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Law360's Bankruptcy Groups of the Year

Good bankruptcy lawyering remained a prized skill in the recession-afflicted landscape of 2010, and several firms distinguished themselves with huge wins for huge clients, earning them a spot among Law360's Bankruptcy Groups of 2010.

The Bankruptcy Groups of 2010 series honors the firms that did the hard work behind the headlines in 2010's big-dollar bankruptcies, whether it was for debtors or their creditors.

Law360's Bankruptcy Groups of 2010 are Brown Rudnick LLP, Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft LLP, Kirkland & Ellis LLP, Sidley Austin LLP and Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP.

In mid-November, Law360 asked more than 300 law firms for nominations for group of the year in 15 practice areas. From more than 35 submissions for bankruptcy practice groups, a team of Law360 editors chose the five winners.

Finding a happy resolution for a company or creditor sorting through bankruptcy was perhaps more onerous than ever in 2010. Bankruptcy practitioner Alan Halperin, founder of Halperin Battaglia Raicht LLP, recalls the year as one in which attorneys continued to move away from settling quietly toward contesting matters and battling them out in court.

"The scale is tipping more to the side of 'let's throw down the gloves and have at it,' " Halperin said.

The winning firms all dealt with their share of tough cases, having played a part in some of 2010's biggest bankruptcies: General Growth Properties Inc., LyondellBasell, Six Flags Inc., Spansion Inc. and dozens more.

One firm steered chemical company LyondellBasell out of its 15-month bankruptcy, securing a record $8 billion in commercial debtor-in-possession financing.

The company, which entered bankruptcy more than $20 billion in the red, emerged with $5.2 billion in net debt and $10 billion in stockholder equity value.

The judge overseeing the LyondellBasell restructuring called the deal that ended the case "one of the most complex settlements" he had ever seen. Seeing the reorganization through also required settling a $20 billion fraudulent conveyance case.

Two of the winners represented mall owner General Growth in its mammoth Chapter 11 case, shepherding the company and nearly 400 subsidiaries through bankruptcy. The plan they hammered out pays all creditors in full, with the help of $6.8 billion in equity from a team of financiers.

General Growth's counsel also helped the company reach an unprecedented milestone on its way back to solvency — the company was relisted on the New York Stock Exchange while its Chapter 11 case was ongoing. Now split up, the new General Growth will remain one of the U.S.'s largest shopping mall owners.

Another of our winners helped R.H. Donnelley Corp., publisher of telephone-book directories, through a reorganization that eliminated $6.4 billion in debt, a hefty chunk of the $9.7 billion in debt it carried into bankruptcy. The plan also eliminated a half billion dollars in annual interest payments.

Another winning firm represented creditors for semiconductor maker Spansion. Of Spansion's $2 billion in debt, $625 million was owed to floating rate noteholders. With the help of their counsel, those noteholders recovered all $625 million in cash.

That same firm helped unsecured creditors for Six Flags recover 100 percent of their share of the theme park operator's more than $2.35 billion in debt.

These examples are not the exceptions — the winners were chosen for consistently getting results for their clients in 2010. Law360 will run profiles of the winners over the next week, detailing how their work set them apart from their peers.