Most Highly Regarded Firms: Illinois 2006 - Corporate Immigration

The US Census Bureau’s County Business Pattern survey calculates that in 2004 there were some 315,854 businesses in Illinois. A look at Fortune Magazine’s 2006 ranking of America’s largest corporations by revenue, reveals 62 of these are based in the state, ranking it equal fourth with Ohio behind California, Texas and New York.

Thirty-two of these firms are in the top 500 and 10 are placed within the top 100. This, coupled with news that the H-1B cap for the 2007 fiscal year for temporary specialty occupation visas was reached on 26 May, highlights the need for experienced business immigration counsel within the state. This chapter identifies those lawyers best placed to serve the needs of clients engaged in the movement of highly skilled workers. 

Many of the 22 individuals we list practise in specialist firms. Sidley Austin LLP serves as an exception to this rule and is “one of the only large full-service firms with a serious corporate immigration practice”. The “top-tier” Marketa Lindt is “talented and focused” and advises multinationals, educational institutions, healthcare facilities, nonprofit organisations as well as high net-worth individuals on workforce strategy and visa processing for foreign national employees. Lindt served as chair of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Chicago chapter from 2005 to 2006. Partner Timothy Payne’s inclusion in the chapter highlights the firm’s commitment to the area. A significant portion of Payne’s practice is devoted to temporary and permanent residence processing for executives and multinational employees. Like Lindt, Payne has also served as chair of the greater Chicago chapter of AILA. Vedder Price Kaufman & Kammholz PC is another full service firm represented in this chapter. Partner Gabrielle Buckley was a consistently strongly recommended during the research and comes recommended as an “excellent lawyer with a diverse practice” focusing on the immigration issues arising from M&A, divestitures and corporate reorganisations. 

Fragomen Del Rey Bernsen & Loewy LLP currently boasts over 130 lawyers and over 500 professional immigration specialists and staff across a network of 27 offices and affiliated offices. Fragomen’s global reach for immigration work is unmatched and Michael Turansick in Chicago is particularly “highly rated”. The Chicago office represents several Fortune 500 companies in the technology consulting, telecommunications, pharmaceuticals, consumer products and financial services areas. They also work closely with academics, medical professionals, entertainers and high net-worth individuals. Fragomen’s enviable client roster and unmatched global network ensured that the firm was never far from the lips of respondents to our survey. 

The immigration group at Masuda Funai Eifert & Mitchell Ltd represents companies in the manufacturing, distribution, automotive, consulting, technology and healthcare industries and is the best represented firm in this chapter (three nominees). Bryan Funai is said to be particularly knowledgeable regarding the immigration aspects of corporate structures and transactions. Kathleen Gaber also comes highly recommended and chairs the firm’s business immigration group. Gaber’s clients come from industries such as banking and finance, transport, construction and equipment to name but a few. Before joining the firm, Gaber worked with the Department of Justice’s Immigration and Naturalization Service. Robert White completes the firm’s strong contingent in the chapter and the primary focus of his practice lies in assisting companies in the consulting, technology and healthcare industries. 

Zulkie Partners LLC is another firm with an excellent reputation, offering counsel to US and global companies on all facets of immigration law. “Top-tier” Paul Zulkie’s “excellent reputation” was consistently recommended to researchers and he emerges as the most highly nominated immigration lawyer. Clients include major multinationals and Fortune 500 companies as well as privately owned enterprises across sectors including healthcare, information technology and the service and financial industries. From 2004 to 2005 Zulkie held the position of AILA president and one source noted: “I have known him for nearly 30 years and have a very high regard for his abilities.” Susan Maclean joins Zulkie in this chapter, cementing the firm’s reputation as “one of the go-to immigration practices in Illinois”. 

Kempster Keller & Lenz-Calvo Ltd is credited with having “an excellent and broad practice” with “skilled immigration attorneys”. Cheryl Lenz-Calvo was recommended as “absolutely top for labour certification” and she represents hospitals, universities, multinationals and small businesses and has a long roster of sporting clients. Martina Keller was also recommended and is currently chair of AILA’s Chicago chapter. Davidson & Schiller LLC represents education and research institutions as well as corporate clients and individuals throughout the United States. Mark Davidson and William Schiller represent the firm in this chapter. Both were consistently recommended to researchers. Schiller serves as an adjunct lecturer in Northwestern University’s undergraduate programme, where he teaches a course on international human rights and US refugee law. 

The “wonderful” Margaret McCormick of Minsky McCormick & Hallagan PC is another of the state’s leading lights. “A ‘standout’ practitioner with great experience”, McCormick is on AILA’s national board of governors and from 1986 has been adjunct professor of immigration law at Loyola University School of Law. One area in which McCormick is currently active relates to workplace enforcement and compliance with employer sanctions. Following greater enforcement levels by Immigration & Customs Enforcement, McCormick has been called upon to help companies with proactive work such as self-audits to review I-9 maintenance procedures. 

Carlina Tapia-Ruano formerly practised with Minsky McCormick & Hallagan PC before she set up her own firm Tapia-Ruano & Gunn PC. She is the first Hispanic – and the incumbent – president of AILA, and she handles both family- and employment-based immigration matters. Terry Yale Feiertag of Mandel Lipton and Stevenson is another of Illinois’s heavy-hitting immigration lawyers. Feiertag was recommended to researchers as “extremely knowledgeable and renowned for dealing with constitutional issues”. He is one of the most respected individuals in the following pages. His clients include Jones Long LaSalle and the Chicago Stock Exchange. The highly praised Robert Ahlgren is “exceptionally knowledgeable” and a “great mentor to the younger generation of immigration lawyers”. Kalman Resnick directs the immigration practice at Hughes Socol Piers Resnick & Dym Ltd and was consistently recommended. His own practice covers, among other things, business immigration and asylum and refugee matters. Douglas Bristol practises at his own firm and his reputation for both family and business immigration work puts him in the following pages. 

Rubman & Compernolle specialises in US immigration and the firm’s lawyers represent individuals, businesses and universities. Partner Susan Compernolle comes highly recommended and from 2001 to 2002 she served as president of the Chicago chapter of AILA. At another firm, Susan Fortino- Brown is the immediate past chair of that chapter and remains heavily involved with the organisation. The Law Office of Susan Fortino-Brown offers immigration services to both organisations of all sizes and boasts Italian, Spanish, French, Ukrainian and Polish speakers among its lawyers and staff. Fortino-Brown was highly nominated during the research process and consequently assumes her place among Illinois’s leading practitioners. Stephen Navarre is similarly well regarded having formerly practised with Minsky McCormick & Hallagan and leaving to set up his own Des Plaines practice, the Navarre Law Firm.

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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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