Award Chambers & Partners

America's Leading Lawyers for Business 2008: Bankruptcy/Restructuring

Chambers & Partners has compiled its 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' 2008 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: Tier 1

The Firm: This premier debtor shop "definitely has the edge on large-scale debtor cases," agree market commentators. Clients say they are "impressed with the quality of each and every lawyer here," particularly their "experience, judgment and ability to see the pros and cons of a case." Interviewees report that "the work undertaken here is exemplary." The 80-strong restructuring group is spread across the firm's Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and Washington, DC offices. It is widely considered to be at its most effective in New York, largely due to the leadership of key partner Rick Cieri. He leads a local team of 30 restructuring attorneys, and is credited as a lawyer with "an outstanding reputation in the USA, who can handle himself superbly in a wide range of situations."At a time when the Los Angeles and Chicago offices have suffered from departures, the New York practice has grown since Cieri's arrival in January 2005. The firm primarily represents debtors; it does, however, also take on some creditor work, and represents hedge funds and other investors in distressed companies. High-profile representations include actions on behalf of Calpine, Sea Containers, Dura Automotive Systems and Solutia.

Illinois Ranking: Tier 1

The Firm: The bankruptcy department of 35 "wonderful, leading" debtor lawyers at this international firm continues to sit at the top of the tables this year, with market sources reporting that "they are handling the bulk of cases in Chicago." Working closely with the New York office, the team is reputed as a "powerhouse on big filings"and acts for clients in a variety of sectors, including automotive, entertainment and transportation. It recently represented Movie Gallery on its Chapter 11 filing.

The Lawyers: Highly regarded as "terrific in the courtroom and a smart deal-maker," the "magnificent and excellent" Marc Kieselstein remains at the top of the tables this year. One of the leading lawyers in the Dura Automotive Systems restructuring and Chapter 11 filing, interviewees describe him as "an even-tempered and fabulous attorney," further praising his continued representation of debtors and creditors in insolvency, reorganization and workout matters. Widely thought of as a "great lawyer," David Eaton moves up the rankings this year after successfully acting for Sea Containers Ltd, a container leasing company with international subsidiaries, on a large Chapter 11 filing. "He is doing well," says one peer, praising his representation of debtors, financial institutions and unsecured creditors. James Stempel is a "great lawyer with a strong reputation," according to interviewees. He acts for public and private debtors, secured and unsecured creditors, and purchasers in corporate restructurings inside and outside of bankruptcies. Anup Sathy is particularly noted by interviewees for being "hard-working and responsible." He advises clients on Chapter 11 filings, workouts and corporate restructurings, and recently closed a Chapter 11 protection for Tower Automotive by assisting the company to sell the majority of its assets. David Seligman acts for debtors and creditors on all major restructuring, bankruptcy and insolvency proceedings, and continues to advise on the mammoth Calpine Chapter 11 filing.

Clients/Work Highlights: The group acted for automotive supplier Collins & Aikman on its Chapter 11 filing.

New York Ranking: Tier 1

The Firm: Kirkland & Ellis continues to impress market observers with its "extraordinary recovery" from the departure of Jamie Sprayregen and its constant ability to pick up "a phenomenal number of high-profile cases." This is for the most part thanks to the leadership of key partner Rick Cieri, who "does a great job steering the practice," say peers. Such is the firm's reputation that it is considered by some to have eclipsed the rest of the field on the debtor side, to the point where "it is really K&E, and then everyone else." Nationwide, the restructuring group comprises 80 lawyers, with 30 lawyers practicing in New York. Although the New York team recently took a hit with the departure of Matt Cantor, who left to start his own hedge fund, it welcomed new partner Natasha Labovitz from Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher to the fold. The group continues to focus on debtor-side restructuring work and on finding creative solutions to help companies avoid bankruptcy. "They really know how to work a case," agreed clients. K&E continues to represent Calpine and Dura Automotive Systems in Chapter 11 work, and is also representing Solutia (a supplier of chemical-based materials for industrial and consumer use) and its subsidiaries in their Chapter 11 cases pending in the US Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York.

The Lawyers: "Rainmaker" Rick Cieri is lauded for being "a master at bringing in the work, handing it to his team and letting them run with it." However, sources approvingly point out that "he manages to keep a finger on almost every deal." Peers, meanwhile, admire his gentlemanly approach to cases: "He never pounds the table but thinks through the issues of a case before coming up with the perfect solution." Cieri also wins praise for his boardroom style, which "engenders confidence and trust" in those he represents. The "smart and deal-focused" Paul Basta has "one of the best analytical minds on the street," enthuse sources. Respected by clients for being "hard working, intuitive and a great communicator," he has a thorough understanding of the law and practices on both the debtor and creditor side. "In five years time, he will be a major player in the market," consider peers.

California Ranking: Tier 3

The Firm: Despite a number of departures over the last year, this team still produces high-quality work and peers commend the lawyers' "effective and strategic methods" in major settlements and negotiations. Practicing with "sound and experienced judgment," the lawyers provide "excellent guidance with their clear explanations of the pros and cons of a case."

The Lawyers: Richard Wynne is "an excellent manager and legal strategist." Having experienced all elements of bankruptcy work his advice encompasses "a wide range of issues."

Reprinted with permission from Chambers USA, America's Leading Lawyers for Business 2008 —