When the stakes couldn't be higher, these lawyers got the call.
They handled market-moving deals and industry-shaping litigation. They achieved precedent-setting outcomes and secured hard-fought wins that enriched their clients or kept them from life prison terms. That's why these 20 lawyers have been named The Recorder's 2012 Attorneys of the Year.
Our winners did battle in courtrooms or boardrooms in high-stakes, high-stress matters 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.
For our fourth annual contest, we considered only California lawyers litigating cases in California courts or handling deals for California-based clients.
Some of our honorees like antitrust prosecutor Heather Tewksbury, who secured convictions against high-level executives in a long-running price-fixing investigation are more junior attorneys who performed under tremendous pressure. Others like Morrison & Foerster's IP litigator Harold McElhinny, representing Apple in the smartphone patent trial, or Fenwick's Jeffrey Vetter, who orchestrated the Facebook IPO are seasoned pros operating under the glare of intense media attention.
What they all did, though, was deliver when it mattered most.
The 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.
The Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp partner won $50 million in compensatory and punitive damages against a lawyer who repped a Hollywood film financier then passed on confidential information to her new employer.
The Covington & Burling partner not only led Microsoft in its winning $1.1 billion bid for AOL's patent portfolio, but also advised it on an innovative structure by which it turned around and sold and licensed a large portion of those IP assets to Facebook.
The Sacramento assistant U.S. attorneys secured a land and cash settlement worth $122.5 million in the litigation over the devastating Moonlight Fire of 2007.
The Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman & Machtinger partner structured Ubisoft Entertainment's unique deal with New Regency to adapt best-selling video game "Assassin's Creed" for the big screen
The Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld partner went to bat for the forgotten and won a significant victory for California prisoners with disabilities and secured a settlement that has reformed the city of Compton's electoral system.
The Latham & Watkins partners 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.
The Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom partner led Yahoo in its record-setting $7.1 billion cash and stock sale of half its stake in China's Alibaba Group, a multistage, cross-border deal.
The Morrison & Foerster partners are winning soldiers of the smartphone wars, having secured a $1.05 billion jury verdict for Apple.
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 just about everyone.
The Panish Shea & Boyle partner's banner year included four successive trial victories, getting awards of more than $75 million in personal injury and wrongful death suits.
The federal defender 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.
The plaintiffs lawyer won 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.
The 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.
The Keker & Van Nest partner led a team defending Google against Oracle's $6 billion copyright and patent claims over technology in the Android operating system. After a long trial against formidable opponents, Van Nest's client was on the hook for precisely $0.
The Fenwick & West partner led 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.