District of Columbia

Benchmark Litigation Reviews

Dispute resolution
Axinn Veltrop & Harkrider

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.

Blank Rome

Initially a Philadelphia-based firm and still one of that market’s key players, Blank Rome has since swelled to 13 offices in the US and over 600 attorneys. The firm offers services in a wide range of areas, but arguably its most significant development as of late is its entry into an especially busy policyholder-only insurance recovery practice, which Blank Rome managed to cultivate through its absorption of several leading partners from now-defunct DC-based plaintiff shop Dickstein Shapiro. The firm didn’t stop there, however; the firm has since launched an insurance-led expansion that has netted the firm key litigators in the practice such as Linda Kornfeld from the Los Angeles office of Kasowitz Benson & Torres and, more recently, Mary Craig Calkins, who the firm lured away from the Los Angeles office of Kilpatrick Townsend in August 2019. Calkins, a member of the American College of Coverage Counsel, is viewed by fellow insurance litigators as a particularly prized acquisition. “Blank Rome’s substantive legal knowledge in this [coverage] field is stellar,” insists a client.
     Washington, DC’s Jim Murray and New York future star Jared Zola are leading the charge for numerous archdioceses across the country seeking insurance proceeds to cover defense costs and any potential settlements or judgments incurred from claims of alleged sexual abuse within the clergy, frequently many decades ago. Murray and Zola were also retained by Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Malik Jefferson to pursue a claim for insurance coverage under his “Loss of Value” disability policy while he was a student at the University of Texas. This line of coverage is marketed to top college football players destined for the NFL to protect the financial value of their NFL draft status in the event they suffer an injury playing college football. This retention follows on the heels of the firm’s representation of Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Marqise Lee under a similar policy. This same pair also were named trial counsel, after the client had been represented by another firm, in a high-profile matter involving property and business interruption losses sustained by Madelaine Chocolate Novelties in New York during 2012’s Superstorm Sandy. An October 2020 jury trial is set, after a New York federal judge held that the scope of coverage under the chocolatier’s policy is unclear and the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit remanded the case to the trial court on an issue of fact for the jury to resolve. Zola is making a name for himself independently as well. He was retained by North American Automotive Services (NAAS) to pursue coverage under general liability, directors & officers, employment liability and personal lines insurance policies following an alleged incident after a company event, in which two NAAS executives were named in a civil lawsuit seeking more than $50 million in damages. One executive is facing criminal charges set for trial in February 2020, and the company is named in an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charge.

Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton

Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton is one of the few firms of its ilk to span the globe with its disputes prowess while still being a champion of cases that set precedents through its practitioners in New York and DC. “Cleary benefits from having a really broad and international book of business,” states a peer. “This drives some great work their way and they have superb people there to look after it.” The firm excels in antitrust, white-collar and investigations work, securities, bankruptcy, commercial and even some intellectual property, in addition to being known as one of the dominant forces in the international arbitration arena.  
     Cleary’s antitrust capacity, already considered one of the country’s strongest, got a further boost in March of 2020 when it recruited Bruce Hoffman, a former leader of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, to its DC group. A peer offers in summation, “That was a fabulous hire,” a consensus shared by many in the antitrust sphere. Hoffman is already making his presence felt in cases; he and fellow DC partner David Gelfand are representing Molson Coors in the defense of a claim by a US brewer alleging an antitrust violation affected exports to Ontario, Canada. The case is on remand from the Seventh Circuit, which dismissed the majority of plaintiff’s claims. Another DC partner, George Cary, is widely considered the firm’s antitrust figurehead and is also a near-unanimous reference among fellow practitioners in the field. One peer hyperbolically quips, “George Cary is antitrust!” Another elaborates, “George has not only an encyclopedic knowledge of antitrust law, he also just has instant credibility. He actually manages to teach the judiciary about antitrust law, and that would only happen if you’ve got the kind of clout with them that George has.” Cary and a fellow antitrust star, Leah Brannon, represent Keurig in massive multiparty monopolization litigation in the Southern District of New York. Almost two years into discovery, 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. Cary and yet another antitrust star, Jeremy Calsyn, secured federal merger clearance and won an unprecedented multi-state lawsuit as lead antitrust counsel to T-Mobile and parent company Deutsche Telekom in connection with T-Mobile’s historic merger with Sprint Corporation. The lawsuit was brought by 17 Attorney Generals and culminated in a two-week trial in December 2019 and January 2020. Brannon and Calsyn, both based in DC, are quickly risen stars who represent the younger generation of the firm.
     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, “Cleary is great because they have about six people I can count on who are solid. When I have a huge case that I need to refer, I need the breadth and the depth, not just one star player who may or may not be too overwhelmed to be fully engaged. The Cleary team is smart, knowledgeable and experienced, and there are a bunch of them: David BrodskyJoon KimBreon PeaceLev DassinVictor Hou – these people are all a solid team.” Hou represents embattled Brazilian engineering and construction firm Odebrecht and related entities in two private securities actions in the Southern District of New York. At the heart of the matters is the defendants’ involvement in the biggest bribery scandal in history (the investigation of which resulted in the well-publicized “Lava Jato” (Car Wash) action), which resulted in a guilty plea and $2.6 billion settlement with the US DoJ as well as settlements with other foreign governments. “Victor is not just a white-collar guy, though,” insists a peer, speaking to Hou’s broad-based practice. “He kind of does it all, commercial and securities work, and he’s great with all of it. Plus he’s got relative youth and energy going for him, which you don’t often see with someone with his level of experience.”

     The firm’s international muscle is frequently on display in cases managed by Jeffrey Rosenthal and Howard Zelbo, two long-established figures in the global arbitration arena, as well as Ari MacKinnon, a future star who is increasingly moving to the fore in cases of his own. Another future star, Lisa Vicens, makes her debut in this edition on the strength of vibrant peer review. “Lisa has developed a fabulous South American practice,” confirms one competitor. “She is a homegrown talent, an unusual person in that respect.” The international team at Cleary frequently attends to cases touching on securities enforcement, white-collar crime and bankruptcy issues. Lisa Schweitzer is a practitioner engaged in bankruptcy specifically. Schweitzer represents bedding products company Tempur Sealy International in the Chapter 11 bankruptcy cases of one of its regional retailers, preserving the client’s litigation claims and other rights through the bankruptcy. In a recent development, Schweitzer is leading a team representing LATAM Airlines Group and its affiliates in Chile, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, and the US in the voluntary reorganization and restructuring of their debt under Chapter 11 protection in the US. Under the Chapter 11 financial reorganization process, LATAM and its affiliates will have the opportunity to resize their operations to the new demand environment, given the effects of COVID-19, and reorganize their balance sheets. The group will continue passenger and cargo operations as conditions permit throughout the process. This cross-border procedure, which highlights unprecedented challenges faced by the industry in the face of the global pandemic, also involves Luke Barefoot, a rising star in the bankruptcy arena, as well as securities-focused star, Roger Cooper.

Cohen Milstein

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.

Debevoise & Plimpton

Debevoise & Plimpton has etched itself a position of prestige in the legal market among peers, many of whom laud the firm’s approach as well as its practitioners’ proven skills across the board. “Debevoise is a very classy bunch,” opines one peer. “Always has been. The lawyers there all are very respectable.” It is also noted that Debevoise “has one of the more genuinely diverse benches around,” and that the firm “is not just playing catch-up. They put their money where their mouth is a long time ago.” Indeed, the firm has one of the highest percentages of women appearing as lead counsel on matters and nominated as star players, a metric that has quantified since Benchmark’s first edition in 2008.
     Several sources credit Mary Beth Hogan with fostering this dynamic atmosphere, particularly in its New York office, the larger of the two. A commercial litigator who is also recognized for her investigations work, Hogan is also the co-chair of litigation. “Mary Beth deserves a lot of praise for making Debevoise what it is today.” Maeve O’Connor, an authority in the securities area, represents the Mamaroneck, New York-based Winged Foot Golf Club, along with certain present and former members of the Board of Directors of the Winged Foot Holding Corporation, in several shareholder derivative and securities class action lawsuits in the Southern District of New York. O’Connor is also noted for an insurance practice (a practice for which she is the firm’s Chair.) She secured a victory for six insurers in a qui tam lawsuit alleging over $14.5 billion in damages. The plaintiff, an audit firm, brought the action on behalf New York in 2010, alleging that the clients knowingly failed to report and escheat abandoned life insurance policy proceeds. A judge granted O’Connor’s motion to dismiss with prejudice and denied plaintiff’s request to re-plead. Susan Gittes, a quickly rising star in both the securities and insurance spheres, worked with O’Connor on these matters. Shannon Selden is a commercial litigator with a specialty in asset management and private equity. Selden represents Clayton, Dubilier & Rice, as well as four of the client’s funds and the general partner of those funds in connection with a putative securities class-action lawsuit relating to the funds’ sale of more than $4 billion of stock in Envision Healthcare Corporation, which the client took public in 2013. Plaintiffs allege that the client violated Section 20A of the Exchange Act by selling their Envision stock while in possession of material adverse non-public information regarding purportedly improper billing practices. In November 2019, the court dismissed claims against the defendants in their entirety, while allowing certain other claims to proceed against the company and certain individual defendants. Maura Monaghan, a commercial litigator with a niche in product liability matters, represents certain former directors and shareholders of Purdue Pharma, regarding prescription opioid litigation, including a federal multi-district litigation and actions brought by states attorneys general. Monaghan also represents Hospital Corporation of America and its affiliated hospital systems and subsidiaries in several high-profile, complex class action matters involving alleged overbilling practices and other violations. “Once clients meet Maura, they can’t get enough of her,” enthuses a peer. Ted Hassi, in the firm’s DC office, acts with Monaghan on the latter case. Hassi, an antitrust authority, receives unanimous acclaim. “Ted is one of the tops in antitrust,” extols a peer. “He is currently the lead on a merger challenge between two of the biggest coal mining entities in the US!” Hassi also represents Toyota in a multi-district litigation concerning rail fuel surcharges, which were the subject of a long-running class action, which was denied class certification in 2017. Toyota subsequently filed its own suit, alleging that it overpaid hundreds of millions of dollars for rail transport in the US and Canada due to collusion on the part of the defendants to artificially inflate prices via the surcharges. 
     Debevoise has long been a leader in the white-collar and enforcement area, with a team that has historically been acknowledged with reverence by the community. “With Mary Jo White and Andrew Ceresney coming back on board a few years ago [both left the firm to serve in government during the Obama administration before rejoining the firm in 2017,] an already great team got a further invigoration. It’s basically an all-star cast there now,” extols a peer. Bruce Yannett is advising Royal Dutch Shell and serving as global coordinating counsel in connection with a criminal prosecution of Shell and four former employees in Milan, Italy. In September 2019, the DoJ informed Shell that it was closing its investigation of the matter without bringing any charges.  The SEC has also closed its investigation without taking any action against the company. Yannett continues to represent Shell in connection with a criminal prosecution and four former employees in Italy as well as in an active investigation by the Dutch Public Prosecution Services. Another area in which the firm has historically held a dominant position is the international arbitration capacity. “I would guess Debevoise contains the highest percentage of multi-linguists of any firm in New York,” asserts a peer. Indeed, the firm’s international office count outnumbers that of its Stateside locations. Longtime stalwart Donald Donovan, along with “next-generation” stars Dietmar Prager, Mark Friedman and Natalie Reid, represented Tethyan, a company jointly owned by Antofagasta Minerals S.A. of Chile and Barrick Gold Corporation of Canada, in a multibillion-dollar investment dispute arising out of a mining project in Pakistan, winning nearly $6 billion in a July 2019 decision, the second-largest award ever rendered from a World Bank arbitration tribunal. Donovan and Catherine Amirfar prevailed on behalf of the State of Qatar with respect to two proceedings against the United Arab Emirates on provisional measures before the International Court of Justice in a high-profile and complex set of international disputes arising out of a multitude of measures, including a blockade, imposed by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt on Qatar.

Hausfeld

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

Haynes and Boone is home to more than 575 lawyers across 17 offices. The team of complex litigators offer specializations in 40 major practice areas. DC-based trial lawyer Barry Buchman is a leading policyholder insurance lawyer who routinely represents policyholders in complex insurance coverage matters, general liability coverage disputes, and other cutting-edge insurance coverage proceedings. Buchman’s practice is also inclusive of complex commercial disputes, business torts, actions involving private equity firms and automotive companies, as well as an active pro bono practice. Buchman is active representing a top company in a massive litigation against nearly 60 insurance companies over coverage for thousands of asbestos-related and silica-related bodily injury claims. Austin, Texas-based Leslie Thorne serves as co-chair of the litigation practice group. She recently, successfully represented a Honduran woman seeking asylum in one of the first court victories in family-separation litigation in a federal suit. Thorne is active in complex commercial litigation, cyber-related liability actions, and insurance disputes. Dallas partner Russ Emerson is lead counsel in numerous high-profile patent disputes related to technologies, medical devices, pharmaceutical products, and computer networking, among others. His practice also includes additional intellectual property disputes, such as cases involving trademarks and trade dress, copyrights, theft of trade secrets, and other complex matters. Fellow Dallas partner Nina Cortell is recognized as one of Benchmark’s Top 250 Women in Litigation. She is active in appellate, general commercial, and tort actions. Cortell is part of the lead counsel team that recently persuaded the Texas Supreme Court to vacate a $16.5 million judgment and deny injunctive relief in a trade secret dispute on behalf of client VHSC. The decision was obtained after a six-year long battle.

Ifrah Law

Ifrah Law is litigation boutique focused on complex business disputes and investigations. Headquartered in DC, the firm was established by founding partner Jeff Ifrah who is recognized for his work as a white-collar criminal defense lawyer. He has also developed a niche practice in the online gaming field. A nationally recognized litigator, Ifrah has paved a lane for himself as counsel in cryptocurrency and blockchain maters, online gaming and sports betting disputes, suspension and debarment proceedings, and federal agency actions. He has also founded the iDevelopment and Economic Association (iDEA), a non-profit association that seeks to grow jobs and expand online interactive entertainment business across the country. On behalf of the association, Ifrah filed an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in the sports betting case Murphy v. NCAA, which was decided in favor of iDEA’s argument urging the rights of states to direct their own economies.

Kaplan Hecker & Fink

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 many of 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 a new infusion of talent within the past year with the recruit of Marshall Miller, a white-collar star who joined the firm from Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz. “That’s a great addition,” offers a peer. “Marshall is a capable lawyer with a stellar track record.”
     Founder and all-purpose trial lawyer Roberta “Robbie” Kaplan,  who initially launched this firm as Kaplan & Company, 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 grabbed headlines in October 2017, when she was one of two partners retained by nonprofit Integrity First for America to represent 11 plaintiffs from Charlottesville against 26 defendants implicated in the white nationalist/neo-Nazi rally that took place in Charlottesville that August and culminated in violence and other shameful turns of events. The defendants include named people and several organizations, such as the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and Nationalist Front. On a more business-oriented (and local) level, 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. Sean Hecker joined the firm from his previous post at Debevoise & Plimpton. Hecker, a securities enforcement and white-collar star, has a particularly vocal fan base as well. “Like I predicted, Sean Hecker really went on to great things,” confirms a peer. “He is terrific and I like working with him. He is good with juries and judges and is very analytical and is a good presence. It’s funny because he was never a Titanic presence at Debevoise, he kind of just quietly did his own thing, but you could tell he had something, and now he has really come into his own. That win he had for the Barclays trader out in California was a substantial white-collar trial win, in front of a judge, no less, which is very rare.” This alluded-to victory was on behalf of a former trader at Barclays, who was charged with manipulating the price of foreign currency options to defraud the bank's customer, Hewlett-Packard. Hecker secured an acquittal for his client from a federal judge in San Francisco in March 2019.

Kellogg Hansen Todd Figel & Frederick

Headquartered in downtown DC, Kellogg Hansen Todd Figel & Frederick is a mid-sized law firm home to numerous trial-tested appellate and complex litigation lawyers.
      Founding and managing partner Michael Kellogg specializes in appellate, regulatory, and antitrust issues, many of which he has argued before the US Supreme Court. Fellow name partner Mark Hansen is a seasoned trial lawyer active in civil and criminal actions. As counsel, he has obtained some of the largest judgments in antitrust and unfair trade practice cases in recent history. David Frederick, a name partner, manages a diverse practice in the appellate arena. He has represented an array of individuals, classes and companies before the US Supreme Court, state supreme courts, and in every court of appeals across the country. Frederick serves as lead counsel for National Credit Union Administration in a lawsuit against numerous international and national banks. Aaron Panner is recognized for his work in the antitrust space. He is active representing clients in high-profile, high-stakes disputes in appellate and district courts across the country. He recently represented iPhone owners in one of the most considerable victories for private antitrust plaintiffs before the US Supreme Court. Andrew Shen is recognized for his breach of contract, securities, antitrust, health care, fraud, telecommunications, and whistleblower litigation practice. He recently represented an insurance company in a string of lawsuits related to the sale of residential mortgage-backed securities. Steven Benz is recognized as an antitrust and unfair competition expert, having represented clients in numerous complex commercial actions throughout his 25-plus year career. He is part of the lead counsel team representing Veeva in a suit filed by a rival life sciences giant which accuses the client of poaching an employee as part of an alleged practice that encourages competitors’ works to breach noncompete agreements. A Maryland federal judge determined the court had no jurisdiction over the matter.

              

King & Spalding

King & Spalding is an internationally lauded law firm with a network of 22 offices worldwide, 11 of which are outside the US. Peers are quick to highlight the firm’s obvious strengths; one being its global presence. “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.”
     Already one of the strongest and globally comprehensive of national firms, King & Spalding has been on an expansion spree, a phenomenon that has not gone unnoticed by peers. “King & Spalding is clearly in growth mode,” observes one peer. “They are adding people left and right.” Some of these bold additions have fortified the firm’s bench strength across several practice areas and jurisdictions. In February 2020 alone, the firm added product liability and mass tort trial lawyer Morty Dubin to its New York office and international arbitration star Javier Rubinstein to its Chicago office. Dubin, who joined the firm from Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe, boasts a book of business containing industry heavyweights such as Dow Chemical and Johnson & Johnson, the latter of which he (acting with Ali Brown of Skadden) triumphed for in a March 2019 defense victory regarding claims concerning the company’s talc powder product. Rubinstein, who joined the firm from Kirkland & Ellis “adds a nice new element of strength to an already great practice led by [Houston international arbitration star] Doak Bishop, particularly in the Latin American component.” In addition to these two auspicious recruits, the firm also doubled down on its California practice, scooping a sizeable haul of almost 20 partners from the Los Angeles and San Francisco offices of Boies Schiller in a double-dip of hires in April and June 2020.
     In the firm’s initial home base of Atlanta, the firm is regarded as “the 800-pound gorilla,” with one local peer summarizing, “Whether they care to admit it or not, in Atlanta, it’s King & Spalding and then everybody else. You can’t be a huge national firm in this market that represents Coca-Cola and not be the dominant player at the table.” Atlanta-based trial lawyer David Balser was lead counsel to SCANA in criminal and SEC investigations. The dispute was related to the abandonment of SCANA’s new nuclear development at the V.C. Summer plant in South Carolina, including defense of ratepayer class actions, derivative claims, federal securities class actions, and state and federal governmental investigations. Additionally, an expedited federal court injunction proceeding seeking to block implementation of confiscatory legislation targeting SCANA was also at stake.  A multi-practice, cross-office team, led by Balser, were involved in a multi-week evidentiary hearing before the South Carolina Public Service Commission that sought to block SCANA’s proposed $14.6 billion merger with Dominion Energy.  A complete victory for the client was obtained, leading to the closing of the Dominion merger in January of 2019. “We have a lot of litigation against King & Spalding,” testifies a peer, “and we think very highly of them, and David Balser in particular. When you’re against him, you know it’s going to be a tough fight but it’s going to be a fair fight.” Balser and fellow Atlanta partner Michael Smith were members of the lead counsel team representing Equifax in numerous high profile putative class actions arising from the cyber security incident announced in September 2017. The client is involved in more than 250 consumer and financial institution class actions from the data breach. Trial and global disputes practice group leader Andy Bayman successfully obtained a reversal of a $3 million jury verdict in favor of his client GlaxoSmithKline in a wrongful death lawsuit. Bayman was co-lead counsel in this matter, the first lawsuit ever tried under the “innovator liability” theory. “Andy Bayman got excellent training with [now retired product liability leader] Chilton Varner,” opines a peer, “and now he is running the show and putting that experience to excellent use.
     Seasoned trial lawyer Bobby Meadows  hails from the Houston office where he is recognized as a frequent fixture in trials in state and federal court, as well as arbitration proceedings. He is lead counsel to Chevron USA in multiple lawsuits arising from an explosion and fire at its Richmond, California Refinery. He has secured the dismissal of over 10,000 plaintiffs in the individual claimant actions. The firm also achieved the dismissal of two purported class actions at the pleadings stage.
     King & Spalding is noted as a top performer in the securities enforcement and investigations area, a capacity it has dubbed its “Special Matters” practice. “They have been tremendously successful in this space,” observes a peer. Notably, a sizeable number of its noted stars in the white-collar practice are women. Texas-based Tracie Renfroe serves as the managing partner of the Houston office, as well as co-head of the energy practice. Her trial practice is centered on toxic tort, environmental, professional and product liability, and commercial disputes. She currently represents DePuy, a Johnson & Johnson company, in a multi-district litigation involving metal-on-metal hip implants. New York litigator Carmen Lawrence specializes in securities-related government investigations and litigation. She serves as co-lead of the firm’s Securities Enforcement and Regulation practice and often represents both public and private companies in regulatory and investigative matters. Renfroe, Lawrence, and DC litigator Dixie Johnson are also acclaimed as one of Benchmark's Top 250 Women in Litigation. Johnson is the deputy practice group leader for government matters of the firm, where she represents businesses and individuals in securities enforcement investigations and conducts internal investigations for corporate board committees and companies.

Kirkland & Ellis

Since its inception in Chicago in 1909, Kirkland & Ellis has steadily risen from its Illinois roots to become an international powerhouse. The firm has approximately 2,200 lawyers with expertise in a number of practice areas, with notable strengths in commercial litigation, product liability, intellectual property, bankruptcy, restructuring and counseling matters and white-collar/investigations work. One client highlights the firm's bankruptcy practice, commenting, "They are preeminent in the bankruptcy space, debtors, and a lot of that comes out of their private equity. It’s pretty astounding how Kirkland managed to get to number one by a wide margin in bankruptcy."
      Chicago's James Hurst and DC-based appellate authority Paul Clement are part of the lead counsel team representing AbbVie, AbbVie Products, and Abbott Laboratories in the AndroGel bellwether multidistrict litigation regarding testosterone replacement therapy products. The dispute alleges injuries were caused as a result of taking prescription testosterone replacement therapy drug. In 2018, the team secured complete defense victory in the third, fourth, and fifth bellwether trials and has entered into global settlement to resolve the remaining cases, which are pending final court approval.
      

Latham & Watkins

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!” Another peer confirms, “Latham is definitely a destination for litigation these days. They are going from strength to strength. The ‘flight to quality’ that we’re seeing play out right now is working in their favor.” 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.)
     Latham’s DC office scored a one-two punch of bench strength this year when it 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 theses two. They are both fairly young too, which is an added bonus.” The IP department in DC is also home to Michael Morin, a widely championed patent litigator. “We had a case against him and we actually won,” testifies a peer and former opponent, “but we were still very impressed. Michael still did a fantastic job and was, and is, a great trial lawyer.” Still another DC-based IP litigator, Maximilian Grant led a team that scored an April 2020 victory for Texas-based energy entity Schlumberger in an oil patch-related patent dispute at the Federal Circuit.
     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. 

Milbank

Milbank has etched itself a unique position among national firms. Its litigation capacity spans both coasts and a number of practice areas, several of which boast practitioners considered “the best in the business.” Through its offices in New York, DC and Los Angeles, the firm has a concentration of partners attending to commercial litigation, bankruptcy, white-collar, securities and intellectual property. Clients appreciate the firm’s “record of follow up, strategy cost containment and great attorneys.”

     In New York, litigation practice group leader Dan Perry is representing Bloomberry Resorts and Hotels, the license holder and operator of the Solaire Resort & Casino located in Manila, Philippines, in connection with a case filed by the Bangladesh Bank in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York relating to the alleged cyber-hacking of the Bangladesh Bank in February 2016. More recently, Perry scored in another hotel-related matter when he led a team that in June 2020 obtained, on behalf of plaintiff D2 Mark, a preliminary injunction stopping the imminent foreclosure involving interests in The Mark Hotel, a luxury hotel in New York, which shut down in March as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, causing the client to miss its interest payments in May on certain mezzanine and mortgage loans. During negotiations, the client was led to believe that the defendant would agree to a 90-day forbearance. Without warning, in May, in the midst of the finalization of the negotiations, the defendant purported to notice a UCC sale of the Collateral for June 24. Perry was also involved in representing Citigroup in a class action in which holders and beneficial owners of American Depositary Receipts (“ADRs”) for which Citibank served as the depositary bank, allege that Citibank charged impermissible fees when converting dividends and payments associated with the ADRs from foreign currencies into US Dollars, harming the investors. A settlement was approved in July 2019. New York’s Scott Edelman is working with Perry on this matter. Edelman, one of the firm’s most active commercial litigators, has long represented client music licensing entity Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI), a client Edelman continues to provide lead counsel to in several rate-setting proceedings. The New York office is also home to George Canellos, an all-purpose securities enforcement and white-collar practitioner who is one of the most widely admired in the profession. “George has unquestioned credibility from both the bar and the bench.” Canellos’s broad-ranging practice finds him acting on behalf of entities, individuals and, in at least one example, entire industries. He is representing Société Générale Americas Securities in class-action litigation concerning alleged price fixing of unsecured debt securities issued by government sponsored entities between 2009 and 2016. The court has preliminarily approved settlements between plaintiffs and defendants. Canellos also represents one of five individuals that were the target of a September 2018 complaint filed by the SEC claiming that this group orchestrated three highly profitable “pump-and-dump” schemes from 2013 to 2018. The complaint charged the defendants with violating antifraud, beneficial ownership disclosure, and registration provisions of the federal securities laws and sought monetary and equitable relief. In October 2019, the client and his company reached a preliminary settlement with the SEC, wherein they did not admit or deny liability and agreed to pay a small civil fine plus restitution. Canellos also represents the client in a number of civil suits relating to similar allegations, all of which are currently pending.
     In the DC office, the firm boasts a marquee player in the bankruptcy capacity in Andrew Leblanc, a specialist practitioner that is unique in his trial acumen. “Most restructuring lawyers have to bring in a commercial litigator when bankruptcy turns into a food fight,” explains one peer. “That’s not the case with Andy – he is a real bankruptcy litigator, one of the ones in this area I’m nervous about going up against. He and his team [which often also includes Dennis Dunne in the New York office] represent bondholders and creditors committees, and they are very tough. You don’t want Andy Leblanc cross examining you!” The DC office is also home to Michael Nolan, another unique practitioner, acting in the international arbitration capacity. Nolan is representing the owner of Bloomberry Resorts and Hotels and Sureste Properties in a nearly $1 billion breach of contract dispute related to the “Solaire,” the first integrated casino resort to open in Entertainment City in Manila. The dispute arises from the termination of a management services agreement pursuant to which Global Gaming Asset Management was to provide management and technical services in the development, construction, and operation of the integrated resort. The dispute involves an 8.7% equity stake in the owner’s company. A client hails Nolan as “a broadly experienced litigator and has very good communication skills as well as deep legal knowledge.”    
     The firm has doubled down on its intellectual capacity as of late, making the strategic hire of David Gindler, formerly with Irell & Manella, to its Los Angeles office in 2019. “That was a real coup,” ventures a peer. “David was a real star at Irell and will no doubt be given a greater platform at Milbank.” Another peer elaborates, “David is very intellectual but yet very congenial and plain-spoken – that is the best of both worlds when you’re litigating complex IP disputes.” Gindler represents a Chinese manufacturer of base station antennas, Rosenberger Asia Pacific, and related companies in defense against a trade secret misappropriation lawsuit filed by a larger US-based competitor. In addition to damages, the plaintiff has sought injunctive relief that would preclude Rosenberger from selling antennas in the US. In the New York office, Chris Gaspar represents Fujitsu Network Communications in defense of a patent infringement complaint filed in March 2020 in the Eastern District of Texas concerning Wavelength Selective Switches used in FNC’s Reconfigurable Optical Add Drop Multiplexer devices used in optical telecommunications systems. Errol Taylor, leader of the firm’s biopharma patent litigation practice, is identified as “a leader in the Hatch-Waxman area.” Taylor currently leads several patent cases for Tris.

MoloLamken

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’s Steven Molo remains its most recognized and revered trial lawyer. “Steven Molo delivers the goods,” crows one peer. “I’ve worked with him and I’ve worked against him. Either position provides a learning opportunity.” Another peer makes the observation, “I’m seeing them doing a lot more plaintiff work!” Lending support to this assertion, Molo is representing a hedge fund dealing in distressed debt, the plaintiffs in a lawsuit concerning $500 million of Venezuelan sovereign debt. Molo also represented directors of PetSmart and Argos Holdings in a $900 million dispute over their payment of dividends in the form of 20% of outstanding common stock of a PetSmart subsidiary. The dispute was with a group of bond holders who claimed the company was insolvent at the time of the transaction. The case was pending in the US District Court in Manhattan before it settled.
     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. 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 awardagainst 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 the lead plaintiffs in a securities fraud class action against Alibaba and its senior officers concerning a September 2014 $25 billion IPO, subsequent to which it emerged that Alibaba had been the subject of a regulatory proceeding in which it had received stern “administrative guidance” from Chinese regulators over the prevalence of counterfeits and other illegal goods on its online marketplaces. The regulators threatened to impose billions of dollars of fines unless Alibaba took costly remedial measures that would reduce its revenues and earnings. When the administrative guidance was revealed to the public, the company’s stock dropped substantially, and lost over $10 billion in market value. The case was settled in 2019 for $250 million.

Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison

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 maintaining a level of prestige among its peers. Its stable of stars, already strong and comprehensive, got a substantial upgrade 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. 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. One peer quips in summation, “Paul Weiss is still the firm to beat – what else is new?”
     Indeed the firm kicked of 2020 with a milestone win for ExxonMobil in 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.
     Jay Cohen represents Altice USA, formerly known as Cablevision Systems Corporation, as a key third-party witness and interested party in connection with T-Mobile’s proposed $26 billion acquisition of wireless carrier rival Sprint, including responding to requests for information by the DoJ’s Antitrust Division in its antitrust investigation of the proposed merger. Cohen, a commercial litigator with a niche in entertainment law, also represents the National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA) and 14 independent music publishers in a copyright infringement action brought against Peloton Interactive, alleging that Peloton used more than 2,300 of the publishers’ musical works in Peloton workout videos in willful violation of the copyright laws. The case was resolved shortly thereafter. 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.Brad Karp, a securities advocate who viewed by many as the nerve center of Paul Weiss, represents Morgan Stanley in a criminal investigation by the DoJ involving alleged price fixing and collusion in the US agency bond market. In addition, Karp is representing this client in related civil litigation and several opt-out matters that was filed in March 2019 following public news reports of the DoJ investigation. A final order approving settlement of the civil case was issued in June 2020. Susannah Buergel acts with Karp on this matter. Karp also is defending Citigroup and certain affiliates in a multidistrict litigation alleging that Citi and various other banks conspired in a group boycott to reduce competition in interest-rate swap trading, raising prices for purchasers of the swaps. The action includes a putative class of purchasers of interest rate swaps, as well as individual plaintiff companies that allegedly attempted to launch interest-rate swap trading platforms.
     Ken Gallo, a prominent antitrust figure in the DC office, acts with Karp on the aforementioned matter. Gallo also led a team that defended Bumble Bee Foods against claims that it and two other companies conspired to fix prices in the US packaged tuna market. Plaintiffs include putative classes of direct purchasers, indirect purchasers and commercial food preparers, and large merchants in individual related litigations.DC’s Mark Mendelsohn is a frequent recipient of acclaim from peers in the white-collar and securities enforcement field. “Mark is a fierce advocate but he keeps it in the courtroom. He is a real boardroom lawyer – you put him in any boardroom he’s going to do exceedingly well.” Kanon Shanmugam, a “young gun” of the appellate world who recently joined the firm from Williams & Connolly, boasts a significant track record of Supreme Court appearances “particularly for someone of his vintage.” This past year alone, Shanmugam has appeared on landmark appeals (at the Supreme Court and other appeals courts) on his own, involving a variety of subject matters. One action found Shanmugam acting in concert with intellectual property partners Nicholas Groombridge and Eric Stone, with the trio securing a major appellate victory in April 2018 on behalf of Vanda Pharmaceuticals. Peers view the firm’s IP practice is another example of Paul Weiss’s prowess in “reinventing itself through development.” One peer asserts, “Paul Weiss was historically known for securities, antitrust and white-collar, sure, but IP was never their calling card. But they sure are in that space now. They have an active life sciences practice. Nick Groombridge has a really great way about him. He’s just a normal guy and he presents well to a jury, generally clients really love him, he’s really smart.”

Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan

Quinn Emanuel’s maverick approach in the legal market has proven not only wildly successful, but also qualitatively transformative. “It’s hard to even remember what the litigation world was like before Quinn Emanuel,” muses one seasoned partner at a rival firm. “Whatever it was, we’re not going back to it. Quinn turned the old model upside-down and changed the game forever.” Another peer elucidates on this point; “Once upon a time, you had Big Law and you had litigation boutiques…and then you had Quinn, and suddenly here was this global white-shoe powerhouse built on nothing but high-end litigation!” Since its Los Angeles-based genesis, the firm has morphed into a global juggernaut, continuing to build on its existing strong bench with an  ever-expanding stable of new recruits. “We see Quinn Emanuel a LOT,” testifies a peer, who humorously adds, “More than I’d care to! But they are doing their job keeping us with our work cut out for us. I have a joke going with [firm founder and visionary and commercial trial lawyer] John Quinn, ‘I have to root for you because when Quinn does well, we do well!’” In addition to its behemoth status as a litigation shop, more specifically it is known as an incubator for true courtroom warriors, as the “Trial Lawyers” subtitle to its branding makes sure to drive home. The firm pursues the trial-ready agenda with zeal, and indeed the firm makes a strong showing in Benchmark’s Top 100 Trial Lawyers list, with no fewer than four of its partners nominated every year since the list’s inception. “Quinn breeds a reputation of ‘If you want someone who’s ready to sling mud and not just roll over and settle, call us.’”
     In the firm’s DC office, William Burck is a celebrated white-collar crime star with dozens of high-level appointments to his credit, including several cases that have made recent national headlines such as the Odebrecht scandal, the “Varsity Blues” scandal, the “Panama Papers” affair, as well as serving as lead counsel to several key witnesses in the high-profile Robert Mueller investigation into allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Most recently, in August 2020, Burck was retained by Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s former strategist, in defending criminal charges that Bannon stole from supporters of the Trump’s US-Mexico border wall. “The kind of white-collar cases Bill Burck takes on definitely require a trial lawyer, and Bill certainly is one,” insists a peer.

Reichman Jorgensen

Intellectual property and commercial litigation boutique Reichman Jorgensen has made a notable impression on the legal community, and has done so very quickly. Formed in 2018 upon the departure of trial figurehead Courtland Reichman from McKool Smith in order to launch this venture, the firm has already notched itself a maverick image on the legal landscape. Despite a network of offices spanning four cities (Silicon Valley, CA; Washington, DC, Atlanta and New York), the firm is still a compact group, with only nine partners at present. 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 well to disseminate relevant information to the entire team quickly, which is exceedingly important in a fast-moving yet complex case.”
     Reichman, based in the firm’s Silicon Valley office, 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.” 

Schulte Roth & Zabel

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. “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.” 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.
     In one example of the firm’s expertise in the cryptocurrency sector, a team composed of DC partner Howard Schiffman and New York partners Michael Swartz and Gary Stein advised ParagonCoin in a trailblazing settlement with the SEC that effectively put an end to the uncertainties of the legal status of cryptocurrencies. A securities-focused partner, Swartz is also advising Starboard Value in a securities class action involving Advance Auto Parts and is also advising Veritas Capital in multiple class actions. Over the last two years, Swartz 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. New York’s Harry Davis represented National Bank of Canada and various Canadian and US subsidiaries in a major litigation relating to the alleged manipulation of a benchmark rate known as the Canadian Dollar Offered Rate (CDOR). In March 2019, Davis secured a dismissal of a putative class action alleging the manipulation of CDOR in its entirety.
     The firm’s white-collar practice has seen a significant ramping up as of late as well. DC white-collar star Adam Hoffinger is representing the former Chairman and CEO of Anham, a Dubai-based government contracting and procurement company, against an indictment filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, charging violations of Iran sanctions in connection with providing food to US troops in Afghanistan.“Adam Hoffinger is quite a character,” offers a peer. “He has a certain level of aplomb that is tailor-made for the types of cases he takes on. And what cases! If you talk to him, get ready for hours of war stories!” Also based in DC, Peter White acts for Robert Jesenik, the chief executive of Oregon-based Aequitas Management (later revealed to be a Ponzi scheme) in the largest SEC enforcement case in Oregon’s history. The SEC’s complaint alleged that Aequitas defrauded over 1,500 investors nationwide by not disclosing the company’s true financial situation, using money from new investors to pay earlier investors, and not investing the money in healthcare, education, and transportation-related investments, as investors had been told, but rather using the funds in order to keep the firm afloat. The SEC sought permanent injunctions, disgorgement with prejudgment interest, and monetary penalties from all defendants, as well as bars prohibiting Jesenik and two other company officials from serving as officers or directors of any public company. Moving into 2020, the case is now a criminal one, with several Aequitas executives issuing guilty pleas to charges of conspiracy to commit fraud and money laundering. White continues to defend Jesenik in respect of the criminal probe. The New York office has a white-collar star of its own in Barry Bohrer, a celebrated figure in the community. Bohrer advised Joseph Percoco, a former senior aide and campaign manager to Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York state, in a well-publicized investigation involving improper lobbying and conflicts of interest. In a mixed verdict, Percoco was convicted in 2018 of three corruption charges, but cleared of four others. Percoco was found guilty of engaging in “pay-to-play” scams with two energy companies seeking to do business with and influence the state, and was convicted of soliciting bribes from Competitive Power Ventures, but acquitted of extortion. After a federal appeals court ordered Percoco to prison in March 2019 to serve six years, Bohrer continues to appeal the conviction and fight for Percoco’s release, arguing before the Second Circuit appeals court in March 2020. (Percoco, for his part, maintains his innocence.)

Shearman & Sterling

A fully-integrated international law firm, 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 lawyers from Europe to Southeast Asia. With most of its 20 offices being based in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, some would even argue it would not due the firm justice to be assessed on just a one-country level given its global reach. 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. “Adam is just dynamite,” offers one peer. “He’s just exceptionally hard-working and just shows up everywhere. He also is just consistently pleasant, which may not sound like a big deal but when you consider the amount of work he takes on, it’s somewhat remarkable.” Further exemplifying Hakki’s weighty remit, in addition to his own litigation practice he also holds the position of the firm’s Global Managing Partner. Hakki maintains his “sweet spot” with a “huge presence” in the securities capacity but of late has been noted for a good deal of antitrust work as well. Hakki recently achieved a victory on behalf of Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) in a putative antitrust class action. The plaintiffs alleged that the defendants had conspired to manipulate LIBOR, despite the highly publicized LIBOR scandals in recent years, the numerous reforms of the rate submission process, and intense regulatory scrutiny. Hakki also achieved a victory for US- and Mexico-based Bank of America entities in a putative class action alleging that that Bank of America, among other financial institutions, conspired to manipulate the prices at which defendants bought Mexican government bonds at auction and the prices at which defendants sold Mexican government bonds in the secondary market. In September 2019, the Southern District of New York granted Hakki’s motion to dismiss in the Mexican Government Bonds class action, where billions in damages were alleged.
     In the securities practice for which he is routinely celebrated, Hakki has demonstrated not only his own litigation acumen but has also highlighted the skill sets of his colleagues. Hakki and Agnès Dunogué achieved a significant litigation victory in a putative securities class action brought in the Southern District of New York related to the infamous “Volpocalypse,” in which the VIX (volatility index) collapsed in February 2018, with billions of dollars in resulting investor losses. The suit was brought by purchasers of the ProShares Short VIX Short-Term Futures ETF, who alleged the Registration Statement for the ETF contained misstatements and omissions in violation of the Securities Act of 1933, and generally alleged that the ETF was highly leveraged and unable to adequately hedge its risks because of historically low market volatility and competition from other investment vehicles for the hedging contracts the ETF needed to carry out its investment objections. Hakki and Dunogue represented multiple entities that entered into an Authorized Participant Agreement to create and redeem shares of the ETF on behalf of those who traded the ETF on the secondary market. These Authorized Participants were alleged to be underwriters subject to liability under the Securities Act. In January 2020, the class action was dismissed in its entirety and with prejudice. 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.” 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 just had a nice win [in March 2019] in a matter involving CDOR [Canadian Dollar Offered Rate.]” 
     Commercial and white-collar star Stephen Fishbein, a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, successfully represented fintech software and services company SS&C as lead trial counsel in trade secret litigation against Clearwater Analytics alleging misappropriation of trade secrets. Clearwater recruited an SS&C sales executive, who brought with him to Clearwater sales pipelines, client lists and other confidential information. At a two-week trial, Fishbein argued that SS&C was entitled to a “reasonable royalty” based on the value of the information at the time of theft, and that Clearwater should also pay punitive damages. The jury returned a verdict of $44 million, consisting of $16 million in compensatory damages and $28 million in punitive damages. Fishbein and fellow white-collar and enforcement star John Nathanson conducted a high-profile trial for Christopher Worrall, a federal government employee. Worrall was charged with conversion of government property and insider trading in the DoJ’s criminal case relating to leaks of information from his employer, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which is part of the US Department of Health and Human Services. The client was acquitted of 14 out of the 16 counts against him, including all of the conspiracy and securities fraud counts. In the antitrust space, Fishbein is also representing 1-800 Contacts, an online retailer of contact lenses, in a matter that 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. “Todd is an incredibly smart and thoughtful trial lawyer,” testifies one peer. “With these big mega-cases, you think about trial or settlement, but Todd is taking depositions, making decisions, really thinking about how this is going to play out in trial. That’s not something you see every day.”

 

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett

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. “Simpson Thacher is a go-to firm for any type of legal dispute,” offers a client in summation. “Any individual or entity that retains them is going to get the best counsel possible.”
     An area of particular note that the firm has doubled down on is its white-collar and investigations area, a relatively recent development that has taken root with astonishing momentum, which not gone unnoticed by peers and clients. An impressed New York peer chirps, “Simpson Thacher has really come up! If you would have asked me three years ago about their white-collar group, I would have told you ‘they don’t really have one.’ But they have really reinvigorated it. Steve Cutler knows how boards operate, he gets the dynamic between management and boards, which is valuable. Brooke Cucinella is really strong overall, in criminal and in more securities enforcement. Nick Goldin seems like he would be the trial lawyer of the bunch. Between them, they now have a really meaningful group.” Another peer testifies, “My relationships with Simpson are primarily on the white-collar side. I have worked on multiple matters with [DC-based partner] Jeffrey Knox, Joshua Levine and Nick Goldin. They are all very effective white-collar defense lawyers and they all bring slightly different skill sets. Jeff is a very-plugged-in, highly strategic former DoJ Fraud Section lawyer (he ran the FCPA Unit), Josh is a very smart, very effective lawyer's lawyer, who has tremendous judgment, no ego, and real credibility. Nick is a very dynamic, very smart lawyer as well. The trio are really exceptional and standout in a market crowded with great lawyers. The relatively recent additions of Steve Cutler (who chairs the practice) and Brooke Cucinella who has real trial chops, just strengthen an already very strong crew. Steve is exceptional smart, strategic and experienced. Brooke is a trial jock with a lot of charisma. [They are a] Very good team with complementary skills.” Clients are also vocally appreciative; “In particular, the firm's government and internal investigations practice is at the very top of that field,” declares one. “[They have] Tremendous strategic sense, real inside knowledge of how DoJ/Main Justice operates, and are very good at navigating complex investigations.” Speaking to the individual partners, a client comments on Goldin: “Nick is the complete package. [He is] Analytically gifted and rigorous, attune to business and personal needs, practical and aggressive. Based on his experience and skill set, Nick has the ability to see the entire field and anticipate where investigations and litigation are headed.”

     Mary Beth Forshaw and Lynn Neuner, two figureheads in the firm’s famed insurance practice, remain active in representing two major excess property insurers, XL Insurance America and QBE Insurance Group Limited, in hard-fought disputes arising from hundreds of millions of dollars of property damage and business interruption claims at St. Thomas’ largest hotel property. These claims arose from major damage caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, which ultimately resulted in a rebuild of the property costing in excess of $300 million. The policyholder commenced litigation in the Virgin Islands, and the Firm’s insurance clients commenced a competing action in New York. The outcome of the case hinged on application of Virgin Island building codes, the scope of permitted renovation, and the resolved shortly before trial. Both partners have been appointees to Benchmark’s Top 250 Women in Litigation since its inception, and Neuner appears for the second consecutive year as one of Benchmark’s Top 100 Trial Lawyers. Beyond insurance, Neuner also keeps busy with commercial and securities cases and has also emerged as one of New York’s few major players in the false advertising capacity.  
     Neuner represented Bayer in defending its advertising for Claritin-D against a challenge brought by GlaxoSmithKline, the maker of Flonase, an allergy spray. Glaxo challenged whether Bayer has reasonable substantiation for the claim that based on label indications, Claritin-D relieves eight symptoms, but Flonase relieves only six. In April 2019, it was concluded that Bayer provided a reasonable basis for its claim. In March 2020, Neuner logged another win for this client when the National Advertising Review Board reversed a September 2019 decision of the National Advertising Division and found that Bayer provided reasonable and reliable scientific support for the claims that Aleve is “proven better on pain than Tylenol Extra Strength” and that Aleve is “proven better on pain than Tylenol” for the first six hours post-dosing. 

     New York-based securities figurehead Jonathan Youngwood and Palo Alto-based Jim Kreissman have kept busy in a range of actions concerning ubiquitous online juggernauts such as Twitter and Alibaba. In addition to his role as one of the firm’s most active securities practitioners, Youngwood has also pursued a zealous pro bono agenda, which last year saw him scoring a big win in a matter concerning racial profiling among police in Mississippi. 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. Peter Guryan focuses more on merger work, and Sara Razi is known for assisting private equity clients in strategic transactions, many of which are outside the US, as well as clients in industries ranging from energy to healthcare.

Wilkinson Walsh

While it operates from offices in Washington DC, New York and Los Angeles, Wilkinson Walsh remains the essence of “litigation boutique.” More specifically, a litigation boutique with a uniquely pronounced emphasis on high-end trial work. Formed in 2016 by veteran DC trial celebrity Beth Wilkinson, Wilkinson Walsh 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. “Four years on, Wilkinson Walsh is still knocking them dead,” observes a peer. Even the departure of two partners (former name partner Sean Eskovitz, which precipitated the change to the firm’s new and more abbreviated name, and Brant Bishop) as well as the obvious impact of COVID-19 on jury trials (the firm’s go-to calling card) have done little to affect either Wilkinson Walsh’s internal mojo or dim the firm’s lustre in the eyes of peers. One peer at another litigation shop confides, “It’s the place we’re watching and wishing we could be more like.”
     Wilkinson remains one of the most in-demand trial lawyers in the country. “Still one of the best,” sums up one peer, while another confirms, “Beth is all over the place, just running from trial to trial.” 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 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. In 2018 she was hired by Brett Kavanaugh, then a US Supreme Court nominee, to help shepherd him through confirmation proceedings at which he had been accused of a decades-old sexual misconduct allegation. More recently, Wilkinson was retained by Summer Zervos, a former contestant on The Apprentice, in a defamation suit against Donald Trump in New York state court that accuses Trump of lying in his denials that he did not grope and kiss her without consent in 2007. The case is pending.
     While Wilkinson is undoubtedly the firm’s center of gravity, she has developed a team that is quickly making a name for themselves individually. Fellow name partner Alexandra Walsh led a team that won a decisive victory for Bayer in a $600 million certified consumer class-action lawsuit brought on behalf of One A Day multivitamin consumers. Plaintiffs had originally sought over $4 billion, but Walsh and her team managed to dramatically reduce Bayer’s exposure. The case was a rare example of a certified class-action going to trial and was a resounding victory for the firm and client. A team led by Brian Stekloff, Tamarra Matthews-Johnson and Rakesh Kilaru, served as trial counsel for Monsanto in the first federal court trial addressing allegations that Roundup causes Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The jury returned a roughly $81 million verdict for the plaintiff, which was reduced to just over $25 million in post-trial proceedings. Wilkinson, Walsh, and Kilaru represent National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in an antitrust class action involving claims by current and former NCAA college football and basketball student athletes challenging NCAA rules limiting the level of athletics-based financial aid and benefits that student athletes may receive. The district court’s opinion enjoined certain limitations on benefits that student-athletes may receive but rejected plaintiffs’ broader-ranging efforts to transform college athletics and reaffirmed the procompetitive value of the NCAA’s rules. The case is currently on appeal.

Williams & Connolly

Williams & Connolly is a preeminent DC-based litigation law firm. Recognized as one of Benchmark’s Top 20 Trial Firms, Williams & Connolly is home to an array of skilled, trial-tested lawyers who specialize in securities, antitrust, intellectual property, product liability, white collar, and First Amendment disputes.
                Enu Mainigi returns to Benchmark’s Top 250 Women in Litigation list for the fifth consecutive year for her fierce representation of clients in false claims act and qui tam proceedings. She led the trial and strategy team on behalf of CVS Health Corp. in antitrust hearings before the District of Columbia concerning the $69 billion merger between CVS and Aetna. Fellow DC partner and Top 250 star Heidi Hubbard was described by a competitor as “someone who has worked tremendously hard over the course of her career and deserves all of the recognition she receives” adding, “Heidi does not miss.” Lisa Blatt has argued and won more cases before the Court than any other woman in history. A peer describes her as “instrumental in paving the way for future generations of female lawyers, and lawyers in general.” Ana Reyes represents foreign government officials and international organizations, among others, in international actions. She recently represented nine individual asylum seekers, including three children
who challenged the ruling issued by the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security barring refugees crossing between ports of entry from seeking asylum, finding that the rule was inconsistent with federal immigration law. Hubbard, Blatt, and Reyes were also selected to this year’s Top 250 Women in Litigation list by Benchmark.
                Joseph Petrosinelli was lead national counsel in a complete victory for Pfizer in connection with federal multidistrict litigation originally established in 2016, involving cases alleging that Pfizer’s Viagra caused the exacerbation of plaintiffs’ melanoma. Petrosinelli presented both opening and closing arguments and cross-examining one of plaintiffs’ lead experts in a four-day Daubert evidentiary hearing in October 2019, which, in January 2020 the court issued an order excluding plaintiffs’ general causation experts under Daubert, finding the experts’ opinions unreliable and inadmissible. This decision made it impossible for plaintiffs to proceed on their claims, and in April 2020, the court granted summary judgment and entered judgment in favor of Pfizer and its co-defendant Eli Lilly. Robert Van Virk obtained injunctive relief for Lockheed Martin after the district court granted a temporary restraining order on an ex parte basis prior to ordering the briefing. The case, which raised significant questions of first impression, succeeded on the merits.  Ryan Scarborough successfully represented  First Federal Bank of Kansas City and a certain number of its directors in connection with a class action lawsuit filed by depositors seeking to hold them liable for not distributing to depositors excess capital that had been built up over more than a century. The case threatened the foundation underpinning mutual bank associations, given their inability to raise capital other than through gradually amassing capital from surplus earnings each year. After the firm filed a motion to dismiss, which was subsequently appealed, the Eighth Circuit affirmed the dismissal, and plaintiffs elected not to seek certiorari from the Supreme Court. IP litigator David Berl successfully represented ION Geophysical Corporation in proceedings before the Federal Circuit on remand from the US Supreme Court where WesternGeco accused ION of patent infringement based on ION’s sales of devices in the marine seismic survey market. Continuing the IP strengths of the firm is Bruce Genderson who serves as co-lead counsel to Google and YouTube in consolidated patent infringement actions pending in the Southern District of New York in which YouTube’s Content ID system is accused of infringing three patents assigned to Network-1. The cases are currently in discovery, and no trial date has been set.

 

Labor and employment
Hunton Andrews Kurth

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.