In Crain's Chicago Business' first annual law firm feature, three Chicago partners were profiled as among the best of the best in their areas of practice. A summary of each profile is listed below.
"Chicago's Best, On the Record"
James H.M. Sprayregen
Bankruptcy partner James H.M. Sprayregen, 44, understands the importance of successfully guiding large companies through difficult Chapter 11 filings. He represents UAL Corp. and Conseco Inc. in two of the biggest Chapter 11 filings of the year.
"These cases have national and state significance," Sprayregen said. The cases, "intersect law, politics, bankruptcy, social policy and economics."
"Inside the Mind of a Litigator; The black-and-white guy"
John T. Hickey
In August 2004, John T. Hickey won a victory for General Motors Corp. in a law suit brought by the survivors of former NFL player Derrick Thomas. Thomas was killed when his Chevrolet Surburban rolled onto its hood in an accident in 2003. The plaintiffs sought at least $75 million but were awarded nothing by the jury.
Following the victory, Hickey said that discrediting the plaintiffs' expert witnesses was the key to winning the case. "In my view, plaintiffs witnesses often do not play it straight," Hickey said. He added, "I am a black-and-white kind of guy."
"Trading Places, Changing Paces"
Jack S. Levin
In a half-dozen years as a litigator, Jack S. Levin argued eight cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, tried 12 U.S. Court of Appeals cases and led three federal trials. Then he quit to become a tax lawyer.
In the 37 years since making the leap from litigator to transactional attorney, Levin became the godfather of Kirkland & Ellis' 250-lawyer group doing leveraged buyouts, fund formation and tax work. He says that he enjoys making history, instead of arguing about the past, often to disinterested judges and juries.
That doesn't happen in the boardroom. "When you go into a boardroom and tell them what's going to happen with their $7-billion merger, they pay attention," Levin said.
The "Focus: Law Firms" feature of Crain's Chicago Business appeared in is entirety on November 15, 2004.