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America's Leading Lawyers for Business 2007: 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' 2007 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:

National Ranking: 1

The Firm: “A force to be reckoned with” in bankruptcy matters, The team “consistently does a phenomenal job” on some of the most high-profile restructurings and is said to be “in a league of its own for debtor work,” advising clients such as Calpine and United Airlines. The group also maintains a healthy creditor service and represents hedge funds and other investors in distressed companies. New York-based Richard Cieri was described by clients as “an incredibly good listener” who has the ability to “distil information into meaningful advice.”

Illinois Ranking: 1

The Firm: Known nationally as “a firm that is aggressive and effective at representing a debtor,” and with a further reputation as the group “that brought the largest airline bankruptcy to a confirmed plan,” Kirkland & Ellis remains a steadfast member of the “highest echelon” of bankruptcy firms in Illinois. While the departure of Jamie Sprayregen is acknowledged by commentators as a significant loss, the firm continues to be regarded among “the big hitters” as it moves toward closer integration with its New York office, under Rick Cieri. Having helped United Airlines with its formal exit from Chapter 11 in February 2006 and assisted it in reducing its average annual costs by $7 billion, the group is currently working closely with its New York counterpart to bring some of the largest filings of 2005 and 2006 to successful resolution. Among these, Collins & Aikman, Calpine and Dura Automotive Systems are representative of the big-name clients that seek the firm’s “expert guidance.” The firm is known primarily for its debtor side counsel, but also has a significant creditor side practice, as well as one of the largest private equity groups in the world.

The Lawyers: Marc Kieselstein was dubbed a “magnificent, excellent lawyer” and “the most highly regarded attorney in Chicago” by interviewees. Working on out-of-court workouts, the sale of financially distressed companies and distressed debt transactions, he’s known primarily for his representation of United Airlines, Calpine and Dura Automotive Systems on the debtor side. He is also experienced in dealing with major creditor organizations such as Global Crossing. David Eaton is “an esteemed and skillful attorney” best known for his role as senior debtor’s counsel in the filing and restructuring of Collins & Aikman, which he represents in all aspects of its bankruptcy proceedings. James Stempel is “an incredibly hard-working lawyer,” according to market commentators. As well as guiding Performance Transportation Services and Musicland Holding through Chapter 11, he also carries out a significant amount of private equity work. Anup Sathy “has the advantage of experience in very major cases” and is regarded as a “great problem solver, mixing business judgment with legal knowledge.” Well known for his work for Conseco, he is a key figure in the current multibillion-dollar restructuring of Tower Automotive. “Highly skilled and responsive,” David Seligman headed the restructuring of Calpine with Kieselstein, and has also been noted for his work with United Airlines.

Clients/Work Highlights: JL French Automotive Castings; Performance Transportations Services; Musicland Holding Corporation; Tower Automotive and United Airlines.

New York Ranking: 1

The Firm: “This year has seen the rise of Kirkland & Ellis” in the bankruptcy world, with industry sources dubbing it “the hottest firm on the street” thanks to the significant number of high-profile debtor matters it has attracted of late. The group’s proven ability to “successfully navigate a company through a myriad of issues including billions of dollars of debt” has led to a string of recent filings, namely for Calpine, Dura Automotive Systems and WR Grace. While the departure of Chicago-based “superstar” Jamie Sprayregen is a loss that will be felt firmwide, commentators note that it hasn’t slowed the group’s momentum. The team also undertakes creditor work and distressed M&A, but remains best known for its “effective and aggressive debtor representations.” As one interviewee stated: “I respect Kirkland for that approach, because it’s a contact sport.” Recognized by peers as forceful advocates and “good adversaries,” Kirkland’s restructuring lawyers are also noted for “working in the right ethical framework - their relationships and interactions are on a highly professional level, and their personalities do not intrude on the interests of their clients.”

The Lawyers: Richard Cieri is the most prominent member of the New York team and, “at this point, he is one of the most successful debtor lawyers in the country.” Cieri “understands the world of bankruptcy and distressed companies very well, and he can keep the business on course.” He is involved in all of the firm’s major debtor representations. Working more behind the scenes, Matthew Cantor handles a large amount of out-of-court restructuring work, a particularly busy area due to the amount of liquidity in the market at present. Cantor is respected as “a very intelligent guy,” with sources confirming that “you always hear good things about his work.” Senior partner Theodore Freedman is admired as “an excellent lawyer and a terrific guy.” He focuses on distressed M&A and debtor representations, particularly those with mass tort elements. Formerly of Weil Gotshal, “talented young partner” Paul Basta “is excellent for Kirkland,” according to sources. “Competent and strong, with the ability to jump into anything and make sense of it,” his practice successfully spans the range of debtor and creditor representations.

Clients/Work Highlights: The group’s workload is heavily debtor-oriented, covering troubled companies in all major industry sectors including airlines, automotive, energy and retail. Current Chapter 11 representations include Tower Automotive, Dura Automotive Systems and Collins & Aikman in the auto parts industry, as well as Solutia and WR Grace in the chemicals sector. The team is also handling the complex fraud-driven bankruptcy of Le*Nature’s. The firm boasts a strong presence in the private equity world, and acts for many private companies, investors and hedge funds in out-of-court restructurings and distressed M&A.

California Ranking: 3

The Firm: A group that “thinks outside the box and proposes creative ideas and solutions,” this firm’s bankruptcy practice has made “some incredible strides,” say sources. A team of “bright, ethical and quality lawyers” impresses in its representation of debtors, financial institutions, secured and unsecured creditors, bondholders and investors, among others. Sporting a national and international client list, the firm is well respected and “handles tough matters across the board.”

The Lawyers: “Tenacious and savvy negotiator” Rick Wynne earns high marks for his impressive knowledge and consensus-building skills. “He’s a top deal-maker,” noted one source, “and he’s at the top of his game.” As leader of the group’s West Coast restructuring practice, Wynne represents debtors, creditors’ committees and purchasers of companies and was lead counsel for Conseco in its Chapter 11 case.

Clients/Work Highlights: The firm’s busy caseload has included representing the ad hoc committee of non-agent pre-petition secured lenders in the Adelphia Communications bankruptcy case, acting for the ad hoc committee of noteholders of Reliant Energy, and representing Platinum Equity regarding the acquisition of Weld Wheel Industries.

Reprinted with permission from Chambers USA, America’s Leading Lawyers for Business 2007 -