On an annual basis, Chambers & Partners conducts extensive research and thorough data analysis in compiling their objective list of recommended worldwide legal practitioners. In the regional review of leading firms in "Corporate/M&A: Chicago," Kirkland & Ellis ranked first. This ranking reflects the opinion of the marketplace as revealed by Chambers' systematic and objective research.
Chicago Ranking: 1
The Firm: "General Motors" and "buy-out kings" are the two labels attached to the firm's name. Their style is described as "driven." Have historic corporate connections. Former chairman, Elmer Johnson (now of counsel) spent the mid eighties as GM's general counsel winding up as a director before returning to head the corporate practice. Motor industry connections continue with 1999 representation of Dura Automotive Systems on the $400m acquisition of Excel Industries. Although the firm is seen less in public M&A than in private deals, the corporate department regularly acts for large Illinois-based public companies which are global players such as Monsanto. Private corporate transactions can be substantial however such as advising S.C. Johnson & Son on the $1bn+ acquisition of Dow Brands.
The Lawyers: The huge buy-outs practice begun by Jack Levin in the early 1970s is what made the firm "great for LBOs." Many private equity deals do not make the headlines but they are not insubstantial ($20m to over $1bn). Jack Levin is still revered even if he is rarely seen at the forefront of a deal. When negotiating, lawyers like his "legal acumen gloved in velvet" as he "leads you conscientiously through the law." He is seen as being "general to his platoon commanders." Levin has passed on his tax knowledge to his younger partners. Kevin Evanich is known for his work for GTCR, working on a half dozen of their funds. He works closely with Kirk Radke in the New York office, and is the team's senior guy liked for his ability to "think flexibly" and "not over intellectualise." Like Levin, he has "that soft touch." Evanich works together with Bill Kirsch and Jeff Hammes in one of the firm's practice 'groupings.' Hammes is a "details man," known in Chicago for his relationship with Bain Capital and is seen more on private than public M&A. Clients like the way he can "drive a hard bargain" which lawyers may find "sometimes uncompromising" but which often stems from his clients' leverage in the transactions. Kirsch's 'never take no for an answer' approach wins him respect and his "high energy" is infectious. He acts for Code Hennessy. Bob Osborne is the leading name in the firm for general corporate M&A, known in town as relationship partner for GM (the firm also represents the GM pension fund on its investments). Young partner Carter Emerson is seen as one to watch with a deceptively "low key style." He acts for Code Hennessy.
The Clients: Corporates: Alpharma Inc., Davel Communications, Nexstar Broadcasting Group, Sullivan Broadcasting Co., Sabratek, Harnischfeger Corp., Navistar International Corp., Ameritech, Leo Burnett Company. Private Equity: Bruckmann, Rosser, Sherrill & Co., Thomas H. Lee Co., Doughty Hanson & Co., Madison Dearborn Capital, Liberty Partners, Key Equity Capital Corp., William Blair Capital Partners, Bain Capital, Summit Partners, Citicorp Venture Capital, Ltd.
Reprinted with permission from Chamber's Global: The World's Leading Lawyers 2000-2001.