Pensions & Benefits 2015: Analysis

In this first edition of Who’s Who Legal: Pensions & Benefits we feature 335 lawyers from 200 firms across 42 jurisdictions who are considered leading practitioners in their respective markets.

Baker & McKenzie earns top place in our research with an expansive global network matched by a depth of expertise that is unrivalled in the international market. 

In the US, Morgan Lewis & Bockius impresses with a stand-out ERISA litigation practice group. Seyfarth Shaw, Proskauer Rose, Sidley Austin and Steptoe & Johnson are also among a number of strong offerings in this field.

Allen & Overy is widely recognised for its expertise in both pension and benefit issues across the European market.      

Cuatrecasas Gonçalves Pereira and employment law boutique Sagardoy Abogados stand out in the Iberian Peninsula; CMS Cameron McKenna, Travers Smith and pensions boutique Sacker & Partners impress in the UK; while Bronsgeest Deur and Norrbom Vinding excel in the Dutch and Danish markets respectively.

Wilberforce Chambers is marked out as the leading set in this field.

The most highly regarded individuals in the US, the rest of the world and the UK Bar are also recognised in this section.

Lawyer Firm
Howard Shapiro Proskauer Rose, New Orleans
Paul Ondrasik Jr Steptoe & Johnson, Washington DC
Howard Pianko Seyfarth Shaw, New York
Gregory Braden Morgan Lewis & Bockius, Washington DC
Evan Miller Jones Day, Washington DC
Rest Of The World
Fredrik Dahl Advokatfirman Vinge, Stockholm
Martin Diller Gleiss Lutz, Stuttgart
Philip Smith Arthur Cox, Dublin
Dawn Heath Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, London
Graham Damant Bowman Gilfillan, Johannesburg
Cynthia Chung Deacons, Hong Kong
Samantha Brown Herbert Smith Freehills, London
Seppo Havia Dittmar & Indrenius, Helsinki
Juan Bonilla Cuatrecasas Gonçalves Pereira, Madrid
René Döring Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Frankfurt
UK Bar
Brian Green QC Wilberforce Chambers, London
Andrew Simmonds QC 5 Stone Buildings, London
Andrew Spink QC Outer Temple Chambers, London


Baker & McKenzie leads the way, fielding a total of 14 lawyers from its offices in Europe, Asia, Latin America and the US. London-based Jeanette Holland sits on the steering committee of the firm’s Europe pensions group. She advises companies and trustees on all aspects of occupational pensions law and is described as “user-friendly and efficient”. Robert West is considered a “great talent in the industry” and advises both companies and trustees on all aspects of the law. His representative experience includes acting for the Merchant Navy Officers Pension Fund in securing £500 million of liabilities with an insurer.

In Madrid Fermín Guardiola is experienced in negotiating collective bargaining agreements and equality plans. He is “much admired” by peers and clients for his expertise in this field. Ester Maza advises on compensation and benefits, including equity-related incentive plans. She is noted for her “diligence” and “personable approach”.

Frankfurt-based Günther Heckelmann is praised for his “technical abilities” in the sector and is seen as a “great asset” to the firm. Christian Reichel is an “expert” in pension and employment law and advises on the introduction, change, transfer and closure of pension and other benefit schemes and contractual trust arrangements.

Of counsel in Mexico City Jorge de Regil is a “well-reputed” name in the market. His practice encompasses advising on labour and pensions issues arising from mergers and acquisitions as well as collective terminations and bargaining.

Jonathan Isaacs in Hong Kong focuses on China-related matters and is considered a “leading authority” on collective bargaining in China.

In Lima Alfonso de los Heros Pérez Albela provides “practical and effective advice” to clients based across the region.

Douglas Darch is a “top name” in Chicago and is experienced in benefit plan modification and ERISA litigation. He is praised for his “outstanding litigation skills”.

Morgan Lewis & Bockius also performs strongly in this edition, with nine individuals selected for inclusion. Gregory Braden is one of our most highly regarded individuals this year thanks to his “sensational” work in the ERISA field. His practice involves representing clients in disputes on retiree medical and life insurance benefits, severance pay and multiple employer welfare arrangement claims. William Delany is another “top-notch” litigator and represents clients against class action claims challenging 401(k) savings plan administration, stock-drop litigation and fiduciary duty issues.

In Philadelphia Brian Ortelere is a “trusted adviser” to many employers who value his “excellent” skills defending employee benefits litigation. Jeremy Blumenfeld co-chairs the firm’s ERISA litigation practice and is “greatly respected” in the market. He represents plan sponsors and fiduciaries in lawsuits challenging plan investments, design and alleging misrepresentations.

Chicago-based Charles Jackson boasts decades of trial experience and represents a wide variety of clients including plan sponsors, employers, service providers and insurers. He is known for being a “responsive and pragmatic” lawyer. Thomas Hurka is “well versed” in class actions and collective actions. His clients hail from a number of industries including retail, finance, automotive and pharmaceutical.

Allen & Overy garners seven inclusions, including head of the employment and benefits group in Düsseldorf, Tobias Neufeld. He is an “expert” in company pension matters and advises national and international companies on a range of incentives issues. Germany managing partner Thomas Ubber is “internationally renowned” for his practice in this sphere. He “continues to impress” companies with his knowledge of the complexities in this area of law. Hans-Peter Loew is the global head of the employment and benefits practice and is “highly revered” in the market. He supports clients through the negotiation and reconciliation of interests and social plans with employee representatives.

In London Neil Bowden “truly excels” in his practice advising trustees and employers on their pension arrangements. He is also experienced in liability management and has advised in a number of significant longevity swap transactions.

Pieter De Koster heads the Belgian employment and benefits team and boasts a “wealth of expertise” in this area. He is praised for always providing “advice of the highest quality”.

European firm Cuatrecasas Gonçalves Pereira is represented by five lawyers. Juan Bonilla “stands out” for his work on pensions and incentives. His expertise includes employee compensation schemes, particularly share-based schemes. He is considered a “top-tier” figure in the Spanish market. Salvador del Rey is a “font of knowledge” on senior management issues, compensation and benefits. His practice covers both national and international aspects of employment and benefits law. Pilar Cavero is an “esteemed” practitioner who is well known for her expertise in the collective bargaining space.

Sagardoy Abogados likewise features five individuals including the “superb” Iñigo Sagardoy who is praised for his “thorough knowledge” of employment and benefits law. Martín Godino remains the “first port of call” for many clients requiring Spanish law expertise. He is noted for his “strategic approach” and “great business acumen”. Román Gil is another “leading lawyer” at the firm praised for the “comprehensive” advice he provides on all aspects of employment law.

Employment boutique Littler Mendelson garners five listings including the “brilliant” Susan Katz Hoffman who specialises in employee benefits litigation. She is noted for her “sound advice” in matters relating to plan design and administration, as well as benefits-related issues in corporate transactions. Steven Friedman co-chairs the employee benefits practice group, along with Deidre Grossman and both are praised for their “notable” expertise.

Mayer Brown’s Duncan Abate is based in Hong Kong and is the “go-to guy” for employee benefits law. He advises on the establishment, maintenance and restructuring of occupational retirement schemes and mandatory provident fund schemes. Hong Tran at the same office is also recommended this year. Chicago-based Nancy Ross is experienced in representing pension plans, ESOPs, trustees and employers concerning their administration of plan assets and fiduciary responsibilities. She is seen as a “valuable asset” by her clients. In London Ian Wright is a “well-reputed name” in the market. He advises on contentious and non-contentious matters including investment, funding and employer covenant issues and is particularly interested in the impact of other regulatory regimes on pension schemes.

Boutique Dutch firm Bronsgeest Deur is highly regarded in the labour market and is home to a number of benefits specialists. Co-founding partner Henriëtte Bronsgeest is “extremely well known” in the Netherlands and praised for her “first-class negotiation skills”. Philip Nabben is renowned for his “creativity” in employment issues and peers “cannot praise him highly enough”.

Jørgen Vinding from Danish firm Norrbom Vinding is “fêted” for his expertise in the field. His recent experience includes representing a number of municipalities in the Supreme Court in a pensions case concerning the interpretation of the contractual regulation of pensions matters for municipal employees. Yvonne Frederiksen also has a “first-class reputation” for advising a wide variety of clients based in Denmark.

UK pensions boutique Sacker & Partners is widely reputed for its expertise across the spectrum of pensions law and garners four listings. Katherine Dandy heads the disputes team and specialises exclusively in acting for employers, trustees and members of occupational pension schemes. She garners praise for her “exceptional work” in the field. Mark Greenlees is another “star” and boasts over three decades of experience in this practice area. Clients include the trustee boards of several large and high-profile schemes in a variety of sectors.

At CMS Cameron McKenna in London Mark Atkinson acts for trustees and companies in relation to occupational pension schemes. He is highly recommended for his “business acumen” and “dedication” to his clients. Emma Frost’s “big-name client roster” includes the likes of House of Fraser, Honeywell and Gala Coral. She is “very active” in the pensions field, advising trustees and employers on general issues, litigation matters and the pensions aspects of corporate transactions. Mark Grant, another prominent individual based in London, and Alistair Hill in Edinburgh are also recommended this year.

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer is home to the “eminent” Dawn Heath who specialises in UK defined benefit pension schemes and their associated challenges. Her practice involves advising on changing pension arrangements and general pension scheme administration issues. René Döring is a “top-tier specialist” and “extremely knowledgeable” on occupational pension schemes. Acting for companies and pensions funds, he advises on the virtual or actual outsourcing of pension liabilities. His recent experience includes advising a Dax30 company on the spin-off of all pension liabilities to a pensioner company. Klaus-Stefan Hohenstatt is the “go-to guy” for senior executives wishing to negotiate remuneration schemes and pension arrangements. Stefan Köck is recommended for his ability to provide “seamless advice” on international HR issues.

Travers Smith’s Susie Daykin advises on matters including ongoing schemes, scheme amendments, mergers, employer insolvency and automatic enrolment obligations. She is lauded for her “top-notch abilities” in the field. Philip Stear “continues to stand out” thanks to his experience which includes advising the Mirror Group Pension Scheme on a £250 million buy-in of pensioner liabilities and the ITN Pension Scheme on complex security arrangements. Peter Esam and Paul Stannard also feature in this edition.

Four individuals from Proskauer Rose are listed, including the “talented” Howard Shapiro. Considered one of the “best ERISA litigators in the US”, he has argued on matters including fiduciary issues, misrepresentation claims and ESOP litigation. Myron Rumeld co-chairs the firm’s employee benefits, executive compensation and ERISA litigation practice and is seen as a “dean of the US bar” in this area. He focuses primarily on ERISA litigation and fiduciary responsibility.

Seyfarth Shaw is home to the “fantastic” Howard Pianko who advises clients on the full range of employee benefits matters. He is a “recognised leader” in the field and his work covers both US and cross-border issues. Mark Casciari represents employers, plan sponsors, plans, plan administrators and fiduciaries and is a “prominent figure” in the market. He has extensive experience suing federal agencies on the basis that they have acted beyond their statutory authority.

In Sidley Austin’s Chicago office four names come highly recommended. Mark Blocker litigates a wide variety of ERISA class action claims, including challenges made to health and welfare plans. He is praised for his “intricate knowledge” of ERISA matters. Robert Ferencz’s experience earns him a “first-class ranking” in employee benefits and executive compensation. He advises plans regarding the fiduciary issues related to investment decisions and the operation of collective trust funds.

Paul Ondrasik heads Steptoe & Johnson’s ERISA, labour and employment group from the firm’s DC office and enjoys a “sterling reputation” in the US. He boasts over three decades of experience in the employee benefits plan field and recent cases include In re American Express ERISA Litig and Albrecht v Comm on Employee Benefits of the Federal Reserve Employee Benefits System. Two additional lawyers from the office are also listed: the “impressive” Melanie Nussdorf and Morgan Hodgson who is highly regarded for her litigation-based practice.

Jones Day’s Evan Miller is an “esteemed individual” at the DC bar and advises plan sponsors and administrators on ERISA’s reporting and disclosure requirements as well as defending companies and individuals in stock drop cases and cash balance and accrued benefit cutback litigation.

In Stockholm at Advokatfirman Vinge Fredrik Dahl is a “great tactician” and garners praise for his pensions and benefits expertise. Charlotte Forssander is an “accomplished” practitioner who provides “invaluable advice” on benefits issues.

Gleiss Lutz’s Martin Diller specialises in company pensions and is praised for his “resourcefulness” in collective bargaining and outsourcing.

Irish firm Arthur Cox is home to the “first-rate” Philip Smith who advises on all aspects of pension schemes including day-to-day administration, restructuring, mergers, amendments and corporate transactions. He is joined by Declan Drislane who has a “greatly respected” practice advising employers and trustee bodies on the legal issues arising in connection with scheme underfunding and scheme amendments. Catherine Austin is highly rated for her expertise on the establishment and operation of occupational pension schemes.

At Herbert Smith Freehills in London Samantha Brown enjoys a “stellar reputation” for her work advising corporates, trustees, providers and other pension stakeholders. Her recent experience includes advising Swiss Re in relation to its participation in the reinsurance of longevity risk in respect of pensions in payment in the Aviva Staff Pension Scheme. In Sydney Michael Vrisakis and David Cooper are “highly visible” in the market and advise clients on a variety of complex superannuation matters.

Bowman Gilfillan’s Graham Damant is regarded as a lawyer in the “premier league” of the pensions and benefits field.  He is a “guru” on pension funds and pension benefits. Karen Fulton and Tashia Jithoo are also listed this year.

Hong-Kong based Cynthia Chung leads the HR and pensions practice at Deacons. She is “hugely talented” according to our sources, and advises on occupational retirement schemes and the Mandatory Provident Fund.

Seppo Havia at Dittmar & Indrenius is praised for his “comprehensive understanding of Finnish employment and pensions law”. He is joined by Petteri Uoti, who is commended for his “internationally renowned” disputes practice.

At the UK Bar Wilberforce Chambers stands out as a leading set in this area and fields five silks to this edition. Brian Green QC is an “extremely impressive advocate” and specialises in all aspects of occupational and public sector pension schemes. Paul Newman QC is a “fearsome litigator” who boasts experience across the full spectrum of contentious work in this field. As well as acting for life insurers, he has also acted for the Pensions Regulator, the Pension Protection Fund and the Pensions Ombudsman. Michael Tennet QC is “widely respected” for his pensions expertise and has acted in a number of high-profile cases, including those of the Nortel Pension Scheme and the Merchant Navy Ratings Pension Fund.

Other stand-out barristers include Andrew Simmonds QC at 5 Stone Buildings, who is “sensational” according to clients and peers. His experience covers advice and litigation relating to disputes between employers, trustees and members.

Outer Temple Chambers’ Andrew Spink QC is “extremely user-friendly” and is “much in demand” for his expertise in matters involving the administration of large occupational pension schemes, including dealing with the UK Pensions Regulator. He is joined by fellow “distinguished” barristers Nicolas Stallworthy QC and Andrew Short QC who are both experienced in occupational pensions schemes in both the private and public sectors.

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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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