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Encore! Encore! Here are the 2020 Litigators of the Week

Kirkland was given the title of The Am Law Litigation Daily's "Litigators of the Week" eight times over the course of 2020, with partners Adam Alper, Mike De Vries and Andrew Kassof all earning recognition two times each. 

Lest we at the Litigation Daily be accused of turning too often to the usual suspects for Litigator of the Week honors, I’ll have you know that my back of the envelope tabulations shows that we honored a grand total of 35 different law firms over the course of the year. (OK, I might have broken out an Excel spreadsheet.) That’s not even counting pro bono partners who were co-honorees. 

But, let’s be honest: Some firms make a habit out of landing the LOTW trophy over and over again. Is there a trophy? If not, we’ve got to get one, right? One of those pass-it-around types like the Stanley Cup, I’m imagining.

In 2020, seven law firms etched their name in our imaginary trophy multiple times: Latham & Watkins; Morgan, Lewis & Bockius; and Hogan Lovells all landed in our Friday headlines twice. Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher; Quinn Emanuel Urquhardt & Sullivan; and Sidley Austin all did it an impressive four times. But not to be outdone, those uber-competitive litigators over at Kirkland & Ellis landed LOTW honors a whopping eight times, with three partners, Adam Alper, Mike De Vries and Andrew Kassof all landing a share of the top spot two times a piece. 

Here’s one last congratulations to all our 2020 winners, and best of luck to all of you in 2021! Rest assured there’s room for your name on our imaginary trophy.

Proskauer Pair Win Watershed Decision in $125B Puerto Rico Bankruptcy

‘The worst thing about litigating in what is significantly uncharted territory is the absence of jurisprudence interpreting PROMESA,’ said Proskauer’s Timothy Mungovan and Martin Bienenstock. ‘At the same time, the absence of guidance from the case law makes the engagement an exhilarating challenge.’

Big Law Trio Deflate Suits Against Viagra and Cialis

Loren Brown at DLA Piper;  Michael Imbroscio at Covington & Burling and Joseph Petrosinelli at Williams & Connolly teamed up on behalf of Eli Lilly & Co. and Pfizer, which faced about 1,200 suits from men who claimed that taking Viagra or Cialis caused them to develop the deadly skin cancer melanoma. 

Robbins Geller Duo Seals $1B Settlement

‘The bottom line is: if we can take on what we took on, and achieve the result we achieved, we can do anything,’ said partner Jessica Shinnefield who with partner Debra Wyman won final approval of an eye-popping $1.025 billion settlement in a securities litigation class action against real estate investment trust Verit, formerly known as American Realty Capital Properties.

The First Time’s a ($236M) Charm for New Boutique Reichman Jorgensen

‘Small, elite teams are our model, and history has proven that some of the best trial results are achieved with teams of this size,’ said Reichman Jorgensen founder Courtland Reichman, who led  a team in winning a $236 million jury verdict in Delaware federal court on behalf of Densify against VMware.

How a Quinn Emanuel Team Kept It Simple—And Won $1.1B Verdict for Caltech

“We asked the jury to make it a simple question of ‘Who do you trust?’ We asked the jury to use their common sense to decide the simple question of which side was trying to confuse and mislead them,” said Quinn Emanuel partners Jim Asperger, Kevin Johnson and Bill Price.

With $26B Merger on the Line, This Trio Won Approval for T-Mobile/ Sprint in Unprecedented Challenge

“Our core argument was simple: the world with the merger is more competitive and consumer-friendly than the world without the merger,” said Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr’s Hallie Levin who along with Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton’s Mark Nelson and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher’s Richard Parker led a small army of lawyers in persuading U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero in the Southern District of New York to approve the $26 billion merger of T-Mobile and Sprint.

Kirkland Trio Send a $765M Message in Tech Theft Case

Adam Alper, Brandon Brown and Mike De Vries bagged a $764.5 million jury verdict for Motorola in a massive trade secret fight with Hytera, a multi-billion dollar company based in China. 

Morgan Lewis Duo Win the Moral High Ground for PBS

“With this jury verdict for PBS, companies now have another tool in their arsenal to ensure a safe and respectful workplace culture,” said Morgan Lewis partner Grace Speights, who with partner Brad Nes notched a win for PBS in a high-profile fight with former late night host Tavis Smiley, whose show was pulled in late 2017 amidst allegations of sexual misconduct.

A Billion Dollar Save for Gibson Dunn Trio

‘From day one, we recognized that our biggest challenge was the potential that understandable high emotion could overwhelm the jury,’ said Gibson Dun’s Nancy Hart, who with partners Mitch Karlan and Lee Dunst persuaded a jury in Cleveland federal court to side with their client Textron Financial Corp. after a three-week trial.

With $268M Award, A Loud and Clear Win for Morgan Lewis Pair

Morgan, Lewis & Bockius partners Thomas Peterson and Michael Lyons, after a 12-year fight, got a $268 million award for the Alfred E. Mann Foundation affirmed by the Federal Circuit. 

In $100M Cyberheist, Sidley’s Cheng Gets Case Tossed Against Bank 

“A moment I will never forget is when I first met the chairman of RCBC in Manila,”said Sidley’s Tai-Heng Cheng. “She ordered lunch for me and then looked me in the eye, and said, ‘You better win this.’ I’m glad we didn’t let her down.”

Kirkland Trio Drive Home a Pair of Class Action Wins

Kirkland & Ellis partners Rick Godfrey, Wendy Bloom and Andrew Bloomer successfully defended class actions against General Motors and Polaris.

Gibson Dunn Trio Extinguish $100M Suit against Universal Music

‘Plaintiffs had an ostensibly sympathetic narrative but it was based on inaccurate facts and misrepresentations about what the recording agreements actually provided,’ said Gibson Dunn partner Scott Edelman, who handled the matter tied a warehouse fire that reportedly destroyed valuable master recordings alongside partner Deborah Stein and associate Nathaniel Bach.

How Kaplan Hecker Duo One-Upped the Trumps in Fraud Suit

 ‘At its core our case is straightforward,” said John C. Quinn who took home LOTW honors with name partner Roberta Kaplan. “The Trumps deliberately made false and misleading statements in exchange for millions of dollars in payments that were not disclosed to investors who relied on what the Trumps said and lost hundreds or thousands of dollars as a result.

Defending Abortion Rights in the Age of COVID-19

“Pregnant women need healthcare, so forcing women to remain pregnant doesn’t lead to any ‘savings’ of [personal protective equipment] or hospital beds. It only harms women,” says Travis (T.J.) Tu of the Center for Reproductive Rights, who shared LOTW honors with Dechert partner Linda Goldstein and Diana Salgado of Planned Parenthood.

One for the History Books (And Social Studies. And Science. And Math.)

‘It is not every day I can say that I played a role in the development of a fundamental right in our Constitution.’ said Sidley Austin’s Carter Phillips. who shared Litigator of the Week honors with his colleague Tacy Flint and Public Counsel director Mark Rosenbaum.

Latham Team Shoots and Scores for U.S. Soccer Federation

“What we did was prove that the women’s team in fact made more than the men’s team in total compensation and on a per game basis,’ said Latham & Watkins partners Jamie Wine and Michele Johnson.

A Whirlwind Victory for Kirkland Trio

‘What was at stake was several billions of dollars in rent payments along with the ability for Windstream to find a path out of Chapter 11,’ said Kirkland & Ellis partners Rush Howell, Ravi Shankar and Yates French.

Weil’s Jonathan Polkes Carves Out a Win for Carlyle in Delaware

‘The case directly presents some of the most pressing issues regarding material adverse effect clauses and the pandemic,’ said Jonathan Polkes, the global co-chair of Weil Gotshal’s litigation practice.

Shearman Trio Stands Up for Open Source Software

‘We wanted to set an example and deter future assertions of (in our view) weak patents against nonprofit entities promoting open source. To that end, we refused to simply settle on a walk-away,’ said Shearman & Sterling’s Matt Berkowitz, Kieran Kieckhefer and Joy Wang.

Kirkland Trio Dances Off With a Win in Video Game Copyright Suits

Representing video game makers Epic Games and Take-Two Interactive, Dale Cendali, Josh Simmons, and Shanti Sadtler Conway have fended off a series of 10 lawsuits, including the most recent—a claim by University of Maryland basketball players Jaylen Brantley and Jared Nickens.

Sidley’s Seitz Shuts Down Out-of-State Plaintiffs in Essure Mass Tort

The decision “recognizes that plaintiffs must bring their claims in a state that has real connections to those claims,” Virginia Seitz said. “As a result, state courts will not expend their judicial and financial resources on cases that have no connection to that state or its citizens.”

Kirkland’s Hurst and Kassof Claim Massive Win for Albertsons

‘The opinion is a watershed in FCA cases generally and discount prescription drugs specifically,’ said Kirkland & Ellis partners Andrew Kassof and James Hurst.

How a Finnegan Duo Won a Trademark Case for Under Armour in China

‘Other than late night and early morning conference calls, our location was irrelevant. We worked seamlessly with Under Armour’s talented in-house attorneys in the U.S. and China as well as with the Chang Tsi firm,’ said Finnegan’s Danny Awdeh and Chip Rettew.

The 33-Year-Old Hogan Lovells Associate Who Scored a Comeback Win for Asylum Seekers

Mitchell Reich helped convince a federal judge in Washington, D.C. to do an about-face and find Trump officials violated the Administrative Procedure Act by not following the law’s “notice-and-comment” requirement before enacting a new asylum rule.

How Gibson Dunn Helped Hit Print on Mary Trump’s Best-Seller

A Gibson team led by Theodore Boutrous Jr., Matthew McGill, and Anne Champion fought off an attempt by Mary Trump’s uncle Robert Trump to invoke a confidentiality provision in a decades-old settlement agreement involving various family members to block publication of her now-best seller.

This Kirkland Argument Was So Convincing the Court Adopted It As Its Own

It’s a rare thing for the Delaware Court of Chancery to allow buyers to bow out of merger agreements between signing and closing. It’s rarer still for the nation’s preeminent venue for merger litigation to grant a buyer’s motion to dismiss a deal driven lawsuit by adopting the buyer’s oral argument presentation as its own opinion as it did in a case handled by Kirkland & Ellis partners Andrew Kassof and Timothy Knapp.

The Quinn Emanuel Lawyers Who Recovered Billions in ACA Risk Corridor Funds For Insurers … On Contingency

If the “risk corridors” created under the Affordable Care Act don’t immediately capture your attention, this likely will: $3.7 billion worth of recoveries obtained while working on contingency. That’s what Quinn’s Stephen Swedlow, J.D. Horton and Adam Wolfson secured.

The Akin Gump Partner Who Revived a Landmark Human Rights Case Over Extrajudicial Killings in Bolivia

Akin Gump partner James Tysse persuaded an Eleventh Circuit panel that the trial judge below had erred when entering judgment post-verdict on behalf of the defendants, the former president and defense minister of Bolivia facing claims stemming from the killing of more than 50 unarmed indigenous people during a period of civil unrest and political upheaval in the South American country nearly two decades ago.

The Team that Stuck Apple With a $500M Verdict In the First Patent Jury Trial of the Pandemic

Jason Sheasby of Irell & Manella and Sam Baxter of McKool Smith led the trial team for patent owner PanOptis in the six-day jury trial before Chief U.S. District Judge Rodney Gilstrap of the Eastern District of Texas, the first to get off the ground during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Plaintiffs’ Team Behind the $1.6B Essure Settlement

Three plaintiffs lawyers driving the deal—Fidelma Fitzpatrick of Motley Rice, Edward Wallace of Wexler Wallace, and Erin Copeland of Fibich, Leebron, Copeland & Briggs—say the judge overseeing the coordinated state court cases in California kept them moving forward even as pandemic closures pushed off scheduled trial dates this spring.

The Milbank Team That Made a Bench Trial Nearly a Decade in the Making a ‘Not Close’ Call for the Judge

CDOs. CDSs. MBSs. RMBSs. CMBSs. If you, like me, had cleared your memory banks of exactly what’s what in that world, this 211-page knockout decision that Milbank’s Thomas Arena, Sean Murphy, and Robert Hora scored in the Southern District of New York could be a good refresher.

The Paul Weiss Team That Kept a Top IBM Cloud Computing Exec from Moving to Microsoft

Bob Atkins and Liza Velazquez obtained a rare injunction based on a noncompete agreement when U.S. District Judge Philip Halpern blocked a former IBM executive from taking the position as Microsoft’s corporate vice president, Latin America through May 18, 2021.

With $100M on the Line in an ‘Earnout’ Arbitration, This Sidley Team Left Opponents With Zilch

Angela Zambrano and Yolanda Cornejo Garcia of Sidley Austin got about as definitive a defense win as possible.

The Orrick Team Who Beat Back the Government’s Pay Discrimination Case Against Oracle

After eight days of trial last December and extensive post-trial briefing, an ALJ in September dismissed the case brought by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs. Oracle’s defense team included lead trial counsel Erin Connell, her partner Warrington Parker and senior counsel Gary Siniscalco.

Using Shareholder Litigation to Push for Policy Changes and a $310M, 10-Year Commitment to Diversity at Google’s Parent Company

“I’m excited to see the opportunities that are created for women because of this settlement,” says Julie Goldsmith Reiser of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll.

The Married Couple at Kramer Levin Who Zapped Cisco With a $1.9 Billion Patent Damages Award

Paul Andre and Lisa Kobialka discuss the excitement of handling an eight-week virtual bench trial of many firsts and the joy of showing up for trial each morning wearing tennis shoes.

Kirkland and Myers, Brier & Kelly Protect Voter Access to Ballot Drop Boxes in Pennsylvania

“We are obviously in unprecedented times and drop boxes are important to so many voters’ ability to exercise their right vote,” says Kirkland partner Dan Donovan who led the defense of the state’s top election official with partner Michael Glick and MBK name partner Dan Brier.

The Boies Schiller Duo Who Fought to Make Ghislaine Maxwell’s Depo Public

“We have lived this case for so long and it feels liberating to have some of the veil lifted off of these materials,” said Sigrid McCawley of Boies Schiller Flexner, who handled the case alongside David Boies.

How This Kirkland & Ellis Team Turned a $6B Threat Against Its Client Into an $855M Jury Verdict

“This team had done trials all over the country before COVID-19, but this was a new experience,” said Kirkland’s Adam Alper of the Southern District of New York’s courtroom pandemic precautions in a case he led with partners Mike De Vries and Gianni Cutri.

The Latham Team That Whittled DOJ’s ‘China Initiative’ Case Against UMC Down to a Single-Count Plea Deal

In a case where the DOJ was initially seeking a penalty of as much as $9 billion on charges of economic espionage and trade secret theft, Latham’s Leslie Caldwell and Catherine Palmer negotiated a $60 million fine and a guilty plea to one count of receiving and possessing a stolen trade secret.

The Quinn Emanuel Duo Who Scored an East Texas Win for Google with a Streamlined Defense

Facing claims YouTube and Google infringed patents asserted by Personalized Media Communications, the team led by Charles Verhoeven and David Perlson opted not to argue that the patents were invalid or unenforceable, but simply that their client didn’t use them.

The Sullivan & Cromwell Defense Lawyers Who’ve Kept Truckin’ in the ‘Clean Diesel’ MDL

S&C’s Bob Giuffra, Bill Monahan and Tom White did some nifty lawyering to knock out a $325 million damages threat from VW and Audi drivers who sold their vehicles before the “defeat device” scandal went public.

The Quinn Emanuel Team Who Put the Brakes on a Busted Deal and Got Their Client’s $581M Deposit Back

After a five5-day virtual trial earlier, Quinn Emanuel’s Michael Carlinsky, Andrew Rossman and John Rhie scored a 242-page opinion from the Delaware Court of Chancery handing a sweeping win to their client in merger litigation.

The Hogan Lovells Duo Who Fended Off the FTC’s Bid to Block a Philly Hospital Merger

Partners Virginia “Ginny” Gibson and Justin Bernick made a strong case that the Federal Trade Commission picked the wrong deal to challenge in the wrong town.

How This Haynes and Boone Lawyer Wiped Out a $98M Judgment Against BBVA Compass

Anne Johnson and her team persuaded a Texas appellate court to take the extraordinary step of tossing a jury verdict after the court found that the borrower plaintiff couldn’t establish the basic elements of his fraud claim.