Most Highly Regarded Firms: Illinois 2006 - Insolvency & Restructuring

Even in times of relative economic prosperity, companies will often need to call upon the expertise of their outside counsel in restructuring matters, and in some cases in bankruptcy proceedings. The following pages point out 19 outstanding lawyers, all leaders in their particular field, whether they are representing creditors, debtors or other related parties.

Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLP has three of its partners in this section, more than any other firm. At their head is the “fabulous” Jack Butler, rated as “one of the best in the world” by our sources. A co-leader of Skadden’s worldwide corporate restructuring practice, the “impressive international dimension to his practice” stood out. Known for his work on cross-border transactions in Asia, Australia, Europe and the Middle East, as well as acting for sellers, purchasers and creditors across the US, he was recommended for his cross-border work representing clients such as AM International, Comdisco and Singer with the restructuring of their overseas subsidiaries. In addition, his restructuring work for clients such as Delphi, Kmart and Xerox is said to be “consistently of the highest standard”. 

Accompanying Butler in this chapter is Timothy Pohl, “one of the younger generation but already an absolute star”. Interviewees commended his work for a variety of clients, including troubled companies in restructurings both in and out of court, purchasers of, investors in and lenders to troubled companies. “He is doing great work right now”, and recent matters include the representation of McLeodUSA in its chapter 11 restructuring; Krispy Kreme Corporation in the restructurings and dispositions of various troubled franchisees; and Black Diamond Capital Management in its acquisitions of PTC Alliance, Sun World International and Smarte Carte International. The third Skadden lawyer to make the cut is Eric Ivester. Said to be “phenomenal for debtor work”, he is the firm’s lead restructuring attorney for Interstate Bakeries Corporation and has been involved in the successful restructurings of Haynes International and Hayes Lemmerz International. In addition, he was part of the team that aided Kmart Corporation and its affiliates’ successful emergence from chapter 11.

Kirkland & Ellis LLP is highly rated in this field, especially for debtor-related work. In the words of one source they “know how to run large restructurings well and get good results”. While the firm suffered the loss of “one of the finest restructuring lawyers in the world” when James Sprayregen joined Goldman Sachs earlier this year, it remains a “major player” in this field – “with bench-strength like theirs the future remains bright”. Kirkland contributes two partners to this list of Illinois’s finest. James stempel is a “superb restructuring lawyer” who is an “oracle on all aspects of chapter 11 proceedings”. Known for his representation of Polymer Group, AmeriServe Food Distributors and National Equipment Services in their chapter 11 cases, Stempel is “going to be a star for many years to come.” From the same office, Marc Kieselstein’s profile has been raised by his work in United Airlines’ chapter 11 negotiations. A “blindingly bright lawyer”, he drew admiring comment from a range of sources and takes his place among the best in the state. 

Latham & Watkins LLP was singled out for high praise as counsel to lenders and creditors in particular; “they have good advocates who know how to get deals done consensually”. Global co-chair of the firm’s insolvency and restructuring group David Heller unsurprisingly leads his firm in the research, and is “a lenders’ counsel of the very highest class”. Heller recently led the restructuring and sale of AT&T Latin America Corp and DVI, and is “immensely knowledgeable in Latin American matters, especially restructuring and enforcement of debt matters”. His colleague Douglas Bacon is included on the strength of his “impeccable” work for clients including American Sports Products Group, Trussway and Communication Dynamics. 

The chairman of Sidley Austin LLP’s corporate reorganisation and bankruptcy group is based in Chicago. Larry Nyhan is a “can-do lawyer at the head of an excellent team of partners” and is “fully deserving of a place on a list of the best”, with a track record that includes the chapter 11 proceedings of Bethlehem Steel Company and the Budget Group. Sidley also possesses “one of the grand legal intellects” in Bruce Bernstein. His expertise in the field of banking law ensures that he also features among the leading practitioners in another chapter of this publication. He is also a member of the National Bankruptcy Conference and the American College of Bankruptcy and remains an “influential figure in the Chicago scene”. 

The fourth and final firm to provide two partners in this listing is Goldberg Kohn Bell Black Rosenbloom & Moritz Ltd. A fellow in the American College of Bankruptcy, Ronald Barliant represented the indenture trustee with respect to most of the aircraft operated by United Airlines, and his experience as a bankruptcy judge for the Northern District of Illinois from 1988 to 2002 gives him “penetrative insight [into] all aspects of bankruptcy work”. Alan Solow is chair of the firm’s bankruptcy and creditors’ rights group and a “superb creditors’ counsel”, and respondents spoke highly of his abilities in contested matters in particular. 

The remaining experts in this chapter are drawn from some of the leading firms in the state. Michael Solow from Kaye Scholer LLC joins his brother Alan among these elite practitioners, and was described to researchers as an “absolutely first class creditors’ lawyer”. He has recently represented the largest shareholder in the AOL Latin America case, Healthcare Finance Group in the St Vincent Hospital chain chapter 11 bankruptcy proceeding and Bank of New York in numerous matters. Robert Fishman at Shaw Gussis Fishman Glantz Wolfson & Towbin LLC was described as “highly proficient in all aspects of bankruptcy work”, and was lead bankruptcy counsel to the debtor in possession in the cases of Ingersoll International, AR Accessories Group and The Wallet Works. In addition, Fishman has also represented the chapter 11 trustees of McCook Metals and Commercial Loan Corporation in recent years. 

Jeff Marwil at Jenner & Block LLP was praised for his “thorough and effective” recent work as debtor’s counsel in the Advanced Lighting Technologies bankruptcy and currently serves as the sole managing member of failed Bayou Hedge Funds. Respondents also noted his “sterling work” as an independent fiduciary in the investigation of fraudulent conduct and in pursuing recoveries for defrauded investors. LeBoeuf Lamb Greene & MacRae LLP has gained a presence among the top firms in the state for this type of work through the June 2006 lateral hire of Lewis Rosenbloom from McDermott Will & Emery. Now the head of LeBoeuf Lamb’s worldwide bankruptcy and restructuring department, Rosenbloom “knows the business inside out” and was recommended across all areas of insolvency and restructuring law. Noted for his work on the restructurings of North American Car Corporation and Gillett Holdings as debtor counsel, he also represented the senior bondholders’ committee in the Continental Airlines chapter 11 cases. 

Paul Harner is co-chair of Jones Day’s practice across the firm and “undoubtedly deserves a place on this list”. He has worked on the chapter 11 cases of Tower Automotive, Kmart Corporation and USG Corporation among others, and respondents also passed admiring comment on his work for clients such as DaimlerChrysler Corporation, Venture Capital and Nextel Communications in workout, litigation, and distressed acquisition. David Missner gives DLA Piper LLP a “firmly established presence” in this area and is “among the best in town for debtor work”. His client list includes Diamond Mortgage Corporation, Rymer Foods, Gaslight Clubs, Times Square Studios and Convenient Food Mart. 

The “eminently capable” Keith Shapiro is co-chair of Greenberg Traurig LLP’s national business reorganisation and bankruptcy practice. Well-known locally for his representation of the City of Chicago in the United Airlines chapter 11 case and as chair of the Chicago Bar Association’s bankruptcy and reorganisation committee, he is also a past chairman of the board and president of the Bankruptcy Institute. Completing this listing of Chicago’s leading lights is Matthew Botica, co-chair of Winston & Strawn LLP’s restructuring and insolvency group. His “excellent” practice drew praise from across the US, and he was particularly recommended for his work for Gazpromneft in the multibillion dollar bankruptcy of the Yukos Oil Company and certain affiliates.

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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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