Most Highly Regarded Firms: Illinois 2006 - Corporate Tax

Illinois is a significant area for corporate tax law and is home to some exceptional talent. The research for this chapter has identified 23 leaders in the field from 10 firms.

These experts have a wide range of specialisations. International tax specialists are included alongside domestic experts; direct taxation practitioners feature in a list that also includes indirect tax lawyers, and specialists on transfer pricing and tax issues deriving from M&A and dispositions; as well as generalists. Where the practitioners selected do not differ, however, is in their outstanding knowledge of the legal aspects of corporate taxation. The leading firm in Illinois for tax matters is the “powerhouse” Kirkland & Ellis LLP. The firm’s reputation is a result of many factors: notably it received more nominations than any other in the research and is also home to the research’s most highly nominated practitioner, Jack Levin

Described to researchers as “a luminary”, Levin is renowned for his work on the tax aspects of M&A and private fund formations, emphasised by his very strong private funds practice. His knowledge and experience is also evident in the numerous treatises, articles and chapters on corporate tax matters that he has penned. Levin is also a lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School and Harvard Law School and is a member of the American College of Tax Counsel. He was a witness in the second meeting of the president’s advisory panel on federal tax reform in 2005 and in this role he provided the board with an additional perspective on corporate tax reform and other related matters, highlighting his position as a leading authority in the field. 

Four more Kirkland lawyers bolster the firm’s stellar reputation in this area. The “stand-out” Jeffrey Sheffield, “top-tier for tax planning”, came very highly recommended. Donald Rocap commands admiration from his peers as “extremely capable” and “very, very good” on complex tax issues. Before joining Kirkland, Rocap worked for the US Treasury Department where among other positions he served as deputy tax legislative counsel for regulatory affairs. Another individual of high repute is Howard Krane, whose “flawless” tax practice and former roles within the University of Chicago’s board of trustees make him an important member of both the legal and educational communities. William Welke completes this robust team and “with quiet confidence, he continuously provides innovative and impressive solutions”. 

Another firm displaying both strength in numbers and individuals of exceptional talent is Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw LLP – three partners are listed on the following pages. Contemporaries of Timothy Sherk “agree wholeheartedly with his inclusion” as one of the leaders in the field. Recognised for his work on “the corporate side of income tax”, Sherk was praised as “technically proficient”. Joining Sherk in the Mayer Brown contingent is Joel Williamson, who was recommended as an “excellent tax litigator” who “gets results”. George Craven is “right up there” with his aforementioned colleagues and is known for a “positive and proactive approach to his work”. Craven recently advised New Vernon Partners in organising a combination hedge fund and private equity funds focusing on investment opportunities in India. This is commonly cited as being the first major fund from a US base to focus on India, and is also the first one to combine hedge fund and private equity strategies. 

McDermott Will & Emery LLP opened its first office in Chicago in 1934 focusing solely on tax law. Now an international full service firm, it remains loyal to its roots. Three McDermott Will & Emery partners are listed in the chapter. Lowell Yoder is the firm’s most highly nominated practitioner and he co-chairs the international tax practice group. With a truly cross-border corporate practice that includes work on mergers, acquisitions, joint ventures, dispositions, reorganisations, leases and financings for international businesses, Yoder “handles all matters with consummate skill”. The internationally-focused Yoder is accompanied in this chapter by two partners who are federal tax experts. Jared Kaplan has particular federal tax experience and has more recently focused on specialised matters such as employee stock ownership schemes (ESOPs). Thomas Borders is a “leader for tax controversy work” with a focus on federal issues, which is put in context by the eight years spent as trial attorney for the Office of Chief Counsel with the Internal Revenue Service. 

The duo from Baker & McKenzie LLP’s Chicago office comprises the “very highly regarded” Richard Lipton and the “first-rate” Gregg Lemein. Lipton has served as tax counsel in high-profile Chicago-based transactions including cases relating to the Sears Tower and Prudential. Lipton is also a member the Internal Revenue Service Advisory Council. Lemein is “a very fine technical lawyer” whose tax controversy work includes representing clients such as Eli Lilly and Company, Coulter Electronics, Laidlaw Transportation and Square D Company. 

Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLP is home to the “excellent” Louis Freeman. Freeman received many nominations from his peers for a “top-notch practice” and a “hands-on approach”. His impressive client base comprises of well known Illinois-based companies such as, Baxter International, Chicago Mercantile Exchange and Sears, Roebuck & Co. Freeman is also the 7th Circuit regent of the American College of Tax Counsel. The “very capable” André LeDuc is well known for his federal tax work with regards to bankruptcy and financial restructurings, both components of his broad-based tax practice. Corporate restructurings have seen LeDuc as lead tax counsel to the debtors in bankruptcies including: American Bank Note Corporation, Diamond Brands Incorporated, Grove Worldwide, Hayes-Lemmerz International, Safety-Kleen Corp, and the Singer Company. 

Sidley Austin LLP retains a high-level corporate tax practice and has two individuals listed in this chapter. Sharp Sorensen is head of the Chicago office’s tax practice and is “very well regarded” by his contemporaries. Sorensen concentrates his own practice on federal tax matters and is renowned for his M&A work, which saw him appointed as lead outside tax adviser to Exelon Corporation in its acquisition of PSEG and First Data Corporation in its acquisitions of Corcord EFS, among others. Jay Zimbler is “right at the top” in the eyes of one source and his federal income tax practice has a particular focus on tax disputes.

Stephen Bowen is the managing partner of the Chicago office of Latham & Watkins LLP. Alongside this managerial role his own federal income tax practice “really stands out” and highlights the firm’s ability in this area. This is supported by the inclusion of the “very strong” Roger Jones, a specialist in tax controversy matters. 

Jenner & Block LLP’s tax practice is home to “two fine lawyers”, according to a number of sources – Arnold Harrison and Christian Kimball. They are two of the co-chairs of the tax practice. Harrison is also co-chair of its tax controversy practice and was highlighted by one respondent as a “stand-out” practitioner for tax planning. Kimball is an adjunct professor in the Chicago-Kent College of Law LLM programme and teaches a course on the taxation of financial instruments. His practice has a focus on federal income tax matters, including tax controversies. 

Sheldon Banoff of Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP is an eminent individual within the Illinois tax market. Known as a “very fine lawyer” and “tremendously capable”, Banoff has extensive experience in partnership taxation. He was recently awarded the 2006 Lawrence M Katz Distinguished Service Award (Partnerships and Limited Liability Company Committee) and is co-editor of the monthly “Shop Talk” column in the Journal of Taxation. 

Winston & Strawn LLP can boast the inclusion of the “clever and resourceful” James Lynch – also a certified public accountant and fellow of the American College of Tax Counsel. Lynch maintains an excellent reputation in the market and his clients include Dynegy, Exelon Corporation, Sara Lee Corporation and Kellogg Company.

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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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