Most Highly Regarded Firms: Corporate Governance 2012

This year we identify 485 individuals from 50 countries who stood out in the feedback we received in our conversations with clients, in-house counsel and fellow private practitioners. Several firms scored highly, with the internationally recognised corporate powerhouses once again performing strongly.

Most Highly Regarded Individuals
Martin Lipton Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz, New York
David Katz Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz, New York
Richard Hall Cravath Swaine & Moore LLP, London
David Friedlander King & Wood Mallesons, Sydney
Nigel Boardman Slaughter and May, London
Richard Beattie Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP, New York
David Kendall Edwards Wildman Palmer, London
Stephen Cooke Slaughter and May, London
Frederick Alexander Morris Nichols Arsht & Tunnell LLP, Wilmington
Larry Sonsini Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, Palo Alto
Francesco Gianni Gianni Origoni Grippo Cappelli & Partners, Rome

Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz leads the field in this discipline. Twelve of its lawyers are selected for inclusion, including the most highly regarded worldwide in the shape of the “living legend” Martin Lipton. Garnering votes from across the world, he is a former chairman of the legal advisory committee of the New York Stock Exchange. David Katz is the current Who’s Who Legal M&A Lawyer of the Year, and is also widely recognised for his corporate governance expertise. He was described as “the best around for advice to boards and crisis management”. Daniel Neff is co-chairman of the firm’s executive committee and a “heavy hitter”, and fellow co-chair Edward Herlihy is also “universally respected”. Andrew Nussbaum was praised for his expertise across a range of disciplines and industries. Andrew Brownstein is “one of the pre-eminent corporate lawyers in the US” according to our sources. Adam Emmerich is “extremely well versed in all aspects of corporate governance”. Theodore Mirvis is widely revered for his corporate defence work, and is on the advisory board of the Harvard Law School programme on corporate governance. Steven Rosenblum is co-chair of the firm’s corporate group and an “expert in this field”, while Trevor Norwitz is highly rated for his transactional and governance expertise. Paul Rowe is much sought after for his work on behalf of corporations and directors in a range of different types of litigation. Taken together, “it is difficult to think of a better corporate firm than Wachtell”.

Ten lawyers are included from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, spread across its offices in Austria, England, Germany and Hong Kong. London managing partner Mark Rawlinson is “one of the biggest names in UK corporate law”, and he is joined by Barry O’Brien – head of the firm’s corporate finance practice – and the firm’s senior partner Will Lawes, who is known for his “invaluable counsel” to financial institution and corporate clients. Vanessa Knapp was awarded an OBE for her services to corporate law in 2007, and is a principal consultant to the firm. She is a member of the reflection group set up by the European Commission on the future of EU company law, and “knows as much as anyone about all facets of corporate governance”. Three further nominees are based in Germany, led by Christoph Seibt, global head of the “core corporate” group. Clients recommended him in glowing terms: “He provides a rare combination of the highest legal knowledge and expertise with a good sense for practical and economically sensible solutions”. Christian Decher in Frankfurt is “very well respected” in all types of corporate governance work, including the preparation and conducting of general meetings. Axel Epe is a “renowned figure”, with his writing on this subject particularly well known. In Vienna, Günther Horvath and Willibald Plesser each score highly. Robert Ashworth is Asia managing partner from the Hong Kong office and “one of the leading corporate lawyers in the region”.

The contingent from Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP has grown significantly in this edition to nine US based nominees. In Delaware, Chief Justice Norman Veasey is a senior partner and a “world authority in this field”. Three are selected in Texas, where Michael Saslaw is well known for his corporate counselling. Senior partner Ira Millstein is a “legend of the New York bar”, and has counselled the boards of Bethlehem Steel, WellChoice, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System and Tyco International. Holly Gregory has counselled clients such as Pfizer and Prudential Financial on the full range of governance issues. The firm has further enhanced its capability in this area with the lateral hires of three leading figures from Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP in California. Richard Climan is “one of the most prominent corporate lawyers in the US”, and he is joined by the similarly well regarded James Griffin and Keith Flaum.

Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLP has eight US based lawyers selected for inclusion. Eileen Nugent is New York office leader and head of the firm’s private equity group, and is frequently called upon for her expertise in relation to stockholders. Peter Allan Atkins is praised for his “first class” advice to clients on directors’ duties and disclosure issues, and Lou Kling has a “well deserved reputation for excellence”. Edward Welch scores highly in Delaware, and Brian McCarthy is similarly well known in California. With two further nominees in Washington, DC, and another in Chicago, Skadden is one of the leading corporate governance firms in the US.

Delaware firm Richards Layton & Finger PA sees eight of its lawyers selected. Mark Gentile is “incredibly well versed in all aspects of corporate governance”. Stephen Bigler is a “renowned expert” on the general corporation law of the State of Delaware, while chair of the corporate department Gregory Williams is much sought after for his representation of directors and officers. Jesse Finkelstein is a “legend” in this field, and co-chair of the Tulane Corporate Law Institute.

Slaughter and May’s eight-strong contingent is split between the London office and Hong Kong. Stephen Cooke heads the M&A practice and is “very very good”. Alongside him, “everybody knows Nigel Boardman”, who is one of the leading corporate lawyers in England and in our worldwide voting. William Underhill is similarly well regarded for his “pre-eminent corporate advisory work”. Frances Murphy is head of the corporate practice and the owner of a “quite brilliant legal mind”, and Charles Randell comes strongly recommended by clients. Christopher Saul is senior partner of the firm and “one of the best known corporate lawyers in London”. Richard Thornhill is senior partner of the Hong Kong office and “well known throughout the region”, and the “terrific” Neil Hyman also scores highly from clients and peers alike.

The seven lawyers selected from Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP are spread between the US, Europe and Russia. Three appear from the New York office, led by Alan Beller who is a former director of the division of corporation finance of the US Securities and Exchange Commission and “very well known in the market”. Victor Lewkow is similarly well regarded, as is senior counsel Daniel Sternberg. Murat Akuyev scores highly in Moscow, while Jan Meyers, Pierre-Yves Chabert and the “fantastic” Roberto Casati were repeatedly recommended in Brussels, Paris and Milan respectively.

The six nominees selected from the New York office of Cravath Swaine & Moore LLP are led in the voting by Richard Hall, head of the M&A practice and one of the most highly nominated lawyers in our research overall. Described as a “phenomenon”, he has acted for clients such as Anglo American, Barrick Gold Corporation and Time Warner. Faiza Saeed is “the best in the business” for counselling boards on corporate governance and crisis management, while Mark Greene, leader of the firm’s international practice, is “absolutely first rate”.

Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP sees six partners selected in the US. John Olson is a founding partner of the firm’s Washington, DC, office and a former chair of the ABA Business Law Section’s committee on corporate governance. Amy Goodman is co-chair of the securities regulation and corporate governance practice group and “really has her ear to the ground”, while fellow co-chair James Moloney in California is “the first port of call” for many we canvassed.

At Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, Rodgin Cohen needs no introduction as a “world leader” in the banking and corporate governance sector. Former senior chairman of the firm, he is recognised worldwide for the quality of his advice to clients. Alongside him five further colleagues are selected. James Morphy is “hugely respected” for his corporate practice, while Frank Aquila has advised clients such as Amgen, Anheuser-Busch InBev and Diageo in recent times. Joseph Frumkin is managing partner of the firm’s M&A group and a “definite inclusion on any list of the best”. Alison Ressler is one of the most highly rated experts in California and “nationally well regarded”, while Dominique Bompoint is among the leading lawyers in France in this discipline.

Stikeman Elliot LLP leads our Canadian research with six nominees selected for inclusion. Brian Rose is a “long time leader of the Toronto bar”, and he is joined by senior partner William Braithwaite and head of the firm’s corporate governance group Edward Waitzer. Marvin Yontef completes the quartet from the Toronto office, and John Leopold and Pierre Raymond are selected in Quebec.

Hengeler Mueller occupies a similar position in the German research, and leads the field with six selected partners. Maximilian Schiessl “stands out, both nationally and in Europe” as one of the leading experts in the field. He is joined by Michael Hoffmann-Becking, an “all time great” and the very highly rated Andrea Austmann. Rainer Krause is “terrific”, according to our sources, and Gerd Krieger and Frankfurt-based Oleg de Lousanoff are also among the most well known figures in this sector.

In Italy, Francesco Gianni of Gianni Origoni Grippo Cappelli & Partners is once again picked out as one of the leading corporate governance experts in Europe. Described as a “very fine lawyer of unimpeachable judgement”, he is widely considered a “leader in this field”.

Morris Nichols Arsht & Tunnell LLP earns five nominees in Delaware, including some of the leading figures in the field worldwide. Gilchrist Sparks is of counsel to the firm and “one of the foremost authorities on corporate governance in the world”. Frederick Alexander chairs the firm’s executive committee and is an “outstanding lawyer”, known for his counsel to boards and special committees, as well as his expertise on Delaware corporate law.

Richard Beattie is chairman of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP and known for the “impeccable quality of his advice”, and he leads a quartet of New York based lawyers in this edition. Charles ‘Casey’ Cogut is similarly renowned. Alan Klein is co-chair of the International Bar Association’s corporate and M&A law committee and “absolutely first class”, while Robert Spatt also garnered recommendations from across the world. Richard Capelouto in California is equally well respected by clients and peers alike.

Also in Palo Alto, Larry Sonsini at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati is once again recognised as one of the leading experts in the world. “He really knows his stuff”, in the words of one source.

The two legacy firms that make up King & Wood Mallesons were each known for their corporate practices, and the combined firm sees five partners selected for inclusion. In Sydney, David Friedlander received recommendations from across the globe and is once more selected as one of the leading practitioners in the field worldwide. Alongside him, Tim Bednall is chairman of the firm’s board and very well known, while Wang Junfeng gives the firm a presence in Beijing.

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Nominees have been selected based upon comprehensive, independent survey work with both general counsel and private practice lawyers worldwide. Only specialists who have met independent international research criteria are listed.

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