In 2012, tech reigned supreme.
From blockbuster trials over mobile devices to record-setting deals for Internet companies, lawyers' work in tech made national headlines, enriched their clients and helped secure their places as The Recorder's 2012 Attorneys of the Year. Recorder editors reviewed nearly 200 nominations for its fourth annual contest and is recognizing 20 for work on 16 matters.
We considered only California lawyers litigating cases in California courts or handling deals for California-based clients.
Our winners did battle in courtrooms in high-stakes, high-stress matters, making new law and going up against formidable opponents. For many of the honorees, one blockbuster matter was hardly the only thing on their plates. They juggled a number of challenging matters at once, testing their skills in new ways.
"Many of our honorees had to master complex technical issues to best represent their clients at trial, or in a transaction," said Greg Mitchell, The Recorder's editor-in-chief. "And all of our honorees overcame significant obstacles to deliver the desired results."
The complete list of honorees is:
Leif King, a corporate partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, led Yahoo in its $7.1 billion cash and stock sale of half its stake in China's Alibaba Group, a multistage, cross-border deal said to be the largest e-commerce M&A transaction in history.
Morrison & Foerster's Harold McElhinny, Rachel Krevans and Michael Jacobs are winning soldiers of the smartphone wars, having secured a $1.05 billion verdict for Apple after a jury found Android-aligned Samsung infringed patents on the iPhone and iPad. That came on top of other high-stakes IP work the trio was knee-deep in throughout the year.
Harini Raghupathi, an appellate lawyer at Federal Defenders of San Diego, won a ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that bans the government from deporting an alien witness who possesses exculpatory information before the defendant is appointed counsel, a ruling already cited many times by trial judges.
Robert Van Nest of Keker & Van Nest led a team defending Google against Oracle's $6 billion copyright and patent claims over technology in the Android operating system. After a six-week trial against formidable opponents, Van Nest's client was on the hook for precisely $0.
Heather Tewksbury, a federal antitrust prosecutor, was a key part of the Justice Department team that secured price-fixing convictions and a $500 million fine against LCD maker AU Optronics and its executives in a rare criminal trial against a publicly traded company.
Brian Panish, of Panish Shea & Boyle, had four successive trial victories, getting awards of more than $75 million in personal injury and wrongful death suits, including $36.5 million on behalf of a women left catastrophically injured in a wreck with a big-rig.
Richard Simons of Hayward's Furtado Jaspovice & Simons won what's thought to be the largest jury verdict for a single victim in a sex abuse case against a church when a jury awarded $28 million in compensatory and punitive damages to a woman abused by a member of the Jehovah's Witnesses church when she was a child.
Matt Galsor of Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman & Machtinger structured Ubisoft Entertainment's unique deal with New Regency to adapt best-selling video game "Assassin's Creed" for the big screen
Kerry Armstrong, a San Diego criminal defense attorney, didn't just try nine cases to jury; he pulled off complete or partial acquittals and got one dismissed outright for clients accused of murder, rape and child molestation, sparing four clients from life terms. His banner year ended with a Christmas Eve acquittal in a sex abuse case.
Richard Pachulski of Pachulski Stang Ziehl & Jones led embattled solar manufacturer Solyndra into bankruptcy proceedings, ultimately getting the company's reorganization plan confirmed over the fervent objections of the U.S. Trustee's Office, the IRS and Department of Energy against the backdrop of presidential election year politics.
Lucia Coyoca, of Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp, lead counsel for Hollywood film financier David Bergstein in a legal malpractice case, won $50 million in compensatory and punitive damages against Bergstein's former in-house counsel, who he says passed confidential information to her new employer that he says was used against him.
Gay Grunfeld of Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld took a leading role in two public interest cases, winning a significant victory for California prisoners with disabilities and securing a settlement that has reformed the city of Compton's electoral system.
Kelli Taylor and Richard Elias, assistant U.S. attorneys in the Civil Division of the Eastern District of California, secured a land and cash settlement worth $122.5 million in the litigation over the devastating Moonlight Fire of 2007. It was the largest recovery by the government in a forest fire.
Christopher "Kit" Kaufman and Tad Freese of Latham & Watkins advised Lucasfilm in its $4.05 billion sale to Disney. The same week the deal closed, Kaufman led a team that did a $63 million tech transaction, while Freese was advising a nutritional supplement company in a $1.4 billion purchase.
Bruce Deming of Covington & Burling not only led Microsoft in its winning $1.1 billion bid for AOL's patent portfolio, but also advised the Redmond, Wash.-based behemoth on an innovative structure by which it turned around and sold and licensed a large portion of those IP assets to Facebook in a $550 million deal
Jeffrey Vetter led the Fenwick & West team that shepherded Facebook through its $18.4 billion initial public offering, the largest IPO of 2012 and the second largest in U.S. history, amid intense public and regulatory scrutiny and market volatility.
The honorees will be profiled in a special section of The Recorder on March 25.