Award Chambers & Partners

America's Leading Lawyers for Business 2006: Bankruptcy/Restructuring

Chambers & Partners has compiled their independent and objective list of America's Leading Lawyers for Business based on comments gathered from thousands of interviews with clients and lawyers from Maine to Hawaii. This guide -- which is designed to reflect market opinion -- contains a view of the firms and attorneys who are considered leaders in their field.

In Chambers' 2006 review of national legal talent in the area of "Bankruptcy/Restructuring," our Firm and our lawyers are listed among the best in the country.

Chambers' comments:

Illinois Ranking: 1

The Firm: "Truly a force to be reckoned with," this team "consistently does a phenomenal job" on the most high-profile restructurings. Considered "in a league of its own for debtor work," its representation of United Airlines continued to draw praise from commentators. At the time of print, the plan of reorganization has just been approved by the bankruptcy court, clearing the debtor to emerge from Chapter 11 protection. As part of the firm's integrated national practice, the Chicago team often works closely with its New York counterparts, most recently to collaborate on the Tower Automotive filing, a matter involving debts of several billion dollars. While most admired for its debtor expertise, the group maintains a healthy creditor practice, continuing to act for the ad hoc committee of lenders in the massive Adelphia Communications bankruptcy. The firm's unparalleled private equity group provides a further stream of work representing hedge funds and other investors in distressed companies.

The Lawyers: James Sprayregen is a nationally recognized debtor lawyer who is hailed as "a trusty guide through the labyrinth of Chapter 11." Clients applaud his winning interpersonal skills in the boardroom and "unblinking toughness at the negotiating table." Peers are equally forthcoming in their praise for this restructuring expert; "He is brilliantly hardworking and amazingly versatile," said one, while another enthused: "Who else could make conference calls and ski at the same time?" Marc Kieselstein is a "smart lawyer who gets great results," interviewees say. Counseling several creditor organizations as well as helping other major debtor clients such as TWA and Dade Behring Holdings in their Chapter 11 reorganizations has supplemented his in-depth involvement in the UAL bankruptcy. David Eaton has been singled out for his "deeply practical and no-nonsense" style. "A real class act," his restructuring experience includes leading the reorganization of Harnischfeger Industry, a manufacturer worth $2 billion. James Stempel is a "consistently high performer" in the bankruptcy arena, while Anup Sathy has a career that many describe as "locked in an upward trajectory." A "fine and thoughtful" attorney, Sathy's involvement in the Conseco bankruptcy has put him on the map and he manages similar restructurings for numerous other debtors. David Seligman was singled out for his ability to "coordinate restructurings as if deftly playing with a giant rubix cube." Clients also appreciate his boundless knowledge, one admiring that "he can answer any question fired at him off the top of his head."

Clients/Work Highlights: Conseco; UAL; Exide; Trans World Airlines; NRG Energy; Zenith Electronics and The Fleming Companies.

New York Ranking: 2

The Firm: "A Chicago-centric firm that has developed a truly national practice," this group commands a lot of respect, especially in debtor circles where its advice is valued in both strategic and crisis filings. The New York team, supported by its Midwest counterparts, is now one of the premier debtor groups "giving Weil Gotshal a real run for its money." It recently filed a string of high-profile Chapter 11 proceedings including Tower Autotmotive, Collins & Aikman and Solutia, but it also comes recommended for its out-of-court and counseling skills. According to clients, the team not only has the ability to make the tough calls, but also possesses the "softer boardroom skills" necessary to guide a company through the bankruptcy process. Adversaries also admired this combined approach, reporting that they "like working with Kirkland: they are tough, but they know how to get a deal done." The team benefits from being able to draw on the firmwide network of litigators at its disposal, while the expertise of its strong corporate and private equity practices means the group is well positioned to act for clients in the distressed M&A arena.

The Lawyers: Clients have made it clear that the strong personality of Richard Cieri is one of the major drawing cards in New York. "An incredibly good listener," Cieri has the ability to "distill information into meaningful advice" and keep a cool head in negotiations. He acts for Solutia and Collins & Aikman in their bankruptcy proceedings, as well as regularly providing restructuring and financial advice to boards of directors. Matthew Cantor represents high-profile debtors such as Tower Automotive and Boyds Collectables, and advises private equity and hedge funds on their investment management issues. He is both "intelligent and practical," traits he share with his colleague Ted Freedman. As a further resource for the team, Chicago-based Jamie Sprayregen also spends two days a week in the New York office.

Clients/Work Highlights: The firm is known for its company-side debtor representations, as well as acting for public and private companies in distressed M&A transactions. It also acts for many private equity and hedge funds as both creditors in restructurings and acquirers of distressed assets, for example it represented JC Flowers in its recent bid for the REFCO assets.

California Ranking: 3

The Firm: Backed by a highly integrated national practice, the Californian restructuring practice has been expanding ever since it merged with a local bankruptcy boutique; it now has 15 lawyers practicing bankruptcy law in Los Angeles. Attorneys served as Chapter 11 trustee for Ritter Ranch Development, selling it at auction to SunCal for $57.2 million. The group also represented the Reed Slatkin creditors' committee, being later appointed as special counsel to the trustee. It investigated Slatkin's Ponzi scheme, handling 101 fraudulent transfer cases, obtaining judgments for 21 and settling eight. It also sued the group of banks who allegedly aided the fraud, obtaining a $26.5 million settlement for investors.

The Lawyers: The "knowledgeable and pragmatic" Richard Wynne "is someone you can get along with," according to interviewees. His high-profile caseload included representing Clifford Chance and Tower Snow against allegations of causing the demise of Brobeck Phleger & Harrison. A thoroughly versatile attorney, he was instrumental in the Chapter 11 sale of Chevys for more than $90 million.

Clients/Work Highlights: Cable & Wireless; The Fleming Companies; Slatkin Creditors' Committee and Adelphia.

Reprinted with permission from Chambers USA, America's Leading Lawyers for Business 2006 -