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 "Corporate/M&A & Private Equity," our Firm and our lawyers are listed among the best in the country.
Illinois Ranking: Tier 1
The Firm: "A great shop with great lawyers," private equity beats at the heart of this operation, with one client observing: "They have one of the top private equity and buyout practices globally." It was one of the first firms to get on the LBO bandwagon and is now reaping the rewards, acting for marquee clients such as Bain Capital and Madison Dearborn Partners. The firm is also credited with having "spawned the private equity industry in Chicago." The M&A practice should also not be ignored, with observers noting a "good and deserved reputation in public M&A." Clients in this sector range from Abbott Laboratories and GM through to Kellogg, Hitachi and ConocoPhillips. Highlight matters include acting for ServiceMaster on its acquisition by Clayton, Dubilier & Rice for approximately $5.5 billion. The private funds practice also continues to go from strength to strength with 50 lawyers focusing on this sector worldwide and the Chicago team acting on over 40 funds in the past year. High-profile lateral hires to the firm's London office show this is a major growth area for the firm. The team acts for key name clients such as Golden Gate Capital and Nautic Partners, to name only two. Clients praise the attorneys: "They'll ultimately save you time and money because they're familiar with the important issues and their expertise is unrivaled."
The Lawyers: Senior partner Jack Levin remains an ever-present force at the firm, with a repertoire which spans complex corporate transactions through to private equity and venture capital. He has a string of accolades to his name and continues to command a huge amount of respect in the marketplace. "A true leader" was the conclusion of market commentators on Kevin Evanich. A popular choice among clients and peers alike, Evanich is a name which continues to attract respect across the board. He acts on M&A, LBOs and fund formation for key clients such as GTCR. Jeff Hammes is credited as the architect behind much of the firm's national and international success. A founding partner of the firm's San Francisco office, he divides his time between there and Chicago. He acts for clients such as Bain Capital, Sun Capital Partners and Madison Dearborn Partners and recently represented Bain on the $2.1 billion acquisition of Guitar Center. Sandy Perl is "one of those people you have total respect for." "User-friendly and easy to work with," he is also "a tough advocate for his client - practical and good." Perl is a key partner for Madison Dearborn, and acted for it on the $3.8 billion acquisition of VWR International. Corporate partner Jon Ballis is a "legal genius" who is now regarded as a "go-to guy in the marketplace." Ballis acted for eCollege on its sale to Pearson Education for $538 million. Douglas Gessner focuses on advising private equity and venture capital sponsors on their investment activity. He recently acted for Sun Capital Partners on the purchase of Indalex Aluminum Solutions Group for $425 million. Stephen Ritchie is a highly rated and prolific player in the marketplace. He has acted on a number of matters for GTCR Golder Rauner LLC over the past year, including the $875 million acquisition of 3M Pharmaceutical operations in the USA, Canada and Latin America. Carter Emerson has now taken the of counsel role at the firm and retains a reputation for being "good, strong and aggressive." An "excellent guy to work with" as well as a highly regarded M&A player, Scott Falk acted for Molson Coors Brewing in its joint venture with SABMiller to combine their US operations to form MillerCoors with a combined value of $10 billion.
California Ranking: Tier 1
The Firm: This private equity powerhouse has impressive geographic coverage, "deep commercial knowledge, a strong client service ethic" and "extremely talented people from top to bottom." Although its hub is in Chicago, the firm maintains a distinctive California presence, particularly where private equity-related M&A matters are concerned. Lawyers from the San Francisco office acted for Golden Gate Capital in its $1.5 billion acquisition of SSA Global, while colleagues in LA assisted GFI Energy Ventures with its acquisition of Elgin National Industries.
The Lawyers: LA-based John Weissenbach has extensive private equity experience and an "unusually deep knowledge of commercial and strategic business considerations." His clients are located exclusively in the private equity sector. Recent work highlights include representing Oaktree Capital Management in its $155 million acquisition of a minority interest in Lieberman Broadcasting.
District of Columbia Ranking: Tier 2
The Firm: This is "one of the few DC shops with a genuine presence in the national transactional market," according to peers. "Professional, cutting edge, and bang up to date with the state of the market," Kirkland & Ellis is particularly adept, having "grown up in the private equity world." The team successfully combines expertise in both public and private transactions, but there can be no doubt that LBOs are the jewel in its crown. It often translates fund formation work into acquisition work — as it demonstrated when representing MidOcean Partners in its $1.3 billion formation and subsequent multimillion-dollar buyouts. Arlington Capital Partners and New Enterprise Associates are other key clients in the private equity space. "Capable of handling highly toxic problems," this 32-strong team is "smart, practical, and pleasant to work with" and, with its profound knowledge of the midmarket, seems set to ride out the current slowdown in high-end private equity transactions.
The Lawyers: "Brilliant in a crisis," George Stamas "has a knack for finding middle ground when issues get contentious," according to interviewees. Splitting his practice between New York and DC geographically, and between transactional and counseling in terms of workload, he is "hard to match in his creativity and his knowledge of the law," and is deemed a "hugely prominent presence in the private equity sphere." "A great drafter, consummate businessman and expert closer of transactions," Mark Director is the relationship partner with key client MidOcean Partners. A "brilliant quarterback," he also "knows how to roll up his sleeves and dive into the details."
Reprinted with permission from Chambers USA, America's Leading Lawyers for Business 2008 — www.chambersandpartners.com.