Cover Story: Litigation Department of the Year

The American Lawyer

The LIBOR scandal, massive securities class actions against the big banks, billion-dollar patent wins, eye-popping arbitration awards. While the U.S. economy was struggling to return to health over the last two years, big-ticket litigation was clearly a countercyclical buffer. As the financial meltdown turned from headlines in the press to captions on docket sheets, the litigators at The Am Law 200 were front and center. In their lengthy, detailed submissions to us for 2014 Litigation Department of the Year and our three practice areas honors, we were delighted to see how diverse and cutting-edge the firms' results were over our time frame (August 2011 through July 2013). To draw attention to these efforts, we changed our practice group competitions: We added securities and antitrust along with our traditional, highly competitive IP category. After months of reading the submissions, vetting the firms, and interviewing the finalists at our New York office, we arrived at four winners, 13 runners-up, 10 honorable mentions and six Litigators of the Year. Congratulations to everyone who won, and our sincere thanks to every firm that participated in our contest. —Robin Sparkman


Previous Litigation Department of the Year coverage :: 2012 | 2010 | 2008 | 2006 | 2002

GENERAL LITIGATION

WINNER: DEBEVOISE & PLIMPTON
Debevoise routinely gets clients off the hook with regulators, but in one of the biggest cases to spill from the financial crisis, the firm got regulators off the hook.

FINALIST: AKIN, GUMP, STRAUSS, HAUER & FELD   
Bet-the-company wins for clients across the country show that Akin's litigators have become major players on the national litigation stage.

FINALIST: COVINGTON & BURLING
Covington added muscle in all the right places to fight its way back into the ranks of top litigation firms this year.

FINALIST: GIBSON, DUNN & CRUTCHER
Love them or hate them (or, more likely, fear them) you can't ignore Gibson Dunn's cascade of litigation triumphs.

FINALIST: O'MELVENY & MYERS
Whether it was beating back financial crisis claims against Bank of America or defending Warner Bros. against copyright kryptonite, O'Melveny reminded clients why they keep coming back for more.

FINALIST: SKADDEN, ARPS, SLATE, MEAGHER & FLOM   
Long gone are the days when Skadden's most important clients were all in the U.S. and its litigators played second fiddle to the dealmakers.

HONORABLE MENTIONS
Ten firms win Honorable Mention recognition in our 2014 Litigation Department of the Year competition.
 

SECURITIES

WINNER: PAUL, WEISS, RIFKIND, WHARTON & GARRISON   
When the financial crisis meltdown morphed into securities litigation, Paul Weiss was at the ready—winning key victories for big banks in court and at the bargaining table, especially for Citi.

FINALIST: CRAVATH, SWAINE & MOORE
Cravath's securities litigation group makes up in brains for what it lacks in size.

FINALIST: DAVIS, POLK & WARDWELL 
Davis Polk's elite securities team takes on everyone from the Madoff trustee to greedy shareholders.

FINALIST: SULLIVAN & CROMWELL
Sullivan & Cromwell played a key role in many of the high-profile securities suits arising from the financial crisis.
 

ANTITRUST

WINNER: SIMPSON THACHER & BARTLETT
Simpson Thacher doesn't have the nation's biggest antitrust group. It just seems that way.

FINALIST: GIBSON, DUNN & CRUTCHER
A steady stream of wins in multijurisdictional price-fixing cases burnishes Gibson Dunn's reputation.

FINALIST: WILSON SONSINI GOODRICH & ROSATI
Wilson Sonsini's antitrust team has gone from a tiny firm outpost to an industry heavyweight in 10 years.
 

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY

WINNER: WILMER CUTLER PICKERING HALE and DORR
Locked in a worldwide patent fight with Samsung, Apple has relied on an army of Wilmer lawyers.

FINALIST: FISH & RICHARDSON
They aren't just ubiquitous—Fish handled 20 percent of all U.S. patent cases tried to verdict in 2012—they're successful too.

FINALIST: ORRICK, HERRINGTON & SUTCLIFFE
Orrick lawyers don't just want to beat trolls in court—they want to vanquish them.

FINALIST: WINSTON & STRAWN
Winston won a $1 billion jury verdict for Monsanto, but that's just a taste of what the firm's IP litigators can do.
 

LITIGATORS OF THE YEAR

JUANITA BROOKS
In 2000, after 23 years of specializing in criminal defense, Fish & Richardson's Brooks switched to patent litigation. Despite having no technical background, she has become a titan of the patent bar.

MIGUEL ESTRADA
Got a tough, potentially unwinnable case? Call Gibson Dunn's Estrada. The appellate lawyer's brains and tenacity were on display in recent wins before the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

ROBERT GIUFFRA JR.
A wunderkind of the New York securities defense bar, Sullivan & Cromwell's Giuffra relishes a good fight.  

ROBERTA KAPLAN
Paul Weiss' Kaplan, a gay corporate litigator with an independent streak, helped invalidate part of the Defense of Marriage Act and changed the idea of what it means to love until death do you part.

GEORGE LOMBARDI
A St. Louis jury deliberated just 45 minutes in August 2012 before handing Winston & Strawn's Lombardi and Monsanto Company a $1 billion verdict in a dispute with E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company over the technology behind herbi-cide-resistant crops.

HAROLD McELHINNY
In 2012, Morrison & Foerster's McElhinny convinced a San Jose federal jury that Samsung Electronics infringed Apple Inc. patents for the iPhone and iPad.

ALL STARS

THE LITIGATION POWER RANKINGS
The 25 firms whose litigators have fared the best in The American Lawyer's biennial Litigation Department of the Year competition since it launched in 2002.