Solicitors governing body: State bar associations
Competition authority: Federal Trade Commission
Financial regulators: Securities and Exchange Commission, Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Federal Reserve, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, Securities Investor Protection Corporation
IFLR1000 ranking categories for this jurisdiction:
Banking, Capital markets: Debt, Capital markets: Derivatives, Capital markets: Equity, Capital markets: High-yield, Capital markets: Structured finance and securitisation, Financial services regulatory, Hedge Funds, Private equity funds, Registered funds, M&A, Private equity, Project development, Project finance, Restructuring and insolvency
The United States has a corporate legal industry of incomparable vastness and complexity. It includes everything from single-lawyer boutiques to global firms with thousands of lawyers. Law firms that began operating in the 1790s compete with new entrants and with the local offices of 'magic circle' and European firms eager to expand their US beachhead. Large law firms in the US may include both transactional and dispute (including contentious regulatory and trial litigation) practices. There is wide variety among firms with respect to structure. Many firms have associates, counsel, and partners, but not all partnerships follow the equity (shareholder) model, nor do all firms agree on the desirability of an “up-or-out” policy for associates.
With 203 law schools accredited by the American Bar Association, the US is blessed with an enormous pool of legal talent. It is common, to a greater extent than in countries like neighboring Canada, to meet lawyers devoted to a highly specialised sub-area within a field of corporate law, such as the high-yield debt capital markets, the real estate investment trust (or REIT) area of the funds and securities worlds, the shipping finance side of bank lending, or the renewable energy sector within project finance. There is corresponding variety in law firms. Some devote themselves entirely to hedge funds, some specialise in creditor-and/or debtor-side restructuring, some focus on financial services regulations, while still others are litigation shops protecting corporations from class actions.
Corporate law firms in the US have come in for criticism for their lawyers’ fees, which often exceed $1,000 an hour, and for tactics that some view as rapacious. Symbolic of the worst tendencies of US firms in some observers’ eyes was the law firm Dewey & LeBoeuf, which collapsed in May 2012 after years of aggressively hiring partners to the point where the firm’s revenues fell short of its myriad obligations. Dewey’s dissolution flooded the legal market with experienced legal professionals in need of new platforms. The rebukes directed at Dewey, and at some firms still in operation, are reminiscent of criticisms leveled at banks and financial services corporations whose reckless behavior contributed to the financial crisis of 2008-9.
The meltdown of 2008-9 led to extensive consolidation within the banking industry, but had even greater ramifications at the regulatory level, as authorities grasped for ways to ensure economic and political stability and assuage a badly shaken public. Among the most significant developments were the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (commonly known as the Dodd-Frank Act), which President Barack Obama signed into law on July 21 2010, and one of its core provisions, the Volcker Rule. Today, banking regulations in the US are so extensive and complex that lawyers devote significant parts of their careers to keeping abreast of regulatory changes, representing banks before regulatory bodies, and educating clients through seminars, talks, articles, bulletins, and webcasts.
Symbolic of the Dodd-Frank Act’s general thrust is its requirement that banks prepare detailed reports enumerating all of their assets around the world and setting forth exactly what will happen in the event of a wind-down. These documents are known as “Living Wills” and typically run to thousands of pages. Assisting banks with the preparation and updating of their Living Wills, which must anticipate events unfolding under separate and often conflicting legal frameworks, has virtually given rise to a new field within bank regulatory work. But it is the Volcker Rule, named after former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, with its ban on somewhat vaguely defined “proprietary trading” by banks, that has proven the most contentious part of Dodd-Frank, and the hardest to enforce.
Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer is a firm whose key strengths are in project finance, private equity funds and M&A.
The firm advised the likes Pharmachem Laboratories, EQT Mid-Market US, Onex Corporation and Ultrafabrics on M&A deals.
The firm advised Astoria Financial, FNB Corporation and First Republic Bank on finance and regulatory matters.
The biggest news from the firm can be seen in the name: Arnold & Porter merged with Kaye Scholer this past November.
“During our refinancing in the first quarter every member of the APKS firm was available and provided expert advice and recommendations.”- Refinancing
“They are excellent and we have a great relationship. They do not overcomplicate things and understand the business objective. I always feel that they can empathise when providing advice.” - Project Finance
“Dedicated, intelligent and understands what I need to complete or walk away from a project.”
“Sheryl is either immediately available or gets right back to me. She was great during our refinancing. Her recommendations for our New Credit Agreement gave us much more flexibility and a very user friendly agreement.”
Ashurst remains a firm whose speciality comes from their work in capital markets, but is also increasing its activity in banking and project finance.
In banking, the firm advised BNY Mellon and Capvis Equity Partners.
Likewise, the firm’s key capital market clients include Natixis Securities America and Sound Point Capital Management.
In project finance, the firm advised Fargo-Moorhead Flood Diversion Board of Authority in their $2 billion permanent flood protection project. This deal is one of the only flood diversion channels to be considered a PPP (P3), and is the first one in North America.
Bracewell stands out for its banking, project finance and project development groups.
In banking, the firm represented Great Plains Energy in its purchase of Westar Energy for $12.2 billion.
Bracewell added partner Dale Smith to its banking team from Locke Lord during the research period.
Key clients include Phillips 66, Sysco, Wells Fargo and Kinder Morgan.
“The outstanding quality of Bracewell's work has been apparent on every matter on which we have engaged them.” - Investment funds
“There is simplicity to their approach. They find straightforward solutions to issues and endeavours to keep things simple. This allows a greater understanding by all involved of the business and legal constraints.” - Investment Funds
“Bracewell has been an invaluable source of advice and actual execution of documents.” - Restructuring and insolvency
“Heather is very knowledgeable in the energy lending space, a strong communicator and partner, accessible and responsive to client needs and timelines. She takes a very active role in the details of transactions and is reliable, knowledgeable and creative in helping formulate solutions that all parties can get comfortable with.”
“Jeris is extremely helpful and focused on detail. She is easily accessible, turns documents in quickly and is pragmatic.”
“Kate is an excellent lawyer in the energy space. She is always accessible, and fantastic at dissecting complex legal issues to get to the key issues. Kate has a great demeanour in negotiations - she can strongly get her point across without being offensive.”
“Kate Day is very intelligent, thoughtful, quickly identifies issues and appreciates nuance. She is very knowledgeable about corporate finance, particularly energy lending and is able to share her insights in a way that is easy for clients to digest. Finally, Kate is genuine and has utmost integrity.”
“Very commercial and knows the issues facing investment funds very well. She has a great network and bench at the firm which assists her clients.”
“Superb practice area expertise and outstanding responsiveness. We have come to expect superior work product and client service from Cheri after years of working with her on highly sensitive matters.”
“Probably the best lawyer I've worked with. Aside from being extremely knowledgeable and efficient, Cheri clearly cares about her clients.”
Cadwalader’s biggest strengths are its structured finance, derivatives and regulatory practices.
True to its reputation as a regulatory leader, the firm worked with US financial institutions on a number of important innovations, including the first risk-retention CMBS issuance under Dodd-Frank and a reformation of the International Swaps and Derivatives Association’s (ISDA) credit documentation practices.
The structured finance practice added special counsel Tim Hicks from Mayer Brown and partner Jeremy Cross from King & Wood Mallesons. Meanwhile, the M&A practice lost partner Aly El Hamamsy but gained special counsel Daniel Raglan from Baker McKenzie. Finally, the restructuring practice picked up Eric Waxman as counsel from Westerman Ball Ederer Miller Zucker & Sharfstein.
Some of Cadwalader’s most important clients from over the past year were Freddie Mac and Wells Fargo.
“The firm does top notch work, particularly on complex transactions. The senior lawyers respond in a timely fashion, have strong technical ability, and possess broad knowledge of the mortgage industry and financial markets.” – Structured finance
“Excellent knowledge and reasoning in the field of derivatives, both in the US and globally.” – Derivatives
“Brian is a subject matter expert on fund finance; he is knowledgeable and has a deep and broad experience in handling fund financing transactions which puts him in a unique position to provide commercial insight and highlight operational impacts of changes to legal agreements.”
“Chris is among the best mortgage industry attorneys for structured finance. He is creative at problem solving and an excellent negotiator.”
“The best derivatives lawyer in the US.”
Cahill Gordon & Reindel is a debt capital markets stand out, and an industry leader when it comes to high yield debt transactions. The firm also boasts a tier-two banking and finance practice, as well as a solid equity capital markets practice.
Stand-out deals for Cahill include working on the debt financing for Comcast’s acquisition of DreamWorks and the high yield debt financing for Dell’s acquisition of EMC.
Cahill’s industry sector specialties include media, technology and telecommunications, which provided them with a lot of work last year.
In addition to the two deals given above, the firm advised both debt financing sources and underwriters on a significant number of acquisition finance deals. Another such deal was in relation to Avolon’s $3 billion debt offering to finance its acquisition of C2 Aviation Capital.
The banking practice was also involved in a number of technology finance deals, primarily representing lenders. The team was involved with a financing deal for Ancestry.com and an acquisition finance deal for Western Digital.
Among Cahill’s key clients from the past year were banks such as Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Credit Suisse and Barclays.
A leader in debt capital markets and equity capital markets deals, Cleary also has top-tier derivatives and regulatory practices. In addition, the firm is a competitive performer in the M&A, private equity and private equity funds spaces.
One of Cleary’s biggest deals from the past year was the dual-listed IPO of the messaging platform Line, which was the biggest tech IPO of 2016.
Cleary handled significant deals in a multitude of sectors, including technology and pharmaceuticals.
Both the debt capital markets and equity capital markets practices advised issuers and underwriters on a number of large offerings, including Teva Pharmaceuticals’ debt financing for its acquisition of Allergan.
Meanwhile, the M&A team was especially busy advising acquirers, like Westlake Chemical in its hostile takeover of Axiall.
Key clients from last year include Coca-Cola, Morgan Stanley and private equity firm TPG.
A storied US firm, Cravath is a top-tier performer in banking, debt capital markets, equity capital markets and M&A. A couple highlight deals from the firm include advising Johnson & Johnson on its acquisition of Actelion and Qualcomm on $9 billion in credit facilities.
Cravath worked on deals across a wide group of industries, most notably in the pharmaceuticals, consumer goods and industrial and chemicals sectors.
In M&A, the firm advised a healthy balance of acquirers, targets and merger parties.
The banking and finance practice mostly focused on representing borrowers, including pharmaceutical company Mylan on its $4 billion in loan and credit facilities.
The firm’s M&A practice lost partners Scott Barshay and Jonathan Davis to Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison and Kirkland & Ellis, respectively.
Some of Cravath’s most significant and consistent clients were Stanley Black & Decker, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
“Cravath is one of the top law firms in the world. Their work exceeds expectations.” – M&A
“Deep industry knowledge.” – Capital markets
“Smart, knowledgeable, personable, responsive, strong understanding of subject matter and environment and overall transaction.”
“If I have a choice, he is my go-to for all high yield issuances.”
“Damien is one of the best corporate lawyers in the United States.”
Davis Polk is a leading firm virtually across the board in the US. Its tier one rankings include banking, debt capital markets, derivatives, equity capital markets, regulatory and M&A. The firm also comes in at tier two for restructuring and insolvency, private equity funds and high yield debt.
With quite a number of sizeable deals to choose from, two that still particularly stand out are DISH Network’s $1 billion private placement of convertible notes and Valeant Pharmaceutical’s $3.25 billion Rule 144A/Regulation S offering.
In addition to pharmaceuticals and telecommunications, Davis Polk was very active in the oil and gas sector, with multiple practices such as the restructuring and capital markets groups working on deals that involved oil and gas companies.
The firm made the additions of counsel Oren Gertner to its investment funds practice from Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson and partner Darren Klein to its restructuring practice from Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy. The regulatory practice lost counsel Charles Steele to a government position, but recovered in perfectly symmetrical fashion by obtaining counsel Will Schisa from a previous government position with the US Department of the Treasury.
Other important clients include data and colocation company Equinix and Citigroup Global Markets.
“He provides excellent service and strategic advice.”
A well-balanced firm, Debevoise is strong in a number of practice areas: the firm is in the first tier for private equity funds, and in the second tier for M&A, private equity, regulatory and banking.
The formation of the Global Infrastructure Partners III fund was a particular deal stand out for the funds team, as was the merger of Envision Healthcare and AMSURG for the M&A group.
One sector that kept Debevoise busy was the food industry, with food distributors Reynolds Group Holdings and US Food Holding both coming to the firm for assistance on debt capital markets transactions. US Food also sought Debevoise’s equity capital markets team in relation to its IPO.
The infrastructure sector was also a focus for Debevoise; the firm worked on the formation of infrastructure funds in addition to the aforementioned Global Infrastructure Partners III, among them North Haven Infrastructure Partners II.
In terms of lateral moves, the restructuring group lost partners George Maguire and Joseph Moodhe, but added Christopher Updike from Cadwalader as counsel. Meanwhile, the regulatory group added counsel David Aman from Cleary.
Some key clients for Debevoise include Westpac Banking Corporation, Booz Allen Hamilton and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.
A stand out in the funds world, Dechert’s registered funds practice garnered a tier one ranking, while its hedge funds practice comes in at tier two. In addition, the firm has maintained a robust structured finance group.
One highlight deal came from the structured finance group, which worked as issuer’s counsel on an $875 million loan securitisation by Progress Residential.
The firm handled a lot of work over the last year in the real estate, food and beverage and healthcare fields. In the food and beverage sector, the firm represented the lender on the whole business securitisations of franchises Taco Bell and Arby’s.
The Bregal Sagemount II fund formation was a coup for Dechert’s funds team.
Among Dechert’s most significant clients were Rabobank International, Citigroup Global Markets and Cerberus Capital Management.
Dentons’ US strengths are its structured finance and restructuring and insolvency practices.
The firm’s structured finance practice advised Credit Suisse Securities as initial purchaser in connection with a series of three securitisations worth $5 billion.
The capital markets group added Carolyn Richter as counsel from Troutman Sanders during the research period.
Among Dentons’ other key clients were Merill Lynch Pierce Fenner & Smith and Wells Fargo Securities.
Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson’s biggest strength is in hedge funds.
However, the firm was involved in significant transactions across a range of practice areas. In equity capital markets, Fried Frank acted for the underwriter to Athene Holding on an IPO for an aggregate total of $1.25 billion, the third largest of 2016.
In investment funds, Fried Frank acted as counsel to Brookfield Asset Management in the $9 billion creation of Brookfield Strategic Real Estate Partners II.
Fried Frank’s M&A and private equity group made a few additions, including partner Brian Miner from Reed Smith and special counsel Amber Meek from Kirkland & Ellis. Meanwhile, the capital markets practice added partner Meredith Mackey from Davis Polk & Wardwell.
Gibson Dunn & Crutcher boasts strong rankings in banking, private equity funds and M&A.
In banking, the firm represented Marriott International in their $4 billion revolving credit agreement, the proceeds of which were used to fund the acquisition of Starwood Hotels.
In investment funds, the firm advised Leonard Green in the formation of a $9.6 billion private equity fund, which was one of the largest globally raised funds in 2016.
In M&A, the firm represented St Jude on their $30.7 billion acquisition by Abbott. In private equity, the firm represented a Chinese syndicate of investors, led by Hua Capital in their $1.9 billion acquisition of OmniVision Technologies. This deal represents one of the largest Chinese semiconductor company acquisitions.
In restructuring and insolvency, the firm advised Sports Authority in their ongoing bankruptcy case valued at $1.6 billion, which is the largest among retailers.
Gibson Dunn climbed into the second tier for private equity funds this year.
Key clients include Stone Canyon Industries, SemGroup Corporation and Tyco International.
Greenberg Traurig excels in capital markets and banking.
The firm did score a highlight deal in M&A last year, representing Nipro Diagnostics on their $273 million acquisition by the Chinese company Sinocare.
In capital markets, key clients included Aeropuertos Argentina 2000, SBA Communications, International Flavors & Fragrances and Oppenheimer.
“They have always provided excellent service with very thoughtful, timely and accurate advice. Their expertise is second to none.” – Regulatory
“Top in their class. True professionals, extremely knowledgeable, responsive and client-focused.” – M&A
“Extremely knowledgeable in broker dealer/securities law and litigation. Highly responsive. True partner to our business.”
“Mr Karlinsky has a vast network of contacts and is very quick to connect us to the right people in the regulatory realm. He is well loved by the industry, and has a stellar reputation.”
Jenner & Block’s strengths are its M&A and private equity practices.
One significant transaction that the firm handled was Snyder’s-Lance’s $1.91 billion acquisition of Diamond Foods.
The firm added M&A partners Olga Loy and Kyle Gann from Jones Day and Kirkland & Ellis, respectively during the research period.
Other important clients included Hertz Global Holdings, Merrick Media and US Foods Holding Corp.
King & Spalding’s work in the banking and project development areas stands out from the last year. One highlight was representing Total System Services (TSYS) in relation to the financing for its $1.5 billion acquisition of TransFirst Holdings.
The firm is an industry leader in the oil and gas and energy sectors.
The banking practice made quite a few additions over the past year, adding partners Terry Novestky and Jeffrey Misher from Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer, Jason Huff and Christopher Buchanan from Moore & Van Allen, Jennifer Daly from Hunter Peak Investments and Brian Betancourt from Alston & Bird.
“Excellent in leveraged finance banking work.” – Banking and finance
“Long tenured, deep financing knowledge of sector.”
Although perhaps best known as a star in the private equity space, Kirkland is another example of a firm that excels across a range of practice areas, In addition to private equity, Kirkland is a top-tier firm in M&A, banking, private equity funds and restructuring. The firm also places in the second tier for high yield debt.
One highlight deal came from the banking team, which advised healthcare company Abbott Laboratories on the financing for its $8.4 billion acquisition of Alere.
The Abbott deal was far from the only one that Kirkland worked on in the healthcare sector. The banking team advised the lenders in relation to several other high-profile industry acquisition finance transactions.
The private equity group advised both buying and selling private equity firms in relation to deals in a diverse mix of industries.
The debt and high yield capital markets teams maintained their positions as issuer-side practices, advising on large issuances in a range of sectors, most notably the food and beverage and energy fields.
Kirkland & Ellis acquired a considerable amount of talent over the course of this past year. The firm added private equity partners Shubi Arora, Doug Bacon and Adam Larson in Houston, Kevin Ehrhart in Los Angeles, Roger Lucas in Chicago, and Peter Martelli, Sarah Stasny and Michael Weisser in New York. Meanwhile, partner Justin Hoffman joined the capital markets group, and partners Nicholas Cassin, Robert Emerson, John Kelley, Shannon O’Sullivan and Jamie Lynn Walter joined the investment funds practice. Finally, the restructuring team picked up partner Brian Lennon.
Kirkland’s debt capital markets practice moved into the second tier from the third this year.
Unsurprisingly, private equity firms Blackstone, Bain Capital, Vista Equity Partners and KKR round out the list of Kirkland’s most important clients from the past year.
“Very good knowledge and breadth of practice.” – Capital markets, M&A
“Within its relevant areas of expertise, Kirkland & Ellis has moved head and shoulders above virtually all of its competitors--particularly in the investment funds practice. They are extraordinarily responsive and knowledgeable about market terms, which is bolstered by their collaborative environment and unparalleled knowledge management systems.” – Investment funds
“Jim is always available to get the job done. Very reasonable and commercial.”
“Daniel is a top flight lawyer with an extraordinary work ethic capable of giving practical business-oriented advice.”
Chicago’s Mayer Brown is a leading player in structured finance, and ranks in the second tier for project finance.
One headline deal for the structured finance team came from Deephaven Mortgage’s RMBS issue, which was one of the first subprime RMBS transactions since the financial crisis.
Mayer Brown worked on a number of energy sector deals, particularly with regards to the restructuring and insolvency practice.
The capital markets team was active on quite a few debt issuances with international components, including in jurisdictions like China, Switzerland and Canada. Many of these issuances were in either the pharmaceutical or energy sectors.
In addition, the project finance group handled several cross-border Latin American energy deals, including advising Noble Corporation on a hydrocarbon products transportation facility in Mexico.
Mayer Brown bolstered its M&A practice last year with the hires of partners Ryan Lawrence and Marjorie Loeb. Meanwhile, the derivatives group added partner Douglas Donahue from Cadwalader.
Some key clients from the past year were PNC Bank, Novartis and Merrill Lynch Pierce Fenner & Smith.
“A market-leading practice with a deep bench that can handle virtually any deal in the securitised financing space.” – Structured finance
“High quality work by the partners we work with, each of whom has a good understanding of our business.” – Restructuring and insolvency
“Doug is great to work with. He is incredibly responsive, very practical, and has a deep knowledge of the market.”
“Bill plays with all the winning cards. He's very smart, practical and knowledgeable. He's extremely hardworking. He's very likeable and a joy to work with.”
“An absolute guru who can provide expert-level advice for virtually any ABS deal.”
McDermott Will & Emery stands out for its banking and M&A work.
The firm handled an array of transactions in the asset management and banking industries during the research period.
Jimmy John’s, Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase Bank were among the firm’s most significant clients.
“Good team players. Know the material. Easy to work with.” – Restructuring and insolvency
“Tim is excellent. Knows how to run a case and manage a board.”
Milbank’s top practice areas are its tier-one project finance and tier-two restructuring groups.
One of Milbank’s top deals came in the form of Linn Energy’s $7.7 billion Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Milbank’s restructuring practice established its energy sector credentials with a bevy of industry-related deals from last year, in addition to Linn Energy’s bankruptcy. The team advised a mixture of lending and restructuring parties.
The firm also handled gaming industry transactions in a couple of different practice areas, including Red Rocks Resorts’ $531 million IPO.
Thanks to a long list of debt capital markets deals connected to Verizon, Milbank was very active in the telecommunications space as well.
In terms of lateral moves, Milbank added special counsel Lesley Janzen to its capital markets practice.
Some of Milbank’s most significant clients were Export Development Canada, Citigroup Global Markets and Caesars Entertainment.
“The work is top notch and the depth of experience is among the best who practice in these areas. “ – Restructuring and insolvency
“A strong, organised team leader who can get the different constituents in a deal to the finish line, a finish line that represents the best for his client. Supremely accessible, persuasive and commercial, Mark is tops in terms of technical expertise and innovation, but excels to an even greater extent in managing the process of a restructuring.”
Morgan Lewis & Bockius has particularly strong M&A, private equity, structured finance and hedge funds practices.
On the banking side highlights include work for JPMorgan and Bank of America Merrill Lynch in three separate financings worth a total of $9 billion to MetLife and its subsidiary Brighthouse Financial.
In M&A, Morgan Lewis a clear standout matter was the firm’s work for Health Net in its $6.8 billion sale to Centene.
The structured finance practice added partners Cory Barry and Mark Riccardi from Chapman & Cutler during the research period. On the back of those additions and a number of especially innovative structured finance deals, the firm moves into the third tier for the practice area this year.
Some other important clients of the firm include MPM Capital, TCG Advisory Services and Lime Rock Management.
“Morgan Lewis has been my go-to law firm for many years. The partners we work with there are top notch and they do a very good job of providing continuity for the team working with us. They also make our transactions a top priority. We truly feel like they are an integral part of our deal team!” – M&A
“They have a broad view of the market and are able to provide timely and market current advice in every situation.” - Private equity
“Very responsive, knowledgeable and practical about finding solutions.”
“His work is excellent; he is a longstanding and trusted adviser on all matters of corporate law.”
“Jim is a phenomenal lawyer. He is very bright, thoughtful, commercial, pragmatic and solution-oriented. He has been there for us on many deals and has been instrumental on working through deal issues and properly assessing risk in various areas of a transaction.”
Morrison & Foerster (MoFo) ranks as a tier-two firm for structured finance and derivatives. MoFo also has several other competitive practices, including equity capital markets and private equity funds.
A particular stand-out deal that the firm worked on this past year was the $93 billion cross-border formation of the SoftBank Vision Fund.
The firm advised on a smattering of deals in the technology and real estate sectors, including other transactions in the funds space.
Meanwhile, the M&A group was busy advising acquirers in the energy sector, such as Starwood Energy on its $760 million acquisition of assets from NextEra Energy Resources.
Morrison & Foerster added new talent to its investment funds group in the form of partner Sara Terheggen, who joined from Skadden.
Among Morrison & Foerster’s most important clients were Axium Infrastructure and IMT Capital.
Norton Rose Fulbright is known in the US for its work in the project finance and financial services regulatory areas.
One highlight from the project finance practice was the $1 billion financing for the SH288 toll lanes project in Texas.
The big news during the research period was the announcement of the firm’s merger with Chadbourne & Parke, which further bolstered its already exceptional project finance and project development practices.
In financial services, the firm’s key clients included Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, and Scottsdale Capital Advisors.
“Excellent negotiator and problem solver.”
O’Melveny & Myers (OMM) stands out in the capital markets, banking, project finance and project development spaces.
The firm is especially active in the infrastructure sector, seen from its work on the financing and development of the LaGuardia and Ontario International Airports.
The firm added real estate counsel Misty Allen during the
Some of the firm’s most important clients included American Honda Finance, BofA Merrill Lynch and Verso.
“Excellent firm.” – Project finance, Capital markets
“Excellent at spotting issues, providing options and alternatives and recommending solutions.”
Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe’s key strength lies in structured finance, as well as in banking and restructuring and insolvency.
One highlight for the banking practice was representing a Japan-based subordinated lien group of lenders in their $3.4 billion sale-leaseback transaction for the Sprint Corporation.
Key structured finance clients included Credit Suisse, Nissan and SG Capital.
“They have a practical approach and are appreciated by bankers for their ability to make the documentation process simple.” - Banking
“Ron has strong knowledge, conceptual negotiation skills, clear communication, solid execution, and is very responsive.”
“Zachary is an outstanding business partner and his strengths are his creativity, accessibility, diligence and his ability to bring all of Orrick's resources to bare.”
“BJ is a talented lawyer who works on a variety of deals, from direct lending transactions to broadly syndicated term loans. He is a creative thinker and is adept at finding solutions to difficult issues. He pays close attention to detail and strives to ‘get it right’.”
Paul Weiss’ strengths include its debt capital markets, private equity, restructuring, private equity funds and hedge funds practices, all of which rank in the second tier.
One highlight transaction that the firm worked on was Apollo Global Management’s $4.3 billion acquisition of cloud-computing company Rackspace.
The firm more than maintained its reputation in the funds space, advising on the formation of a number of sizeable private equity funds, among them OHA Strategic Credit Fund II, which will be investing in distressed companies in both North America and Europe.
Paul Weiss also managed to obtain work in the hedge fund space, despite the slow hedge fund market in the US. Many of those deal details remain confidential.
Like all other highly ranked restructuring practices in the US, the Paul Weiss team worked on several large energy sector bankruptcies, especially in connection to the coal industry.
Paul Weiss scored a huge addition to its M&A group by luring partner Scott Barshay to be the firm’s global head of M&A from Cravath.
Paul Weiss’ relationship with previously mentioned private equity firm Apollo has become so well known that it’s almost not worth noting. Among Paul Weiss’ other important clients were Blackstone and Gamut Capital Management.
Ropes & Gray excels in the private equity, private equity funds, registered funds and regulatory spaces. The firm also places in the second tier for M&A and hedge funds.
Among Ropes and Gray’s stand-out deals was Bain Capital’s $4.6 billion sale of Blue Coat to Symantec Systems.
The firm’s funds practice advised on the formation of a number of funds focused on the energy and real estate sectors.
Meanwhile, the M&A team was occupied with a series of transactions involving the pharmaceuticals and life sciences and manufacturing industries. One representative transaction in the industrials space was WestRock’s $2.28 billion acquisition of Multi Packaging Solutions.
Ropes & Gray expanded its M&A group with the addition of new global practice head Paul Scrivano.
Ropes & Gray’s private equity funds practice made the move into the first tier this year.
Key clients include Mentor Graphics, Harvard University and TPG Capital.
Shearman ranks highly for its derivatives, high yield and project finance practices.
One of its deal highlights came when the firm represented the US Department of Transportation in connection with the development and financing for the P3 Purple Line light rail project in Maryland.
Meanwhile, the M&A team worked on several acquirer-side deals in the industrials and insurance sectors, including Ardagh’s $3.4 billion acquisition of can manufacturing assets from the Ball Corporation and Rexam. Like Ardagh’s, many of these deals were cross-border.
The restructuring practice was active with regards to a host of energy sector bankruptcies, often as counsel for banks serving as administrative agents.
Shearman bolstered its M&A practice with the additions of partner Brien Wassner and counsel Don Suh, partially offsetting its loss of three partners to Paul Hastings and one partner to telecommunications company Altice.
The Paul Weiss banking team jumped up into the fourth tier this year, while the debt capital markets group made the move to the second tier.
Among Shearman’s most important clients were General Electric, Citibank and Barclays.
“Exemplary work, leanly staffed, incredibly responsive.” – Restructuring and insolvency
“Shearman & Sterling is attuned to Japanese corporate culture and sensitivities, and is our ‘go to’ firm for US law purposes. While there are many US lawyers who know the law, very few have a full team of bi-cultural lawyers from partners to associates with hands-on experience advising on complex matters loaded with cultural issues.” – M&A, Regulatory
“Joel is a rising star within the firm, advising us on bankruptcy, restructuring and resolution matters. His work is top notch, he is incredibly responsive and his mastery of bankruptcy law is second to none.”
A powerhouse firm in many categories, Simpson Thacher’s banking, debt capital markets, equity capital markets, private equity funds, M&A and private equity practices all place in the top tier. Additionally, the firm’s high yield debt, regulatory and hedge funds groups make the second tier.
With an impressive array to choose from, two deals from the past year that still stand were Invitation Homes’ $1.8 billion IPO and Microsoft’s $28.2 billion acquisition of LinkedIn.
The banking practice worked with borrowers on acquisition finance transactions in a wide range of industries. The financing for Mars’ $9.1 billion acquisition of VCA was among the group’s most noteworthy deals.
The firm advised a balance of buyers and targets in the M&A space, in a variety of sectors including industrials, technology, banking and energy.
The equity capital markets team represented issuers and underwriters on a number of large IPOs and secondary offerings.
The debt capital markets group advised underwriters in relation to multiple high-profile technology industry offerings, involving companies like Apple and Dell.
The Simpson Thacher regulatory practice added partner Keith Noreika during the research period.
Some of Simpson Thacher’s key clients from the past year were Blackstone, JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs.
“The team at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett offers top-notch investment funds and regulatory advice. Within investment funds, their advice is thorough, commercial and cost-effective. With their regulatory advice, we have found them to be uniquely positioned to provide helpful advice on rulemaking and exam preparation.” – Investment funds, Regulatory
“Rajib is highly skilled at helping clients reach pragmatic and commercial results.”
Skadden’s first-tier rankings form a considerable list: debt capital markets, equity capital markets, structured finance, regulatory, M&A and restructuring. As a further testament to the firm’s balance, Skadden comes it at the second tier for project finance, private equity, hedge funds and banking.
In the M&A space, one highlight deal was Qualcomm’s $38 billion cross-border acquisition of NXP Semiconductors, while in the debt capital markets area, the team advised Express Scripts Holding on a $4 billion notes issue.
On the debt side, Skadden worked with many issuers in addition to Express Scripts, as well as a substantial number of underwriters.
The structured finance team represented a number of underwriters and sponsors on credit card asset-backed notes issuances.
The M&A team picked up a lot of work in the technology realm, advising on Verizon’s $4.83 billion acquisition of Yahoo!’s internet properties and Rovi’s $1.1 billion acquisition of TiVo.
Some key clients were JPMorgan Chase, Permira Funds and Yadkin Financial.
“Skadden is outstanding in delivering an attentive service by lawyers who understand our risk tolerance and way of doing business. They have a deep bench of talent, which is often what sets them apart from other law firms.” – Project finance, Regulatory
“Experts in the field, business oriented and absolute commitment to service, clients and quality.” – Banking and finance
“Ethan is the best lawyer I have ever worked with in my life. He is the all-around package: expertise in the subjects he advises on, attention to detail, commercial mind-set, and ability to communicate complex issues in simple terms.”
Stroock & Stroock & Lavan is best known for its hedge funds practice.
The firm is also especially active on banking deals in the real estate sector.
Some of the firm’s key clients included Atlas Merchant Capital, Vestrics and Blackstone Group.
“Stroock has an outstanding real estate finance department, with a strong bench of highly experienced attorneys. They work hard and get the job done right.” - Banking and finance
“Stroock's derivatives/commodities practice is strong, with a stable of very knowledgeable attorneys who have an excellent grasp of current legal/regulatory developments and commercial practice.”- Derivatives
“Stroock's private fund work product is consistently strong, and they are responsive to calls and emails. They have strong and current practice area knowledge and expertise.”- Private equity
“Brian is one of the top real estate attorneys in the country. He is practical, sharp and a true business person's attorney.”
“Conrad is very responsive and has excellent communication skills. He is able to translate complex and often confusing regulations into digestible and understandable elements.”
“Very strong across the boards.”
A top firm for regulatory work, Sullivan & Cromwell also places in the top tier for debt capital markets, M&A and project finance. The firm also comes it at the second tier for equity capital markets and private equity.
The firm’s M&A practice scored some massive headliners, including Bayer’s $66 billion acquisition of Monsanto and AT&T’s $85.4 billion acquisition of Time Warner.
The debt capital markets group focused on a significant amount of issuances from insurance companies and financial institutions.
In the project finance space, the firm worked on a host of energy sector and road construction deals across a range of jurisdictions, including Latin America and Australia.
Meanwhile, the regulatory practice worked on large number of banking industry transactions, including the completion of KeyCorp’s $4.1 billion acquisition of First Niagara Financial Group and the completion of Huntington Bancshares’ $3.4 billion acquisition of FirstMerit Bank.
The firm’s regulatory team added Charles Gray and Shari Leventhal as special counsel, and Thomas Baxter as counsel.
Among the firm’s most significant clients were Anheuser-Busch InBev, BNP Paribas and Gartner.
“S&C consistently exceeds our expectations. Their lawyers demonstrate sound judgment and are technically well-skilled. S&C lawyers are very accessible and deliver excellent client service. Their relevant industry experience often proves very helpful. Well worth the bill.” – Project finance
“Sullivan & Cromwell's work is excellent in all respects. The reputation of the firm together with the abilities of the lawyers has resulted in our interests being recognized and dealt with. They are always immediately responsive and completely prepared.” Restructuring and insolvency
“Perfect combination of great legal advice with on-point business advice.” – Banking and finance
“Wonderful combination of great legal and business advice. Always responsive. Perfect understanding of the market.”
“Ari is amazing. He has negotiated very well on our behalf to incrementally improve our finance documentation.”
“Pat provides an excellent high level view of securities laws and regulations.”
“Excellent lawyer, great communicator, really smart, deep thinker, easy to work with, always available. No weaknesses.”
“Inosi is one of the smartest, most talented lawyers in project finance. It is a pleasure to work with her. Her creative solutions are immensely valuable to our company. She makes even complicated transactions run smoothly.”
Weil’s strengths are manifold. The firm ranks in the first tier for M&A, private equity and restructuring, and in the second tier for private equity funds, structured finance and banking.
One highlight from the private equity practice was its work on the $10 billion cross-border acquisition of the CIT Group’s aircraft leasing unit by Avolon Holdings.
The M&A practice took on a high volume of work in the healthcare and technology sectors over the past year.
In the banking space, the firm primarily represented borrowers in connection with acquisition finance deals, such as AMC Entertainment on the financing for its acquisition of Nordic Cinema Group Holding.
There was a lot of movement at Weil’s private equity practice, with the additions of partners Brian Gingold and Christopher Machera and the departures of partners Michael Weisser, Sarah Stasny, David Blittner and Garrett Charon.
Some of Weil’s key clients were Broookfield Asset Management, Oracle and Hertz.
“Outstanding client service and attention to detail. Bench strength is remarkable and partners are pragmatic and directly involved in all aspects of the transaction.” – M&A
“A really global practice with expertise in the US, Europe and Asia. Really well linked with their private equity and M&A practices, so it's an integrated experience, which is very helpful to us. We think they are top notch and are very comfortable giving them our most challenging and complex mandates.” – Investment funds
“Outstanding. The attorneys are technically sound, very current with deal terms and market conditions, accessible, and easy to work with. They are savvy negotiators and hard workers” – Banking and finance
“Best in the business. Subject matter expert and very responsive.”
“JP is a phenomenal attorney and truly values the relationship with his client. He seamlessly integrates into the business to effectively communicate issues and facilitate favourable outcomes.”
“Corey is great to work with - responsive, thoughtful and with deep knowledge and experience in the capital markets practice area.”
“The best restructuring lawyer in the US.”
Willkie Farr & Gallagher specialises in M&A, private equity and registered funds transactions.
One of the firm’s highlights came from the banking practice, where it represented Teva in financing the $40.5 billion purchase of Allergan Generics, the largest transaction in Israeli history at the time.
In M&A, the firm advised Level 3 Communications on its acquisition by CenturyLink for $34 billion. The firm moves up into the third tier for M&A this year.
The firm added partner Scott Miller to its M&A group from Bracewell during the research period.
Other key clients included Citibank, Morgan Stanley Senior Funding, Warburg Pincus and Riverstone Holdings.
WilmerHale is a firm that is best known for its work in the financial services regulatory and restructuring and insolvency areas.
The firm worked on a number of significant regulatory matters, but all details remain confidential.