohen Milstein covers the Eastern seaboard with offices in Washington, DC, Philadelphia, New York, Palm Beach Gardens and Raleigh, and services the Midwest through a Chicago office. Peers on both the defense and plaintiff sides of the “V” have voiced appreciation for the firm’s zealous approach. “I have always regarded them highly,” declares one plaintiff peer. “They have been mainly regarded as an antitrust firm, but they also so some work in securities and appear to be doing more of this. We happen to have a case where we are co-lead with them. They are smart lawyers.” The firm also has a noted employment, civil rights and ERISA practice. The firm made news in 2019 when a federal judge in Illinois to co-lead shareholder litigation against money transfer entity MoneyGram International, who, in November 2018, agreed to pay $125 million to resolve allegations that it failed to crack down on fraudulent money transfers.
The majority of Cohen Milstein’s star power is concentrated in its DC home base. Managing partner Steven Toll is a celebrated figure among the plaintiffs bar and a “feared but respected adversary” of defense lawyers. Toll has been at the helm of several recent milestone wins, including securing a ruling from the DC Circuit Court of Appeals that reinstated a suit against electronics maker Harman International Industries. A $28.25 million settlement was achieved in this action in 2017. Toll was also co-lead counsel in the BP Securities class action securities fraud lawsuit that arose from the Deepwater oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the certification of the class of investors alleged to have been injured by BP’s misrepresenting the amount of oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico, and thus minimizing the extent of the cost and financial impact to BP of the cleanup and resulting damages. In February 2017, the court granted final approval to a $175 million settlement reached between BP and lead plaintiffs for the “post-explosion” class. Julie Reiser attends to a practice that straddles antitrust, securities and ERISA matters. Reiser has led litigation teams in several major class actions and has secured landmark settlements, including a $500 million settlement related to Countrywide’s issuance of mortgage-backed securities and a shareholder derivative suit against Wynn Resorts, with a net settlement value of $90 million.
While the DC partners are some of the firm’s most established, partners in other offices, particularly on the younger end of the spectrum, are also moving to the fore and garnering peer attention. Lauren Posner in the New York office is tipped by peers as a future star. “I’m sure she’ll be put in charge of many of their high-end cases,” forecasts a peer.
Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner is an intellectual property boutique with the breadth and capability (as well as the nationally recognized status in the practice) of a full-service law firm. The firm maintains one of the leading and most active practices dedicated to PTAB disputes and has been especially noteworthy for its handling of appeals. In addition to its heavy-hitting patent practice, the firm also remains highly regarded for trademark and copyright litigation as well. DC-based Douglas Rettew is one of the go-to litigators for trademark litigation. He has represented some of the largest brands in the world, including Capital One, a client that he has recently been representing in several actions in courts throughout the US. Over the last year he has obtained two permanent injunctions against companies in trademark infringement cases. Other major worldwide clients he has represented in the last year include Nestle, Combe, and Under Armour.
In the life sciences space, the firm is highly regarded, earning top-tier standings in patent litigation and Hatch-Waxman cases for leading industry leading companies in the chemical, pharmaceutical, and biotechnology industries. The DC office also houses Paul Browning and James Monroe who are two patent litigators with extensive experience in Hatch-Waxman disputes. Reston-based partner Charles Lipsey is also deeply involved in patent related litigation and acts as one of the lead partners representing AstraZeneca in its Hatch-Waxman dispute against Zydus Pharmaceuticals regarding the client’s billion-dollar drug FARXIGA.
Freshfields Bruckhaus & Deringer is well-established as a strategically connected legal force around the globe, most notably for its international arbitration practice group. It is the only one of the London-headquartered “Magic Circle” firms to have established itself as a powerhouse in litigation, as opposed to just the corporate and transactional work that is the primary driver of this prestigious group. “[There is] extensive depth and breadth of talent in the organization,” testifies one client. “[They are] sophisticated and savvy practitioners capable of giving down-to-earth advice; their knowledge of the law is vast, and their connection to many jurisdictions is a plus.” Bringing new meaning to the phrase “long corridors” as it applies to larger firms, Freshfields has further extended its reach into the US litigation space with the addition of a securities and shareholder litigation practice, which, entering only its second year, has already demonstrated aptitude for complex bet-the-company disputes on both the East and West Coasts. The firm’s domestically domiciled general commercial litigation practice is also generating traction as well. Clients cheer the firm’s “creative solutions to and in-depth understanding of complex legal issues, litigation/arbitration strategy, and understanding nuances across borders,” particularly in one matter regarding “an international arbitration of significant value, with multiple legal specialist areas and very tight timelines.” Another client confirms, “The firm provided first-rate defense, but they also translated the learnings in the litigation to actionable business items that we can implement to minimize business and legal risk in the future.”
Much of the success of the securities and shareholder group is attributable to its co-head, Meredith Kotler of the New York office. Kotler is regularly entrusted by global institutions and corporations for her keen, sophisticated representation in financial securities-related disputes that often involve class actions as well as shareholder derivatives. Clients calling upon Kotler for counsel include Tyson Foods, AstraZeneca and 3M, the last of which Kotler triumphed for with the complete dismissal of a class action in September 2021. Another New York-based securities partner (and newly listed star in this edition) Mary Eaton currently represents Citigroup in numerous high-exposure securities derivative actions and related class actions, filed following Citigroup’s erroneous wiring of $900 million to lenders, arising from allegations that the board consciously allowed the company to maintain insufficient operational control and to violate regulatory settlement terms. The securities group has also been built out on the West Coast, with Silicon Valley partners Doru Gavril and Boris Feldman bookending the firm’s domestic securities operations. Feldman also spearheads the firm’s US-based technology group. New York’s Aaron Marcu is also among the firm’s key litigators, specializing in defense of clients in regulatory enforcement investigations and white-collar criminal proceedings. He recently negotiated a $24.86 million settlement in his lead role as counsel to the special litigation committee of Sinclair Broadcasting Group in three derivative suits seeking damages exceeding $500 million dollars from the company’s executives and directors relating to allegations of misleading federal regulators regarding the company’s failed $6 billion merger with Tribune Media Company. Other keystone members of the firm’s litigation team include New York’s Noiana Marigo and Adam Siegel, and DC’s Nigel Blackaby.
The firm’s general commercial team is making strides as well. New York’s David Livshiz, who handles a range of commercial and bankruptcy disputes, is a client favorite. “David is extremely dedicated and committed to getting the best result for his clients,” extols one. “He digs into the issues, leaving no stone unturned. His legal intellect and ability to understand the commercial import to his clients sets him apart from others.” Another insists, “He has broad knowledge of the law, the ability to connect to others at his firm with special expertise, and is not afraid to take a position. He keeps in regular contact, and offers candid and thoughtful advice.” Also based in New York, Linda Martin is also a recipient of accolades from clients. “Linda not only leveraged significant litigation expertise but also took the initiative to learn about and closely understand the nuances of our business and industry. She used this expertise to be an effective and forceful advocate on our behalf.” One of Martin’s blue-ribbon clients is PepsiCo and Bottling Company, for whom she provides counsel in antitrust and breach of contract matters.
Gibson Dunn & Crutcher continues to enjoy a coveted position as one of the nation’s strongest and most in-demand litigation institutions. “We view Gibson Dunn as our biggest and most formidable competitor,” confides one peer. Another offers in agreement, “I think these days you are seeing a ‘flight to quality,’ and Gibson Dunn really exemplifies that. They just get better and better.” Indeed, the firm’s star litigators, already one of the highest concentrations of any listed firm, seem to swell in number annually, and it is worth noting that these partners are distributed evenly throughout its offices and practice areas. “It’s hard to find an Achilles’ heel there! There are just no weak links,” confirms a peer, speaking to the firm’s balance of talent. That said, the firm is particularly celebrated in the fields of antitrust, white-collar crime, intellectual property, securities and commercial litigation, and its appellate and Supreme Court practice is regularly viewed as the most active and experienced in the country.
Gibson Dunn’s star practitioners have regularly appeared as counsel on cases that have made national headlines, and this past year – despite a global pandemic – was no exception. “Gibson Dunn is just everywhere,” confirms a peer. “If you want to know what they’re up to, just look in the news.” Indeed, one such newsworthy matter includes defending Apple against Epic Games, developer of the popular “Fortnite” game, in a massive showdown involving antitrust claims concerning Apple’s alleged enforcing of App Store policies in a monopolistic fashion. The California judge presiding over the case publicly praised the diversity represented on the teams on both sides of this case, and Gibson Dunn’s Dallas-based Veronica Moye was one such example of this. In a trial that concluded in May 2021, Moye directly handled the questioning of Apple CEO Tim Cook. In another matter that made the headlines, a team consisting of Los Angeles partner Ted Boutrous and New York’s Anne Champion successfully represented Mary Trump in a First Amendment case dealing with the Trump family’s attempt to halt the publication of her book Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man. Boutrous, a noted First Amendment specialist, also handled another newsworthy matter of this variety, representing the New York Times in a case in which the DoJ sought information about the email accounts of four Times journalists in investigations about potential leaks of confidential government information. Along with Alexander Southwell, a New York white-collar star who has a niche in privacy and cyber-security, Boutrous secured a reversal in this decision from the DoJ in June 2021, protecting the confidentiality of the journalistic sources.
In the firm’s famed appeals practice, partners such as Ted Olson, Mark Perry and Miguel Estrada are considered “pretty much brand names at this point” in the eyes of peers. “That is basically like the Mount Rushmore of the Supreme Court practice.” Indeed, each of the aforementioned partners has been at the forefront of a staggering number of game-changing appeals that have forged new law and made national headlines. A name that is generating an increasing level of profile, Helgi Walker is commended by peers and clients. One such client testifies, “Helgi and [newly listed DC future star] Lucas Townsend are on par with the finest appellate lawyers in DC. They bring a thoughtfulness and expert caution to drafting creative and effective briefs.” Walker successfully represented petitioners, the National Association of Broadcasters and served as lead counsel for the broadcast and newspaper industry group before the Supreme Court in a case concerning the proposed elimination of media ownership restrictions that saddle the entities’ ability to efficiently consolidate. In April 2021, the Supreme Court handed Walker’s clients a unanimous victory. Perry, along with Los Angeles life sciences patent specialist Wayne Barsky, secured a huge patent infringement victory at the Federal Circuit on behalf of EMD Serono and Pfizer in a case involving a patent on a multiple sclerosis medicine for which the plaintiff sought more than $5.4 billion in damages.
Elsewhere in Gibson Dunn’s patent litigation gallery of IP litigation wins, New York’s Josh Krevitt scored a complete trial victory in February 2021 for Fitbit, in a patent case brought by Philips against Fitbit and Garmin in the ITC. Philips’ complaint asserted three patents against virtually all of Fitbit’s smartwatch and tracker products and sought an exclusion order to stop Fitbit from importing or selling the products anywhere in the US for the life of the patents. Krevitt also led a team that logged a complete defense victory on behalf of EMC (now part of Dell) in patent litigation that spanned seven years and in which the plaintiff originally sought nearly $1 billion in damages. Another New York partner with a particular flair for in intellectual property and entertainment, Orin Snyder leads a team that was retained by AMC to defend against two cases, each valued at $280 million, concerning the hit TV show The Walking Dead filed by former showrunner Frank Darabont and his agents at Creative Artists Agency as well as some other profit alleging that they are owed monies in connection with AMC’s accounting of the television series. Los Angeles entertainment authority Scott Edelman and New York-based future star Brian Ascher are also part of the team. Snyder also defends longtime client Jerry Seinfeld, whose hit Netflix show Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee was targeted in a copyright lawsuit. Snyder secured the dismissal of the lawsuit and subsequent affirmance by the Second Circuit.
The firm’s white-collar and enforcement group is also considered one of the most power-packed among national firms. In particular, DC’s Joseph Warin is a peer favorite. “In the anticorruption area, if we’re conflicted out, we refer to him, because he has a really experienced team,” testifies one peer. Another insists, “If I was a GC in trouble, Joe would be on my speed-dial, certainly in the FCPA world, but he’s terrific with everything. Gibson has a ton of great people, but Joe is really the essence.” New York-based white-collar defense and investigations practice group member Matthew Biben, who also co-chairs the financial institutions group, was a former large bank general counsel before pivoting to private practice. His diverse practice includes advocating for clients in matters related to financial institutions, civil disputes, securities and bankruptcy litigation, and government actions.
Hausfeld has emerged as a plaintiff-side firm to be reckoned with in several categories. However, unlike many other firms of its ilk, the firm has not opted for taking the “boutique” route and has instead expanded domestically and globally with 120 litigators practicing in 12 offices throughout the US and Europe. Primarily in the antitrust capacity, Hausfeld is an undisputed trailblazer, identified as a ubiquitous presence by peers on both the plaintiff and defense sides of the “V.” One major defense peer confirms, “Hausfeld is who we almost always see on the plaintiff side if there is antitrust class-action. Even it’s not exclusively them, they are always somewhere in the mix.” Another frequent opponent notes, “They have a wide scope regarding antitrust actions, and they are also huge in sports! I do a great deal of this work, and it’s nearly always against Hausfeld, at least in the biggest and best cases.” Over the past several years alone, the firm has landed national headlines for its dogged pursuit of antitrust and sports claims.
Few would contest that the firm’s legacy is credited to firm founder and visionary Michael Hausfeld, the name partner who entrepreneurially built his firm into a zealous plaintiff empire. Hausfeld made news in 2019 as one of the key plaintiffs behind a class-action matter against several railroad entities, claiming that from 2003 to 2008 these entities conspired to increase revenue by imposing a fuel surcharge. While the DC office, where Hausfeld is based, has long been viewed as the firm’s center of gravity, several California-based partners are tipping the scales to a more balanced footprint. Megan Jones in the San Francisco office has been identified by several peers as “a leader at Hausfeld now,” and Bonny Sweeney, also based In San Francisco, is a recipient of accolades. In addition to antitrust, Sweeney attends to niche practices in sports and entertainment law as well as consumer protection and pro bono matters.
Haynes and Boone is a multi-discipline outfit that emerged as a regional player in the Southeast and South Central US. The firm maintains a network of 17 offices with 40 practice areas spreading across its locations. Historically a revered legal brand in its native Texas, the firm has more recently expanded into markets like Washington, DC, largely on the strength of a rapidly burgeoning insurance coverage practice. The firm has won the praise of multiple peers; one testifies, “We are very often in the same sandbox as them, we see them often.” Another peer, based in Houston, extols, “They are really in the mix now, great people. [They have] Quite a bit of action in Dallas, too.” Clients voice their appreciation for the firm’s approach and prowess. One describes Haynes and Boone’s litigators as “aggressive and thoughtful, with an excellent understanding of the law,” and states that they are “good at keeping client focused, thoughtful with billing and credits, excellent at strategy, trustworthy and empathetic.”
The DC office in particular features trial lawyer Barry Buchman who is a leading policyholder insurance litigator with a specialty in complex insurance coverage, general liability coverage disputes and other cutting-edge insurance coverage matters. “Barry and his team are active in the sexual abuse coverage disputes area,” notes one insurance-focused peer. “When people ask for referrals, he’s always 1, 2 or 3 on the list.” Additionally, Buchman’s practice also touches on commercial disputes that include business torts and representing private equity firms and automotive companies especially. Most recently, Buchman served as lead litigation counsel representing Lionsgate and Starz in a Directors & Officers insurance coverage case that arose out of Lionsgate’s acquisition of Starz and a subsequent shareholder class action that was filed by Starz shareholders. They alleged they were underpaid for their shares compared to the price Lionsgate paid for the shares of another group of shareholders. The insurers for Lionsgate and Starz denied coverage, claiming the “Bump-Up Exclusion” clause in the policies, and after the class action settled for $92.5 million, the clients filed a lawsuit against the insurers for their denial of coverage. One of the insurers for Starz filed a motion for summary judgment arguing that the client improperly compromised the insurer’s subrogation rights against a Starz shareholder, John Malone, who allegedly played a significant and improper part in the Lionsgate’s acquisition. The matter became an issue of first impression regarding whether Malone was considered an “insured person” as he was not a director or officer of Starz. Buchman successfully persuaded the court to consider Malone an “insured person” and the court ruled in the client’s favor based on the policies that prevent insurers from asserting subrogation rights against an insured.
Haynes and Boone is also a noted powerhouse in the specialty area of appeals. “In appellate work, they are a premier firm,” raves a peer. “Nina Cortell [now Senior Counsel status] is still active but her protégé Anne Johnson is just tremendous. I would love to hire either of them away but I doubt we could ever get them!” Johnson, domiciled in the firm’s Dallas office, has indeed emerged as a star in this space. She made headlines with her representation of BBVA, on behalf of whom she persuaded a Texas appellate court to overturn a $110 million fraud verdict against the client. The suit was brought against BBVA by a borrower who claimed that a BBVA employee made misrepresentations during loan renewal negotiations. The plaintiff alleged that, at the time the employee represented that his loans were not being sold, the bank was in the process of selling them—an action permitted by the loan documents. The plaintiff claimed that the employee’s representation caused him to lose out on various business opportunities. Johnson and her team were called into action after an unfavorable verdict in 2017. In December 2020, a three-justice panel of the appellate court unanimously reversed the judgment and ruled that the plaintiff take nothing on his claim. Johnson is also lead counsel on appeal for Toyota North America in an appeal stemming from a $242 million verdict against the manufacturer in August 2018. Johnson makes her debut appearance as one of Benchmark’s Top 250 Women in Litigation in this edition. Houston’s Mark Trachtenberg also notched an appellate win when he persuaded the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to affirm a summary judgment in favor of client Caterpillar. In the suit, AIG Europe asserted negligence and product liability claims against Caterpillar, which manufactured an engine used in pumping units at an oil-and-gas well site in Texas. A 2016 fire at the site led to millions of dollars in damages, which AIG sought to recover from Caterpillar and another defendant. Haynes and Boone was retained after a judge in the Eastern District of Texas denied AIG’s motion for partial summary judgment and granted Caterpillar’s motion for summary judgment on each of AIG’s claims.
DC-based boutique firm Ifrah Law leverages the success of its founder and managing partner Jeff Ifrah with a niche practice dedicated to actions in the online gaming field. With an already-established white-collar criminal defense practice, Ifrah is now also considered one of the leading lawyers in online gaming law serving as a longtime adviser to companies seeking to engage in U.S. gambling expansion. The firm is also active in business litigation, class action defense, and federal agency litigation.
Litigation boutique Kaplan Hecker & Fink is viewed by peers as “the place to be” at the moment. “They chose the right moment to form that firm,” opines one. “Their model is superb, and their approach dovetails perfectly with so the issues of this time in history.” The firm’s partners continue to demonstrate the fierce commitment to social justice that has been in its DNA since its 2017 founding, and its partners, all formerly with “big law” firms, boast a remarkably trial-tested résumé for their relatively young vintage. Historically a New York-based shop, the firm recently expanded, opening a DC office and welcoming back Joshua Matz, who is returning to the firm after serving as counsel to the US House Judiciary Committee, as a partner in February 2020. The New York office also got an infusion of talent in 2020 with the recruit of Marshall Miller, a white-collar star who joined the firm from a competitor. “That’s a great addition,” offers a peer. “Marshall is a capable lawyer with a stellar track record.” More recently, the firm welcomed Mike Ferrara, a former prosecutor who attends to a white-collar focus, to the partnership in its New York office. “He’s wonderful,” raves one peer on Ferrara’s behalf.
Founder and all-purpose trial lawyer Roberta “Robbie” Kaplan continues to earn plaudits for her role as a mentor and driver of the firm’s culture as well as for her unwavering commitment to pursuing cases dedicated to progressive causes. “Robbie Kaplan is our adversary most of the time,” testifies one peer, conceding, “and it’s tough to be on the other side of her.” Kaplan triumphed for Airbnb, a longtime client of hers, in challenging a New York City Council law that, if passed, would have required the client to produce massive amounts of private business records to city officers with no procedural or privacy protections, doing irreparable harm to Airbnb’s business in New York City. In June 2020, Airbnb reached a highly favorable settlement with New York City, resolving the matter. Kaplan also led a team (which included Matz) that represented Brown University in expedited litigation brought by plaintiffs alleging violations of a 1998 agreement that requires Brown to satisfy certain gender proportionality requirements in its varsity athletics programs. In September 2020, the firm team reached a proposed class settlement in the suit on behalf of the client that was then approved by the court in December 2020.
The firm has also been observed to have “gotten much more into white-collar work now!” In this capacity, Sean Hecker is a unanimous favorite of peers. “He is just a total ‘mensch’ and also a fantastic lawyer, with great trial skills in the white-collar world.” Hecker and Jenna Dabbs represent Gregory Dwyer, who was indicted by the Southern District of New York for violations of the Bank Secrecy Act. Dwyer is an executive of BitMEX, a cryptocurrency exchange and derivative trading platform and was charged alongside the three co-founders of the company. The matter is also the subject of a parallel CFTC investigation. Hecker and Ferrara meanwhile represent John Patrick Gorman III, who was sued by the CFTC for allegedly manipulating the prices of US dollar interest-rate swap spreads while working as the head of non-yen rate trading for Nomura. This same firm pair also represent the former chief investment officer of New York-based investment firm Infinity Q Capital Management. In February 2021, the SEC informed Infinity of alleged evidence that the client had made improper changes to a pricing model used to value the fund’s investments. At that time, the firm halted redemptions to investors, and has since liquidated its hedge fund.
Kellogg Hansen Todd Figel & Frederick is a mid-sized trial and appellate powerhouse firm headquartered in downtown DC. Aaron Panner is an antitrust authority who frequently appears before the US Supreme Court and appellate courts around the country. Peers celebrate Panner’s courtroom efforts, stating, “One guy who is just amazing is Aaron Panner at Kellogg Huber. He specializes in antitrust. [He] Clerked on the [Supreme Court]” adding, “He is truly one of the most amazing litigators I’ve come across. His mind is unbelievable. He would be on the top of my list. I refer him to my own clients and they’re always happy. That guy, boy, just a dynamo!” Seasoned litigator and name partner Mark Hansen obtained some of the largest judgments in antitrust and unfair trade practice cases in recent history. Hansen continued his success when a federal judge threw out the FTC’s antitrust lawsuit against client Facebook in June 2021. The case is pending after the FTC opted to try again its antitrust lawsuit with an amended complaint. Competitors also sing Hansen’s praises, declaring “He is low-key and humble so, it’s hard to even see him as the big dog that he is. He is one of the Top 5 trial lawyers in the US.” Founding and managing partner Michael Kellogg has built a reputable practice dedicated to appellate, regulatory, and antitrust issues. He has briefed and argued numerous cases before the United States Supreme Court. Steven Benz represents corporations as plaintiffs in antitrust, unfair competition, class action, and complex commercial cases. Benz is active as a member of the lead counsel team representing software supplier Veeva, which stands accused of stealing medical data belonging to IQVIA. Trial lawyer Andrew Shen has successfully represented clients at the trial and appellate levels in a range of areas and industries. Clients include anywhere from Fortune 200 companies and institutional investors to whistleblowers. Shen filed a notice of appearance on behalf of the Saudi Crown Prince before the District of DC in March 2021 in a federal lawsuit initiated by the pro-democracy group of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Appellate authority David Frederick is active in defense of Royal Dutch Shell against climate liability lawsuits. Frederick is also renowned for his advocacy in suits against the NFL on behalf of former players who suffered concussions and their families, as well as for his success last year in an antitrust case that allowed iPhone owners to sue Apple.
King & Spalding is an internationally lauded law firm with a network of 22 offices worldwide, with 10 of these outside the US. Peers are quick to address the firm’s most obvious strengths; one being its global balance of power. “King & Spalding was way ahead of the curve in terms of establishing an international scope. That firm has as many tentacles internationally as it does in the US.” Another area in which the firm reigns supreme is the energy sector. One competitor confirms, “King & Spalding is very deep in the life sciences world, and in energy - forget it. No other big national firm can touch them on the litigation side.” The firm is also said to be “the best in the world when it comes to representing the ‘Big Four’ accounting firms.”
The firm’s global footprint is illustrated best by the firm’s international arbitration practice, considered one of the premier practices among domestically headquartered firms. “King & Spalding have really terrific bench strength in international arbitration, probably the broadest across offices,” declares a peer. Indeed, this practice formed the nucleus of several of the firm’s key engagements of the past year. In a novel matter demonstrating the intersection of international arbitration and construction litigation (another of the firm’s noted areas of strength), Austin-based construction specialist Mike Stenglein and Houston-based international arbitration luminary Doak Bishop represent Reficar in an ICC arbitration arising from the construction of the Cartagena oil refinery in Colombia, purportedly the largest project in the country’s history. The damages at issue are in excess of several billion dollars. Stenglein also partnered with another seasoned international arbitration practitioner and New York’s managing partner Edward Kehoe in representing Footprint in a matter involving a contractor’s failure to deliver a natural gas-fired combined-cycle electric power plant on time and within budget. The contractor sued Footprint for $569 million in damages in an ICDR AAA arbitration proceeding, claiming that Footprint improperly refused to approve change orders that would pay them additional monies and extend the due date for completion of the project. Footprint has counterclaimed for nearly $300 million in damages arising from the delay to complete the project on time and the contractor’s grossly negligent execution failures. Kehoe also has his own noted fan base; “I have enormous respect for Ed,” extols one peer, himself a fellow leader in the international arbitration space.
King & Spalding’s California operations have also seen a flurry of activity as of late. Los Angeles-based trial lawyer Joseph Akrotirianakis, a new addition to this year’s star rankings, represents international cybersecurity technology company NSO Group in defense of a groundbreaking lawsuit brought by Facebook and WhatsApp, brought under the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and its California analogue, the Comprehensive Computer Data Access and Fraud Act in the Northern District of California. Facebook and WhatsApp allege that NSO’s “Pegasus” technology, which NSO licenses to foreign governments to use in investigating and preventing terrorism and serious crime, illegally accesses WhatsApp’s servers. Plaintiffs assert a claim for the alleged breach of WhatsApp’s terms of service. Kenneth Steinthal, who works out of the Los Angeles and San Francisco offices, and Bruce Baber, who operates from New York and Atlanta, represented Dolby Laboratories in a copyright infringement and breach of contract action against Adobe in the Northern District of California. Before the dispute, Dolby Laboratories had provided its audio technologies to Adobe which decided to include Dolby technologies in many of its software products. In this action, Dolby claimed that Adobe failed to properly account for and pay royalties owed under several license agreements, that Adobe used Dolby technology in products that were outside the scope of the license agreements, and that Adobe continued to sell products with Dolby technology after the termination of the license agreements. Dolby sought damages totaling over $2 billion for these breaches and infringement under a damages model supported by substantial fact discovery and expert testimony. Adobe unsuccessfully attempted to reduce Dolby’s asserted damages through summary judgment motions, Daubert motions, and pretrial motions. Another Los Angeles star, Alexander Calfo secured a monumental victory on behalf of clients Halyard Health and Kimberly-Clark Corporation when in July 2020 the Ninth Circuit vacated the district court’s judgment and decertified a class of California hospitals and healthcare providers that purchased allegedly defective personal protective equipment, erasing what was once a $454 million verdict. Specifically, the case alleged that the clients’ MicroCool surgical gowns were unsafe and falsely advertised during the Ebola crisis.
Calfo’s teammate on the aforementioned case, Stephen Devereaux represented Yale University, securing a complete dismissal in two putative nationwide class actions arising from the highly publicized “Varsity Blues” college admissions bribery scandal. An all-purpose litigator with a specialized focus on class actions, Devereaux is domiciled in the firm’s celebrated Atlanta office, which local peers still view as the city’s stronghold, even as the firm has long since expanded beyond Georgia’s borders. Another Atlanta partner, David Balser led the defense of Delta Air Lines in one of several putative class actions against major US airlines that market third-party travel insurance on their websites. The plaintiff claimed Delta violated RICO, Florida’s Deceptive Trade Practices Act and was unjustly enriched by failing to disclose its financial interest in the policies.
In the New York office, intellectual property star Gerald Flattmann represented Galderma Laboratories in Hatch-Waxman patent infringement litigation in the District of Delaware against Sun Pharmaceutical Industries. The three-day bench trial resulted in a win for Galderma, with a September 2019 finding that Sun’s proposed competitor product infringed Galderma’s patents literally and under the doctrine of equivalents. Another New York partner, operating in the white-collar and enforcement field, Carmen Lawrence represented Kroll Bond Rating Agency in the investigation and settlement of the SEC's enforcement proceeding finding that the client had inadequate internal controls relating to its ratings on commercial mortgage-backed securities.
Since its inception in Chicago in 1909, Kirkland & Ellis has steadily risen to become an international powerhouse. “Kirkland is a very formidable firm – [they have] a lot of talent. They have a lot of really solid people. There’s just something ‘cool and tough’ about them that you just can’t touch.” One of the larger and more comprehensive litigation capacities, Kirkland stands out as a firm that that boasts bench strength and high-level appointments in virtually every area of practice it offers, which include (but are not limited to) securities, antitrust, product liability, appeals, intellectual property, white-collar and investigations, commercial litigation, and bankruptcy, with the last being an area in which the firm is particularly dominant. “In bankruptcy, it’s Kirkland every day – they have to be at the top,” insists one peer, himself a leader in this practice. Kirkland is also noted for housing several leaders in the trial law specialty.
One such all-purpose trial lawyer, Chicago’s James Hurst is a respected authority in the field, who boasts an enviable streak of activity – and victories – in the courtroom over the past several years. Hurst is part of a team, which also includes Chicago-based white-collar and enforcement star Mark Filip as well as fellow Chicago commercial litigator Andrew Kassof, in defending Safeway, a subsidiary of Albertson Companies, in False Claims Act litigation alleging that defendants’ pharmacies misrepresented their usual and customary prices. The Kirkland team took over the case in 2019 after prior counsel lost a critical summary judgment motion. In 2020, the Kirkland team convinced the court to accept and then rule on a new summary judgment motion ahead of many other pending motions. Kassof also secured a victory for Abbott Laboratories and subsidiary St. Jude Medical when the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida dismissed a suit that suit arose out of St. Jude’s recall of implantable pacemakers and defibrillators in 2016. The plaintiff sued under the Medicare Secondary Payer Act and other state statutes and sought reimbursement for tens of millions of dollars in healthcare costs. Kassof and his team won dismissal of the Florida case in 2019. The plaintiff refiled in Delaware where Kassof again won dismissal in 2020. In 2021, a second nearly identical Delaware action was also dismissed.
DC-based partners Craig Primis and Winn Allen, fresh off an August 2019 win for Facebook (and some would argue the internet) in which the pair defended the social media behemoth against a suit by victims of Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel alleging the client abetted terrorism, are now defending Accenture and its parent company Accenture plc in a putative consumer class action arising from a data breach involving Marriott’s guest reservation database. This is one of the first data breach cases to be brought against a third-party service provider of an entity that experienced a breach. The plaintiffs allege that Accenture’s negligent performance of its infrastructure and application outsourcing contract with Marriott caused or contributed to the breach. In 2020, the pair won dismissal of claims for negligence under Maryland law.
Showcasing the firm’s celebrated bankruptcy prowess, in August 2020, a Kirkland team led by Mike Slade secured a major appellate victory when the Fifth Circuit ruled in favor of client Westmoreland Coal Company and held that healthcare obligations mandated under the federal Coal Act may be modified. The decision permits Westmoreland to avoid liquidation, preserve the going-concern value of its operations, and preserve jobs. A fellow leader in the bankruptcy capacity testifies, “Mike Slade, he is the one who comes in in these [contentious bankruptcy] scenarios. [He is a] Real deal trial lawyer.”
Kirkland has made notable strides in the securities capacity, primarily from its New York office, helmed by veteran Sandra Goldstein. “Sandra not only has a terrific reputation but also a sizeable book of business,” confirms a peer. Among Goldstein’s several key appointments, she is representing private equity firm 3G Capital, one of Kraft Heinz’s largest shareholders, in putative securities class actions and related shareholder derivative actions pending in federal court in Illinois and the Delaware Court of Chancery, alleging violations of federal securities laws and breach of fiduciary duty related to the $15.4 billion write-down of Kraft Heinz’s assets and the disclosure of an SEC investigation into Kraft Heinz’s accounting policies, procedures and controls. Goldstein is by no means the only securities star at Kirkland generating notice. Stefan Atkinson, who acts with Goldstein on the 3G case, is said to be “a leader in the SPACs area. He has done about five or 10 SPAC litigations already!” Another New York practitioner quickly making his mark, Matt Solum is regarded as “one of the biggest up-and-comers of the securities bar right now” by a peer, who goes on to confirm, “He’s everywhere!” Another peer testifies, “Matt was my contemporary at the SEC, and he’s excellent. Give him another year or two and he’s going to be a superstar, being mentioned alongside all the older and more established people.” Exemplifying the “everywhere” descriptor, Solum acts with Goldstein in defending EQT Corporation and certain of its current and former officers and directors in a consolidated putative securities class action arising out of EQT’s $6.7 billion acquisition of Rice Energy; acted with Jay Lefkowitz in defending ABM Industries against a stockholder derivative lawsuit concerning its cybersecurity practices (the Kirkland team won full dismissal in 2020), and acts with Yosef Riemer in defending Bristol-Myers Squibb and certain of its current and former officers in a putative securities class action arising out of a drop in the company’s stock price following negative drug trial results for its flagship cancer treatment. The Kirkland team won complete dismissal in 2019 and had amended claims dismissed in 2020. A peer also insists, “a new name has to be Rachel Fritzler, who has done a ton of work on the stock-drop side of securities. I’m terrified of how much she knows about accounting fraud! When it comes to that, she is your person.”
Historically recognized and revered as one of the largest and most comprehensive global players in the corporate and transactional capacity (a position it still enjoys), Latham & Watkins has also proven itself to be an equally dominant presence on the litigation stage. “Latham has always been a litigation powerhouse,” sums up one peer. “This might not have been mentioned as much before because their corporate practice is so celebrated, but it was always had a deep and broad litigation team, with some serious star players. And they just seem to keep getting more of them!” The firm’s expansive US footprint covers a host of major markets, all staffed with partners deemed as “top class” in practices spanning antitrust, white-collar crime, securities, M&A litigation, intellectual property and even more niche practices like environmental law (an area the firm is said to have a higher-than-average concentration in compared to other firms its size.)
While it is enjoying what peers acknowledge as “a real moment” across several practice areas, Latham has been notably “on a tear” in the IP capacity. Further amplifying what is already considered one of the strongest patent litigation groups in the country, the firm added Anthony Sammi, formerly the head of IP litigation of Skadden, to its New York bench in August 2021. Sammi adds balance to the firm’s presence on the East Coast, coming hot on the heels of several key augmentations to the DC-based IP team last year, when Latham lured IP partner Adam Perlman and all-purpose commercial litigator Nicholas Boyle, both from Williams & Connolly. Perlman, a patent trial lawyer who is said to have “probably made a living beating another top IP firm in ANDA cases,” augments an already highly successful build-out in the IP area. Boyle meanwhile attends to a niche in trade secrets. “These are great hires,” offers a peer. “Williams & Connolly breeds stellar litigators and it’s not a firm people just walk away from for just anything, so clearly Latham had the ‘mojo’ to attract these two. They are both fairly young too, which is an added bonus.”
Also in DC, Andrew Clubok is the co-chair of the firm’s securities practice and is unanimously revered as “very skilled and very successful” by peers in this capacity. Clubok led a team that secured a $1 billion judgment in January 2020 on behalf of UBS Securities in a long-running contract dispute against bankrupt hedge fund manager Highland Capital Management, which dates back to the early days of the financial crisis. Elizabeth Deeley, who resides in the firm’s San Francisco office, was also part of the team on this matter. Other luminaries in the securities space include New York’s Jamie Wine and James Brandt. A peer at another of New York’s top securities firms confides, “Jamie was against me in a case, and she has a really nice demeanor. [She is] not super-aggressive, which gives her a lot of credibility.” Wine scored a June 2020 win for information technology entity DXC Technology when Virginia federal judge dismissed a $2 billion proposed securities class action accusing the client and its executives of making misleading statements about revenues, causing its stock to drop by up to 16%. Another peer testifies, “I’ve been working with Jimmy Brandt a lot, and it’s rewarding to work with someone who’s been around along as he has. He’s seen everything!” Fellow securities leader and global chair of the firm’s litigation and trial department, Michele Johnson in the Orange County, California office lays claim to a win for Puma Biotechnology in a rare securities class-action case to actually wind up at trial in a literal “bet-the-company” matter. Johnson and her team managed to whittle down initial claims of $1.1 billion to just a fraction of those costs. More recently, Johnson scored a motion to dismiss in a substantial securities case for Twitter, which was argued remotely. The case involved Twitter’s mobile application software that had a bug in it that allegedly shared too much data with advertisers. The case was brought by plaintiffs in the wake of a revenue drop following Twitter’s public apology, with the allegations being that Twitter was aware of the glitch and thus could have quantified the impact. Another securities star, San Francisco’s Peter Wald is heralded as “a national level securities lawyer.” Among his notable victories, Wald scored an August 2021 win in a fraud case, valued at $400 million, on behalf of NextGen Healthcare and several of its officers. The claim was initiated by a shareholder who alleged he was planning to sell his shares but changed his mind and held them in reliance on false statements made by the defendants. Johnson and Wald make their debut appearances on this year’s prestigious “Top 100 Trial Lawyers” list.
In Chicago, Sean Berkowitz is a near-unanimous recipient of acclaim in the white-collar field. “Sean has long been known as one of the best,” confirms a peer. “He is one of those white-collar people who would actually try a case!” A fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, Berkowitz also manages a robust commercial litigation practice, is the global chair of the commercial litigation practice, and just completed a five-year stint as the global head of the litigation and trial practice. Latham’s antitrust practice is also considered “premier league,” with Daniel Wall in the firm’s San Francisco office pointed to as a noted standout. Wall has represented a “who’s who” of industry-leading clients, including Apple, American Airlines, LiveNation and Genentech, to name a few, in investigations, class-action litigation and trials. Also in this office, Christopher Yates is said to have “really made a name for himself in the antitrust and sports areas.” A San Francisco future star partner, Melanie Blunschi is emerging as a star in the class-actions capacity. “We are seeing her name come up a bit,” confirms one opponent. “She’s been up against us a bit.”
With offices in Chicago, Washington, DC, and San Francisco, Massey & Gail fashions itself as “a different kind of law firm,” with lawyers covering areas of litigation involving administrative, commercial, antitrust, intellectual property and appeals. An appreciative client raves, “Massey & Gail took over a suit from a former firm, and I wish I had found Massey & Gail first because the difference is night and day in both professionalism and performance. As long as it fell under their area(s) of expertise I would give them all of my legal work.”
Chicago’s Leonard Gail, a generalist commercial litigator, has kept particularly active with a varied portfolio of litigation matters over the past 12 months. In one such matter, he served as lead counsel to two relators who sued household goods giant Lowe’s under the Illinois False Claims Act, alleging Lowe’s defrauded the State by failing to collect and remit sales tax when Lowe’s sold dishwashers and microwave ovens for which it also provided installation. The parties agreed to bifurcate liability and damages and held a bench trial on liability: whether Lowe’s knowingly avoided its obligation under Illinois sales tax. In March 2021, the Court found for plaintiffs on liability, holding that Lowe’s knowingly avoided paying tax on the sale of installed appliances. The parties currently are litigating damages, which will result in a multimillion-dollar recovery for the State. The precedent-setting liability finding resolved a disputed question of law that has pervaded the industry for years. Jonathan Massey, based in the DC office, is noted for mining a practice dedicated to appellate work. In another tax-related matter, Massey acts as co-counsel to several brand-name “big law” firms representing The Coca-Cola Company in a tax dispute involving approximately $3.3 billion in alleged underpayments for tax years 2007 to 2009. Coca-Cola has disclosed that the total amount for subsequent tax years could reach $12 billion. Massey also represents approximately 2,300 children injured by lead-contaminated water in Flint, MI. A court-approved settlement was entered in 2020, and the settlement fund currently includes $600 million from the state of Michigan, $20 million from the city of Flint’s insurance companies, $20 million from McLaren Flint Hospital and $1.2 million from Rowe Professional Services. Anyone who lived, worked, or went to school in Flint from April 25, 2014, to November 16, 2020, and was exposed to contaminated drinking water is eligible to receive money from the settlement. Most of the $641.2 million will go to young children who suffered lead poisoning.
A litigation boutique with offices in New York, Chicago and DC, MoloLamken has quickly become a favorite among the crowded field of litigation shops. The firm earns rave reviews from clients and peers. One client succinctly sums up the firm’s appeal: “MoloLamken has a strong reputation as being effective litigators, without the inefficiencies of a large firm.”
New York-based founding partner Steven Molo remains its most recognized and revered central figure. Peers stand united in their assessments of his profile and prowess. “Steven Molo is a trial lawyer!” exclaims one peer. “He has come in on cases as trial counsel when cases make it past motions to dismiss, and more often I’m seeing him on the plaintiff side!” Lending support to this specific assertion, Molo was brought in by two well-known plaintiff firms as lead trial counsel for a putative class of millions of Facebook advertisers who were deceived by Facebook’s claim that it could accurately target ads to specific audiences advertisers selected. The complaint alleges Facebook fraudulently misrepresented that its platform allowed advertisers to target particular audiences with “89%” accuracy. That claim was false because Facebook’s data showed that fewer than half—40% or less—of their ads’ viewers would actually meet the targeting criteria they paid for. Actual damages are to be calculated after merits discovery but are estimated to exceed $1 billion. Molo also represents Contrarian Capital Management and certain funds and separately managed accounts for which Contrarian acts as an investment adviser in an ongoing breach-of-contract action arising out of Venezuela’s failure to pay principal and interest on nine series of bonds held by Contrarian with an original principal balance of over $575 million. Further illustrating his versatility, Molo represents Indeck, a developer, owner, and operator of electric power plants that brought a breach-of-contract action against a Minnesota private equity firm and its affiliates who conspired with disloyal Indeck executives. The defendants misappropriated Indeck’s trade secrets and confidential information to develop competing power projects. After a 2018 summary judgment ruling, the case went to a week-long bench trial on damages in May 2019, and in October 2020, the court awarded Indeck over $25 million in lost profits and prejudgment interest.
In the DC office Jeffrey Lamken, an appellate specialist, has been in equal demand. Lamken represents VirnetX as lead appellate counsel in defending two judgments for patent infringement against Apple for $440 million and $500 million, respectively—which are on appeal to the US Court of Appeals for the Federal circuit. Also in the DC office, Robert Kry is enjoying a steady ascent in profile. A peer insists, “You must list Robert Kry! He is absolutely going places.” Kry represents Carpatsky in a dispute with its former joint venture partner Ukrnafta concerning efforts to develop oil and gas fields in Ukraine. Ukrnafta is Ukraine’s largest oil and gas company and is indirectly majority owned by the Ukrainian government. After a dispute over profits from the joint venture arose, Carpatsky initiated arbitration proceedings in Stockholm that resulted in a $150 million arbitral award against Ukrnafta. In contested proceedings in federal court in Texas, Carpatsky obtained recognition of its $150 million award and defeated Ukrnafta’s claims of fraud, negligent misrepresentation, and misappropriation of trade secrets that sought $80 million in damages from Carpatsky. In April 2020, the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision. Acting in tandem, Kry and Molo represent Teleflex, a provider of medical technologies, in a contract dispute arising out of Teleflex’s acquisition of Essential Medical in 2018.
Paul Weiss’s litigation department has seen no shortage of “good years” over the course of the past decade. However, it would not be an exaggeration to describe the past year as simply extraordinary. The firm has continued to go from strength to strength in building its profile through strategic hiring, mentoring and grooming of younger staff, and maintaining a level of prestige among its peers. Its stable of stars, already strong and comprehensive, got a substantial boost in 2020 when it lured two DC-based key players, antitrust specialist Bill Isaacson and trial luminary Karen Dunn, to its bench from Boies Schiller. These recruits are unanimously viewed by the community as a material coup and, coupled with a continuing amplification of talent in its flagship New York office, have built quite a buzz around the firm. “I have even heard rumblings about them opening an office in California, and I would be shocked if this didn’t play out.” The speculation proved to be correct; the firm launched an office in the Silicon Valley in July 2020, staffed with two more Boies Schiller recruits, securing a foothold on the West Coast. That office, and in particular the firm’s white-collar bench depth, was augmented further with a one-two punch of star power via the January 2021 recruits of Melinda Haag and Walter Brown, two universally beloved practitioners formerly with Orrick. This latest amplification firmly secures Paul Weiss’s standing in this capacity, bookending it with equal horsepower on both coasts. It would be somewhat of an understatement to mention that the firm has also done quite well in terms of taking on – and winning – landmark cases.
Indeed, the firm kicked of 2020 with a milestone win for ExxonMobil in its contentious climate change litigation. Suing under New York’s infamous Martin Act, a New York Attorney General wanted $1.6 billion in damages from ExxonMobil, alleging that the energy giant made material misstatements about how it accounted for climate-related risks, which in turn had a material impact on investors. In December 2019, after a 12-day trial, a New York State Supreme Court Justice sided with the defense. This landmark climate-change lawsuit in New York state court is believed to be the first such case ever to be tried to verdict. Ted Wells, not only the firm’s most recognizable trial lawyer but arguably one of the most celebrated trial lawyers in the country, and Dan Toal led the defense. This remarkable triumph landed the firm an “impact case” award at the 2020 Benchmark awards ceremony, and further cemented Wells’ prestigious position as a “hall of fame” award recipient at the same gala. Toal’s profile is gaining momentum as well; one peer confirms, “Dan has a bunch of work for MLB. He’s a trial lawyer in his late forties and really smart. I view him and Susanna Buergel as Paul Weiss’s superstar trial lawyers at relatively young ages. These people are really coming into their own.”
David Bernick is representing Dow Chemical and its corporate parent DowDupont in defending numerous class actions alleging that Dow, together with several other manufacturers and sellers, conspired to raise prices for methylene diphenyl diisocyanate and toluene diisocyanate, chemicals primarily used in the production of polyurethane products. “David Bernick does incredibly complex tort litigation,” offers a peer. “He is representing Juul, which is facing a lot of litigation.” The aforementioned pair of Dunn and Isaacson is acting for Apple in defending against antitrust claims from Epic Games, maker of the popular Fortnite game, that Apple abused its position concerning the downloading of games through its app. Dunn and Isaacson also represent Amazon in a putative class action brought on behalf of consumers alleging that Amazon’s “fair pricing” policy, which requires third-party sellers not to use pricing practices that harm customer trust, has raised the prices of products sold by those third-party sellers, violating antitrust law.
Brad Karp, who remains the firm’s Chairman (a post he has held since 2008) and the one many credit with the firm’s astonishing upward trajectory and strategic build-out, is also still a renowned securities advocate. Karp and Lorin Reisner achieved a landmark victory for Blackstone in July 2020 when the Kentucky Supreme Court unanimously held that beneficiaries of the state’s pension plans lacked standing to bring their claims on behalf of the fund or the Commonwealth. Participants in Kentucky’s public pension fund had sued Blackstone’s alternative asset management unit and other hedge funds, claiming that they unlawfully encouraged the pension fund to invest in inappropriately risky funds of hedge funds while the state fund’s financial condition was deteriorating. Their lawsuit sought damages of $50 billion—equal to the entire funding deficit accrued over two decades. Reisner also represents former CEO of Iconix Brand Group in a pending criminal securities fraud trial as well as a parallel SEC litigation. The charges involve certain accounting and financial reporting issues at Iconix. Dan Kramer is also acknowledged by a peer as “the stock-drop king!”
In the intellectual property capacity, a more recently developed practice within the firm, patent specialists Nicholas Groombridge and Eric Stone receive numerous peer plaudits. One IP contemporary testifies, “There are only so many firms that do biologics work on any serious level, literally a group of about five, and Paul Weiss always seems to be in there as one of them. Nick Groombridge is their show horse and the charming trial lawyer, but Eric has also really come up. He is really a workhorse and deserves more credit.”
In the firm’s DC office, Kannon Shanmugam, an appellate authority who has argued a near-record number of cases before the Supreme Court for someone of his relatively vintage, has notched yet another appearance through his representation of Goldman Sachs and former executives as petitioners in a matter in which the respondents allege that the client violated securities laws by making a series of generic and aspirational statements such as “our clients’ interests come first.” After several decisions at lower courts, the Supreme Court granted Goldman Sachs’s petition for certiorari.
Intellectual property and commercial litigation boutique Reichman Jorgensen Lehman & Feldberg has made a notable impression on the legal community in fairly short order. Formed as Reichman Jorgensen in 2018 upon the departure of trial figurehead Courtland Reichman from a competitor in order to launch this venture, the firm underwent a branding overhaul in 2021, continuing to build upon its pedigree and swiftly rising market profile. A peer marvels, “They started national! And yet they are still lean and nimble.” Another notes, “They are known for doing a lot of IP work but it’s more than just standard patent cases – it’s more diverse, with a lot of it crossing over into antitrust and even bankruptcy.”
Despite a network of offices spanning four cities (Silicon Valley, CA; Washington, DC, Atlanta and New York) and measured headcount growth (expanding from nine partners to 11 within the past year, with further growth planned) the firm is still a compact group. It is also a majority woman-owned firm, with only two male partners, and, most notably, it has focused on fostering a trial-forward agenda. Peers address the firm as “smart and hungry,” and a client testifies, “The firm does an exceptional job preparing complex technical cases for trial before a lay jury. The firm also uses technology, such as internal databases to disseminate relevant information to the entire team quickly, which is exceedingly important in a fast-moving yet complex case.”
Reichman, based in the Silicon Valley office and the firm’s Managing Partner, is revered by peers as “a trial veteran, which is unique at his relatively young age, but not that surprising, seeing as how he got his chops through his time at McKool.” A client calls him “a strong advocate and a true trial lawyer,” and goes on to quip, “I only wish there more of him.” Reichman led a team that scored a $236 million jury verdict win in January 2020, less than two years into the firm’s existence. This victory, for Canadian client Densify against industry giant VMWare, concerned virtualization technology. Acting with Reichman on this matter was DC managing partner Christine Lehman, who has her own set of vocally appreciative clients. One calls Lehman “exceptional at separating the wheat from the chaff’ and applauds her “laser-like focus on the important stuff without sweating the small stuff.” Lehman also scored a win in a remote ITC trial for Corning that she co-led with DC’s Kellogg Hansen firm in which the team filed a patent infringement complaint asserting five patents. Lehman’s efforts sought an exclusion order against a large number of companies importing fiber optic equipment, with the exclusion order granted in October 2020.
DC-based litigation boutique Robbins Russell Englert Orseck & Untereiner has carved itself a revered position in the DC legal services sphere. Peers regularly reference the firm as one that they would refer a case to without question. Clients stand firm in their support as well. One such client cheers the firm’s “exceptional writing and thoughtful analysis,” and confirms, “I have used several other big firms, including several top names in the field, and I would still give Robbins Russell any type of case.”
Gary Orseck has stepped to the fore as one of the firm’s most often-referenced partners. “He has really stepped up,” observes a peer. “He’s involved in all kinds of work – commercial, securities and more, and we all think very highly of him.” A client extols Orseck’s “excellent writing, strategic direction and strong communications,” and notes that Orseck is an “excellent team player.” Orseck represented a variety of clients, including Universal Health Services and Plantronics, in securities-related matters. Roy Englert, who is noted as being “all appellate all the time,” is a specialist in this aforementioned area, with an impressive run of Supreme Court appearances to his credit. Englert recently triumphed on behalf of Irving Picard, the SIPC liquidation trustee for the estate of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, at the Supreme Court when, in June 2020, it denied a petition for a writ of certiorari filed by investors that placed funds with Madoff through offshore funds. The investors had sought the Supreme Court’s review of a decision of Second Circuit that allowed the trustee to claw back funds transferred by the Madoff firm’s foreign feeder funds even though those funds are overseas. The investors asserted, with the support of the governments of the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands, that the Second Circuit’s decision was wrong and threatened international discord. The Supreme Court invited the US government to express its views. The government advised the Court that the decision in favor of the Madoff trustee was correct. The Supreme Court’s denial of certiorari allows the trustee to proceed with actions to recoup billions of dollars from the investors and thus to increase the funds available to compensate victims of Madoff’s scheme.
With offices in New York and DC, Schulte Roth & Zabel is praised by peers for its “very high-quality” work, primarily in the financial services sector. The firm is noted for its novel mix of practice concentration, its cutting-edge client base and its approach to cases. “Schulte has really come to dominate in certain areas,” observes one peer. “They have always been a go-to for private equity and hedge funds, and now they have cornered the market in areas like cryptocurrency as well.” Cases in these areas are noted often for imposing “steep learning curves that demand a fast-moving and forward-leaning approach to litigating them effectively,” in the words of one peer, concluding “Schulte delivers.” The firm’s demonstrated strengths in the securities and white-collar areas have been prominently on display in a number of matters for a diverse spectrum of clients. A peer testifies, “I've worked with SRZ litigators on a variety of litigation matters over the years. Most recently we've been looking at cross-border securities litigation matters. The partners there have a range of skills that range from litigation to structuring and tax.”
The alluded-to “forward-leaning” approach is reflected in the firm’s star roster; peers make note of a “generational shift.” With the departure of two senior stars in the firm’s white-collar department, the New York group has been augmented with the recent addition of Gayle Klein, an all-purpose commercial litigator. This addition is viewed favorably by peers and clients. “Look more into Gayle, she is a major star,” advises a peer. A client meanwhile confirms, “Gayle is extremely effective in understanding her clients' needs and executing plans to effect those both in the courtroom and outside.” Exemplifying her own, as well as the firm’s, versatile caseload, Klein is attending to a trademark infringement case brought by a shareholder activist investment firm against a multi-strategy investment firm seeking to preclude it from using its chosen name. In April 2021, the court found that the plaintiff is unlikely to succeed on its claims and denied the motion for preliminary injunction, thereby allowing the client to continue to use its name in the proxy contest. Michael Swartz, who several peers view as the “heir apparent” to the firm’s securities practice and certainly one of the visibly active within the practice, has emerged as one of the foremost authorities on the cryptocurrency litigation that has occupied a lot of the firm’s time as well as Swartz’s own. He has also secured multiple hard-fought victories for venBio Select Advisor in a proxy campaign that was subject to an unusual level of litigation over many novel issues. Robert Ward, another New York stalwart, is attending to two actions relating to the property located at 520 Fifth Avenue in New York: one involving claims of breach of contract, fraud, and promissory estoppel, and the other involving a recovery sought for a borrower’s failure to repay principal and interest due under a promissory note.
In the smaller DC office, Pete White spearheads the firm’s white-collar practice, acting for a wide range of entities and individuals. In a new high-profile case, White is advising prominent Baltimore attorney Ken Ravenell, who has represented some of the city’s highest-profile defendants. Ravenell was arrested and charged following a years-long investigation by the government. “This is a fascinating case,” marvels one Baltimore peer. “Ken Ravenell is a fantastic trial attorney in his own right and so his case is getting a lot of attention.”
A fully integrated international conglomerate, Shearman & Sterling has been at the forefront of some headline-making litigation on a global basis and is routinely recognized as a leading legal entity by disputes lawyers from such locales as Europe and Southeast Asia. With most of its 20 offices being based in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, some would even argue that the firm is too globally integrated to even be relegated to assessment on just a one-country level. Nonetheless, within the States the firm is called upon most often for its experience and acumen with matters of the securities and white-collar and FCPA enforcement variety and is quickly developing a leading profile in the antitrust space as well.
New York’s Adam Hakki remains a perennial peer favorite, with glowing reviews offered on a unanimous basis. Hakki’s practice is largely focused on, but not limited to, the securities, antitrust and governance fields, with experience in both the criminal and civil capacities. Hakki scored a victory for Sundial Growers by securing a unanimous affirmance of the dismissal of a putative securities class action after the client experienced stock price declines after its IPO. The litigation alleged, among other things, that the offering materials failed to disclose a purported product return and allegedly deficient quality control processes. In May 2020, the court granted the clients' motion to dismiss, which was unanimously affirmed in February 2021. Hakki and Richard Schwed achieved a victory on behalf of Bank of America and Merrill Lynch Commodities in a putative class action alleging that the clients, along with two of their former traders, were liable for "spoofing" trades (an order placed by a trader that intends to cancel) in the precious metals markets. This case was originally filed in 2019 the wake of a regulatory settlement between the clients and the DoJ/CFTC resolving an investigation into alleged spoofing by the traders in question. In March 2021, the motion to dismiss the class-action complaint was granted. Agnès Dunogué is called out by peers as “someone who is coming up fast and deserves more notice. She is very sophisticated in securities and does a lot of work with Adam Hakki.” In one such example, and a matter involving an intersection of antitrust and securities, Hakki and Dunogué achieved a victory for BNP Paribas in connection with a long-pending antitrust class action involving the market for US Treasury securities. Another frequent teammate of Hakki’s, Jeffrey Resetarits, is also generating a good deal of traction. “Keep your eye on him,” advises a colleague at one of New York’s top firms. “We’ve been seeing more of him lately and we are very impressed. He and Adam Hakki had a nice win [in March 2019] in a matter involving CDOR [Canadian Dollar Offered Rate.]”
The firm’s white-collar criminal practice has remained equally active, logging favorable results for both individuals and entities. New York’s Stephen Fishbein obtained a victory on behalf of a former employee of a federal agency accused of leaking information that was then used by a hedge fund for securities trading. He was charged along with three other defendants and went to trial in the spring of 2018. The client was acquitted of 14 out of the 16 counts against him, including all of the conspiracy and securities fraud counts. Fishbein, along with John Nathanson, also represents longtime client SS&C Technologies in a number of litigations arising out of antitrust-related claims concerning certain software licenses. In another antitrust-related matter, Fishbein is defending 1-800 Contacts, an online retailer of contact lenses, against claims the client unlawfully orchestrated a web of anticompetitive agreements with rival online contact lens sellers that suppress competition in certain online search advertising auctions and that restrict internet advertising to consumers. Acting with Fishbein on this matter is Todd Stenerson, a DC-based antitrust practitioner that is steadily gaining more notice. One fellow leader in the antitrust space enthuses, “Todd is a very creative and out-of-the-box thinker. He will just generate idea after idea in a very thought-provoking way that benefits all involved.” A noted trial lawyer first and foremost, Stenerson represents clients – many of them being in the healthcare industry – on both the plaintiff and defense sides of the “V” in antitrust cases, occasionally crossing over into the RICO space and also occasionally incorporating elements of intellectual property.
Shearman has been steadily gaining traction in its San Francisco office as well, and peers credit this largely to Daniel Laguardia, head of the firm’s Bay Area office (although also occasionally domiciled in the New York office as well.) Laguardia is another multifaceted litigator who primarily operates in the securities, regulatory and commercial litigation spaces. “He should get more notice,” insists a peer. “He is great to work with.”
Simpson Thacher & Bartlett boasts a long history as one of New York’s, and the country’s, most esteemed full-service legal brands. Its litigation and disputes capacity enjoys access to a blue-ribbon client base that is generated entrepreneurially as well as spun off from the firm’s globally ranging corporate stock, which runs the gamut of everything from brand name pharmaceutical entities to online giants to hedge funds. Simpson Thacher is also noted as being one of the classic white-shoe firms that is more comprehensive in terms of national coverage, with partners in its DC and Palo Alto offices playing increasing roles in litigation individually or in tandem with the New York team. A dominant presence in the areas of securities, antitrust and insurance, the firm has also made more recent entries into other areas, such as intellectual property, with proven success.
An area of particular note that the firm has doubled down on as of late is its white-collar and investigations area, a relatively recent development that has taken root with astonishing momentum. One client sums up the general consensus: “Simpson Thacher is one of the elite litigation shops in [New York] City and the country. They are especially impressive on white collar and agency enforcement work.” Several peers credit this invigoration to recent arrival of
Stephen Cutler, the global head of the government and investigations practice. Clients also weigh in on Cutler’s behalf; one insists, “He is one of the very best lawyers in the area of securities litigation and especially SEC enforcement work.” A peer also declares, “With his boardroom experience, Steve is bound to impress. But make no mistake, he has a strong team with him, and all have their individual talents that contribute to a collective strength.” One peer enthuses, “I think
Michael Osnato is awesome.” Cutler and Osnato represented BlueCrest Capital Management in a $170 million, non-fraud settlement of a wide-ranging SEC civil investigation focused on disclosure, quantitative trading strategies, and cross-fund trader allocation related to the existence of a proprietary fund. Other peer favorites in this capacity include
Brooke Cucinella and Nicholas Goldin, both of whom are identified as “the actual trial lawyers in the group.”
The firm’s insurance capacity is routinely referenced as one of the strongest and most prominent in the area, with this view shared by both peers and clients. “[They are] Exceedingly great and effective at handling all aspects of complex big-dollar litigation. [They are] Experienced, savvy partners,” emphasizes a client. The firm, and in particular Bryce Friedman, is acting as national litigation counsel to the American Property Casualty Insurance Association to challenge as “unconstitutional” legislation and regulation that retroactively changes insurance contracts to require the insurance industry to pay COVID-19-related insurance claims that are not covered or excluded from coverage. Friedman has been busy servicing several other clients in the insurance and reinsurance industry on similar claims. “Bryce is everywhere these days,” observes an adversary, humorously adding, “I talk to him more often than I talk to my wife!” Andrew Frankel also receives enthusiastic praise as “a very good coverage lawyer” from peers, one of whom testifies, “He argued a case before the New Jersey Supreme Court that was the precursor to a case I argued in Connecticut Supreme Court, so I drove to Jersey to watch him argue it. Suffice to say, I was impressed.” Other luminaries in the insurance capacity include Mary Beth Forshaw, an evergreen peer and client favorite, as well as Michael Garvey and Lynn Neuner, both of whom also attend to practices outside of insurance – Garvey in securities and an international arbitration focus, and Neuner in securities, commercial and a niche practice in false advertising.
Among her broad cross section of engagements, Neuner’s securities acumen was called into service in the defense of TD Bank, one of several entities to have been ensnared in class claims brought by plaintiffs alleging that the banks aided and abetted Robert Allen Stanford’s Ponzi scheme fraud by allowing billions of dollars to be wired through their correspondent banking accounts and failing to detect Stanford’s misuse of funds and money laundering. Acting with Neuner on this matter is Peter Kazanoff, who is singled out by a peer as “one of those rare securities people who does both M&A and stock-drop cases.” Jonathan Youngwood continues to generate acclaim for his securities-focused practice. “He is really a fine lawyer,” insists a peer who goes on to confirm, “I have a close relationship with him and have worked with him a bunch." Youngwood is active as lead counsel in securities class actions for a broad and diverse variety of clients, including Chinese online auction giant Alibaba and ubiquitous social media entity Twitter, but also takes on the occasional non-securities matter. He recently triumphed for Hilton in an ERISA-related class action and also has pursued a zealous pro bono agenda, which recently saw him scoring a milestone win in a landmark matter concerning racial profiling among police in Mississippi. The firm’s securities capacity is not limited to the New York team; James Kreissman and Stephen Blake in the Palo Alto office have also kept busy with a host of shareholder and M&A-related litigation.
The firm’s antitrust practice, largely based out of DC, has also seen a spike in prominence as of late. The bulk of this work falls into the buckets of cartel work, regulatory defense and criminal matters, and also includes a good deal of work in the class-action space, in which John Terzaken, the global co-chair of the practice, dedicates a good deal of his time. Terzaken recently triumphed for Covestro in multiple class actions alleging a conspiracy to fix prices for methylene diphenyl diisocyanate and toluene diisocyanate. Sara Razi is known for attending to deals for private equity clients in strategic transactions, many of which are outside the US, as well as clients in industries ranging from energy to healthcare. Razi has been particularly active in the life sciences space as of late, representing entities such as McKesson and CSL Behring.
Full-service law firm Thompson Hine is equipped with a team of litigators who routinely represent clients in some of the most complex product liability and business disputes. With offices in Georgia, Illinois, DC, and New York, along with a significant footprint in Ohio via four distinct locations, Thompson Hine has developed a reputation of obtaining favorable results throughout the region.
Cleveland-based product liability litigator Elizabeth ‘Missy’ Wright is national counsel for a major commercial food equipment manufacturer, a major power tool manufacturer, an aviation component manufacturer, and an automotive manufacturer, and also serves as national lead trial counsel for a pharmaceutical manufacturer in hormone replacement therapy litigation. Timothy Coughlin is a fellow Cleveland partner who chairs the mass & toxic tort group and leads chemical industry group. He is lead counsel to BASF Corporation in a product liability litigation related to a railcar release of a chemical compound toluene diisocyanate, allegedly causing pulmonary issues in a claim brought by a vendor employee. New to the litigation star list is Jennifer Roach who, along with Robert Ware, make up the lead counsel team representing a manufacturing company in a business litigation originally filed back in November 2020 in Delaware.
Dayton-based Christine Haaker serves as the vice-chair of the group for the office. Haaker serves as defense counsel to several high-profile entities in numerous business disputes. Fellow Dayton partner Scott King focuses on representing financial corporations and institutions in a wide range of actions. He most recently represents a private investment company in an ongoing consumer finance dispute that has garnered national attention.
In the group’s DC office, Eric Heyer has emerged as one of that office’s brightest younger stars. Heyer represented Vapor Technology Association, for whom Heyer triumphed in obtaining a temporary restraining order after, in September 2019, New York then-Governor Cuomo directed his Department of Public Health to publish an emergency rule banning the possession and sale of flavored vaping products. The restraining order was granted one day before the ban was due to take effect and was entered in January 2020.
While it operates from offices in Washington DC, New York and Los Angeles, Wilkinson Stekloff (re-branded this year after the departure of Alexandra Walsh) remains as the essence of “litigation boutique.” More specifically, one with a uniquely pronounced emphasis on high-end trial work. Formed in 2016 by veteran DC trial celebrity Beth Wilkinson, the firm has been arguably the most buzz-worthy of law firms, and the appearance of Wilkinson and other firm partners at the forefront of a series of high-stakes trials has more than justified the hype. The departure of Walsh (for a solo practice) and Tamarra Matthews Johnson (for government) and the obvious impact of COVID-19 on jury trials (the firm’s go-to calling card) have done little to affect either Wilkinson Stekloff’s internal mojo or dim the firm’s luster in the eyes of peers. Indeed, opportunities have arisen for other partners to take charge, and swiftly rising future star nominees such as DC partners Rakesh Kilaru and Kosta Stojilkovic have done so with aplomb, regularly appearing as support or lead counsel on some of the firm’s most high-profile engagements.
Wilkinson remains the one of the most in-demand trial lawyers in the country. “Beth has to be the top female trial lawyer of her generation,” sums up one peer. Wilkinson’s dance card has been consumed with cases ranging from antitrust to white-collar to bet-the-company commercial cases but most recently, Wilkinson has been in demand for crisis management on a political level. In May 2020, she led a team, which included Kilaru and Stojilkovic, that was retained to help guide US District Judge Emmet Sullivan as a federal appeals court questions his plan to probe the US DoJ’s decision to dismiss the case against former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, despite his admission that he lied to the FBI. Wilkinson and Stojilkovic represented pharmaceutical founder and philanthropist Dr. John Kapoor, the lead defendant in a four-month criminal trial in which the government charged the client, along with other executives from the company Insys Therapeutics, with operating a nationwide racketeering conspiracy related to Subsys, an FDA-approved opioid pain medicine. The government sought more than $420 million in financial penalties from Dr. Kapoor, which Wilkinson persuaded the trial court to reduce to roughly $60 million. Stojilkovic is leading the appellate arguments. In another pharmaceutical-related case, Wilkinson, Stojilkovic and Brian Stekloff are representing Glenmark Pharmaceuticals in defending criminal antitrust charges brought against the company by the DoJ for allegedly conspiring to increase prices for a popular cholesterol medication. The DoJ alleges that Glenmark and its co-defendant gained over $200 million in gross gains from their alleged conspiracy, potentially subjecting Glenmark to hundreds of millions of dollars in fines, as well as substantial collateral consequences. Independent of Wilkinson, Kilaru and Stojilkovic represent the members of the Executive Council of the Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake, a federally recognized sovereign Indian nation, in a putative class action in which plaintiffs are seeking treble damages and injunctive relief based on allegations that the Tribe’s online consumer lending operation violates Virginia law and RICO. The case is currently awaiting decision in the Fourth Circuit, where Kilaru recently argued the appeal.
Williams & Connolly, long considered the “crown jewel” among DC firms, continues its hold on its status as a top-tier litigation shop. The firm is revered by peers and clients alike, and its case work has regularly found its practitioners in some of the nation’s highest courts, as well as in the media. Its array of services encompasses securities, antitrust, white-collar crime and investigations, product liability, intellectual property, commercial litigation. Despite being domiciled in DC and a dominant force in the District’s legal community, the reputation of the firm as well as that of its individual partners extend to national and even international levels, particularly in the case of its burgeoning international arbitration practice. It’s also worth noting that the firm holds a pride of place for the depth of actual trial lawyers on its bench; indeed the firm has enjoyed four consecutive years as one of Benchmark’s Top 20 Trial Firms, a status that remains secure in this edition.
The firm’s status as a trial powerhouse is embellished further by its appellate capacity, spearheaded by Lisa Blatt, a no-nonsense appeals specialist who brings a fearless verve to the practice that is more commonly attributed to trial lawyers. Blatt is no stranger to the Supreme Court, and she recently triumphed in this venue (albeit remotely due to the pandemic) on behalf of Booking.com in a case addressing the question of whether the addition by an online business of a generic top-level domain (in this case, “.com”) to an otherwise generic term can create a protectable trademark. Blatt presented oral argument in May 2020, and the court ruled in her client’s favor in June of that year. Mainstay trial luminary Dane Butswinkas scored a win for AstraZeneca in a case in which former shareholders of an entity acquired by the client sought $275 million in milestone payments they alleged were owed from the 2013 merger of the two companies. As lead counsel, Butswinkas secured a complete trial victory after a February 2020 bench trial before the Delaware Court of Chancery. The firm also triumphed for this client in the intellectual property capacity, concerning a patent on the client’s asthma inhaler product. Patent specialist David Berl, one of the leaders of the team responsible for this victory, chalked up a favorable ruling on claim construction in late 2020 before appearing in a bench trial held virtually in October 2020. In March 2021, the District of West Virginia issued a ruling that granted AstraZeneca a complete victory. Adding to the firm’s bulging list of high-level appointments in the pharmaceutical industry, Enu Mainigi continues to serve as lead and national counsel for Cardinal in all claims related to opioids, including civil litigation, Attorney General litigation and investigations, Congressional investigations, and other matters relating to the client’s distribution of opioid medications. Mainigi is scheduled to serve as lead counsel for Cardinal in a bellwether MDL trial in West Virginia as well as additional trials expected to be held in 2021-2022. Mainigi also represents Omnicare and CVS Health in a False Claims Act investigation and subsequent litigation by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York regarding the company’s practices with respect to refilling prescriptions for individuals residing in long-term care facilities. In yet another score in the drug industry, a team led by Heidi Hubbard and including Ana Reyes successfully represented Pfizer-subsidiary Hospira in a antitrust-tinged commercial dispute brought by Apotex over a supply agreement in the Southern District of New York, in which Apotex sought over $300 million in damages. In January 2020, the trial court granted Hospira’s motion to dismiss Apotex’s antitrust claims. Beyond the pharmaceutical realm, Robert Van Kirk, fresh off an earlier triumph for The Carlyle Group in which he successfully closed the door on a long-running series of cross-border matters , was retained by this client again in a breach of contract action in Montana state court. The matter concerns a simmering dispute between the client and the City of Missoula concerning a privately held water system.
A global business firm, Willkie Farr & Gallagher has been steadily increasing its litigation profile in both a market share and a literal headcount/geographic footprint sense. While its core strength in the US has historically been New York (and remains so), the firm has branched and out developed other domestic locations as well; it now has an office in San Francisco and has also been making strategic recruits to enhance its DC bench as well. The firm lured Michael Gottlieb to its bench from Boies Schiller and also recently added commercial litigator Mark Stancil (who also is equipped with a sub-specialty in appeals) from DC mainstay firm Robbins Russell. “Twenty years ago, I would have thought of Willkie Farr as a top-notch law firm with litigation services, but that model has changed,” insists a peer.
Willkie made news in late 2019 when two partners on its New York white-collar and enforcement team, Michael Schachter and Randall Jackson, triumphed on behalf of shipbuilding executive Jean Boustani in a case in which the client was accused of paying millions of dollars in kickbacks tied to $2 billion in loans to Mozambique-owned companies. After a six-week trial, the Willkie pair won a full acquittal for their client. In addition to making a media splash (including logging an “impact case” award at the Benchmark 2020 awards ceremony), the case drew attention to Schachter’s trial acumen (he was appointed the honor of appearing as one of the Top 100 trial lawyers in Benchmark that year as well) as well as to Jackson, a quickly rising future star. “Pay more attention to Randall,” advises a fellow star in the white-collar capacity. “Willkie should be given credit for displaying that kind of diversity in a case like that. That shouldn’t really matter but it does, because, sadly, you just don’t see much diversity in the white-collar bar. So kudos must be given in this case, and Randall is fantastic – he has skills and experience beyond his years.” New York securities star Tariq Mundiya and the aforementioned Gottlieb obtained a victory on behalf of the board of directors of a group of CITGO entities, all of which are owned (directly or indirectly) by Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA), Venezuela’s state-owned oil company. Upon the ouster of former President Nicholas Maduro and Juan Guaidó’s subsequent appointment by the Venezuelan National Assembly, the US government recognized President Guaidó and his government as the legitimate Venezuelan government and supported the National Assembly’s efforts to take control of PDVSA’s US subsidiaries through the passage of legislation and subsequent appointment of a board of directors for an ‘Administrative Board.’ That board then appointed new directors to all of the US subsidiaries, including CITGO. In an effort to fight back against the Guaidó government, the Maduro regime challenged the legality of these appointments. In June 2019, the ousted directors who had been appointed by the Maduro regime filed an action in Delaware Chancery Court seeking a declaration that they are the legitimate boards of the CITGO entities. Willkie represented the Guaidó directors. The parties filed competing motions for judgment on the pleadings and engaged in several rounds of expedited briefing. Mundiya also secured a resounding victory for Innoviva, an LLC manager and minority owner, in an arbitration proceeding filed by the majority owner concerning a dispute about distribution of royalties from pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline. One peer, a star player in the insurance litigation field, testifies, “I think Willkie is doing a lot more insurance-side work, which is a big upgrade for them!” This same peer advises, “Look into Christopher St. Jeanos – ask around about him! He’s a stand-up lawyer, and I think he’s only in his mid-40s! My litmus test when it comes to dealing with counsel is ‘Are you just a paper tiger?’ And Chris is not – he’s the real deal.” St. Jeanos represents Willis Management Vermont, Willis Limited, and Willis Re in a coverage matter arising from a complex and highly bespoke insurance and reinsurance structure established in 2012 and early 2013.
The national labor and employment team of Hunton Andrews Kurth are active in employment, wage and hour, labor relations and public accessibility cases. Their expertise stems from routinely representing clients in class, collective, and mass actions, as well as in high-profile, high-risk matters in federal and state courts. In addition, practitioners at the firm are noted for serving as counsel for clients in hearings before enforcement agencies, mediations, and arbitrations.
The DC office of the firm is home to trial lawyer Susan Wiltsie, whose three decades of experience before numerous courts, compliance boards, and arbitration panels make up her well-rounded practice. Ryan Bates is also a new addition to the list this year due to his nationwide practice handling complex employment litigation, including class actions, collective actions, and bet-the-company litigation. He regularly defends employers against lawsuits arising under Title VII, Americans with Disabilities Act, Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Family and Medical Leave Act, and other state discrimination statutes. Kevin White chairs the national labor and employment practice group where he focuses on complex employment litigation and employment advice and counseling. His practice also includes representing clients in discrimination class action litigation, governmental agency systemic discrimination investigations, wage and hour litigation, and in conducting internal investigations. Fellow co-chair of the firm’s unfair competition and information protection task force is Bob Quackenboss, whose practice is dedicated to resolving complex labor, employment, trade secret, non-compete and related commercial disputes. He is also active in complex employment discrimination, harassment, and wage-and-hour disputes, including class and collective actions before numerous courts along the east coast.