ARNSTEIN & LEHR

Arnstein & Lehr may be old, but it’s nimble. Founded in 1893, the Chicago-based law firm has positioned itself to provide specialty services to big clients and broad-based services to midsize companies. Besides high-end products liability defense work, it also handles high-dollar real estate matters. This year, it represented distressed developer South Florida Federal Partners in a $100 million sale of four office buildings. In addition, it orchestrated the $14.5 million secondary public stock offering of Celsius Holdings. Clients include Bank of America, Johnson & Johnson and KeyBank, according to court records. It is currently representing Hoffman Estates, Ill., a Chicago suburb, in a bid to assume ownership of the Sears Center Arena, built in 2006 for $62 million.

The 146-attorney firm has made a recent push into the Florida market, absorbing a seven-attorney Coral Gables law firm last year, its largest acquisition of attorneys to date. Commercial real estate and litigation are the big draws there, said man­aging partner Ray Werner. “Our growth has been deliberate and accretive rather than sudden,” he said. The firm has 10 offices, including seven in Florida and one in Milwaukee. — Leigh Jones

AXINN, VELTROP & HARKRIDER

The maxim says, “To succeed, find one thing and do it really well.” Axinn, Veltrop & Harkrider apparently has followed it. In the past two years, 53-attorney Axinn has concentrated on developing core practices: antitrust, intellectual property and complex litigation. The strategy has led to important victories. Last August, partners Stephen Axinn and John Harkrider led a team that helped Ball Corp.’s $577 million acquisition of aluminum-can plants and related contracts from Anheuser-Busch InBev. The attorneys’ work enabled the company to win the U.S. Department of Justice’s approval for the deal without a second request for information. In February, the firm won approval for Bemis Co.’s $1.2 billion acquisition of the Food Americas operations of Alcan Packaging, part of Rio Tinto.

In a dispute between Mutual Pharmaceutical and Tyco Healthcare Group, the firm won a judgment for Mutual that let the company continue production of a generic for sleep-aid drug temazepam.

With offices in Hartford, Conn.; Washington; and New York, it also had a recent victory when the judge in New York v. Group Health Inc. refused to allow the plaintiff to amend a complaint to add a theory addressed in the government’s new merger guidelines. The judge failed to find any judicial precedent for it.  — Kevin Lincoln

BOWMAN AND BROOKE
See feature, “Playing to the audience gives Bowman its edge.”

BUCKLEY­SANDLER

During the past year, BuckleySan­dler has tripled in size, scored a series of high-profile victories and added clients in droves — all during one of the worst recessions in U.S. history. Not bad for its first year in existence.

Since its launch in March 2009, the law firm has grown to more than 90 lawyers in Washington, New York and Los Angeles. Clients include Wells Fargo, Bank of America Corp., Google Inc., Yamaha Corp., Sprint Nextel Corp. and American Express Co.

Among the attorneys it has added are Samuel Buffone, the former co-chairman of Ropes & Gray’s government enforcement practice, and David Krakoff, who previously co-chaired Mayer Brown’s white-collar practice. “We’ve made it clear that we are a group of lawyers who want to practice in a different model. And that’s an attractive opportunity,” name partner Andrew Sandler said.

BuckleySandler has spent the past year racking up wins for clients, particularly banks facing suits over subprime-lending practices.

In January, the firm convinced a federal judge in Maryland to dismiss a suit filed by the city of Baltimore against Wells Fargo. “We all wanted to do practice law differently, and it’s been working out very well,” Sandler said. — Jeff Jeffrey

CARTER LEDYARD & MILBURN
 Interview with Judith Lockhart

Getting the go-ahead for Colum­bia University to proceed with its $6.28 billion expansion was just one of the recent successes for New York’s Carter Ledyard & Milburn. New York state agency Empire State Development Corp. tapped the 116-attorney firm to represent it in the highly charged eminent-domain battle. The state’s highest court affirmed the school’s right to assert eminent domain last month. But the firm’s recent success extends well beyond its condemnation practice. “We have the backbone of a full-service corporate firm, with some really terrific specializations,” said managing partner Judith Lockhart.

The firm, with offices in New York and Washington, has seen plenty of litigation involving title and authenticity matters and its creditors rights and insolvency attorneys have experienced a surge in work from clients such as the Bank of New York Mellon. The firm is currently advising client Spectra Energy Corp. on a deal to expand natural gas pipelines in New York and New Jersey. “I really feel like we get a fair deal from them,” said Jack Landry, general counsel of Orient-Express Hotels. — Karen Sloan

CONNOLLY BOVE LODGE & HUTZ

Connolly Bove Lodge & Hutz credits its success to top-notch lawyers, lower costs and ­location, location, location. Based in Wilmington, Del., the 115-attorney firm specializes in ­patent and corporate litigation. It also has offices in Los Angeles and Washington.

The law firm has long been known for its intellectual property work and has represented big-name clients. Some of those clients include AstraZeneca PLC, Bayer A.G., Johnson & Johnson, L’Oreal Group and Pfizer Inc., which has helped defend in Lipitor litigation.

In the past year, the firm secured a $6.5 million patent infringement award for Parker Hannifin Corp. and successfully defended FMC Corp. in a patent dispute against Ecolab.

During the past five years, the firm has also worked to aggressively expand its corporate practice, often acting as co-counsel with out-of-town firms. Last year it paired up with Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz to represent the Rohm & Haas Co. in its $15 billion acquisition by Dow Chemical Co.

In addition to alternative fee arrangements, Connolly Bove lures clients with hourly rates that are lower than those at big law firms. — Julio Menache

DOW LOHNES

If it’s a media matter in Washington, chances are Dow Lohnes is playing a big role. With clients that have included Cox Enterprises Inc., Media General Inc. and St. Martin’s Press, the 125-attorney law firm handles cases involving cable television, cellular phones, landlines and satellites. The firm has a strong regulatory practice in addition to litigation, corporate and government relations practices. Last year, Dow Lohnes represented Cox in the company’s sale of the controlling interest in the Travel Channel — valued at more than $900 million — to Scripps Network Interactive.

In a more localized, but highly charged case in Georgia’s DeKalb County Superior Court, the firm last year represented The Atlanta-Journal Constitution and WSB-TV in successfully preventing an abortion clinic from winning court approval to seal a case. The clinic had argued that allowing media coverage of a case brought by the mother of a 16-year-old girl would have endangered doctors and other workers. Currently, the firm, which also has offices in Atlanta and Norman, Okla., is spending much of its energy advising clients on the proposed changes in broadband services under the Federal Communications Commission’s National Broadband Plan. — Leigh Jones

FARELLA BRAUN + MARTEL

It seems that 2009 was the year that every law firm wanted to forget. Not so at 130-attorney Farella Braun + Martel, which saw billable hours, revenue and profits grow without laying off staff or attorneys. The San Francisco-based firm doesn’t credit its good fortune to any single large matter but rather to a string of smaller victories, as well as its efforts to reposition lawyers to help clients navigate the tough economy. “There was no grand slam, to use a baseball analogy, but a lot of hits,” said managing partner Steve Lowenthal. Firm profits were up about 9%, Lowenthal said. Among those legal hits was a large settlement the firm secured for mining client U.S. Borax. Settlement proceeds came from insurance carriers tied to decades of environmental litigation, which resulted in the company recovering more than 80% of the money at issue. The firm’s clean-technology practice counseled client First Solar Inc. in several deals worth a combined $685 million, while its wine industry practice stayed busy assisting wineries with bankruptcies. “They’re as good as the large firms I’ve worked with, said Mark Evans, general counsel of Nestlé Waters North America.” — Karen Sloan

GOLDBERG SEGALLA
 Interview with Richard Cohen

Goldberg Segalla wants attorneys with giant books of business, but they better not have an ego to match. Richard Cohen, managing partner of the Buffalo, N.Y., firm said that Goldberg Segalla has grown from seven to 110 litigators in the past nine years under the guiding philosophy that no single attorney is better than the firm as a whole. He learned from experience. He started his career at WolfBlock and worked at Buffalo’s Saperston & Day before helping found Goldberg Segalla in 2001. Both of his old firms are gone, largely, he said, because they lacked cohesiveness. “They were broken,” he said.

Goldberg Segalla is humming along just fine. Clients for the litigation firm include Mattel Inc., Limited Brands Inc., General Electric Co., and Quaker Oats. The law firm has 11 offices, including seven in New York and others in Hartford, Conn.; Philadelphia; and Princeton, N.J.

It also is defending the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in personal injury cases related to the 1993 World Trade Center bombings. In March, it defended Mercedes-Benz in a case alleging that a design defect caused a vehicle to catch fire, causing serious damage. The jury took an hour to clear the automaker. — Leigh Jones

HOLLINGSWORTH

Big cases don’t necessarily demand big law firms. Case in point: 70-lawyer litigation boutique Hollingsworth handles complex trial and appellate work for major corporate clients including Novartis Pharmaceutical Corp., Koch Industries Inc. and General Electric Co. The Washington firm is best known for its expertise in the pharmaceutical industry — particularly its mastery of the Daubert standard, which requires expert-witness testimony to be reliable and relevant in order to be presented to a jury. Its willingness to try cases in court distinguishes it from much of the competition, said partner Frank Leone. “A lot of these complex litigation cases don’t go to trial, but we approach all of them as though they will,” he said. Hollingsworth is currently involved in several prominent matters, including the defense of security contractor DynCorp International against a group of farmers from Ecuador who allege that the company’s aircraft sprayed their land with possibly toxic chemicals while on missions to eradicate Colombian coca farms. — Karen Sloan

KAUFMAN & CANOLES

Virginia firm Kaufman & Canoles has become ­leaner, but its deals have grown heftier. Under newly named Executive Vice President of Practice Management Charles McPhillips, the law firm consolidated 26 practice groups to a streamlined group of 14. In addition to representing Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick in his bankruptcy proceeding, the firm has worked on several big deals recently, including the issuance of $230 million of First Mortgage revenue notes by clients GWR Operating Partnership and Great Wolf Finance Corp. The law firm, which has offices in Norfolk, Chesa­peake, Hampton, Newport News, Richmond, Virginia Beach and Williamsburg, Va., has developed a significant practice in its corporate and public finance group centered on the growing base of Chinese companies going public. Realizing that it had the ability to perform work for small to midsize Chinese firms, Kaufman & Canoles’ China team found a niche that centers upon international securities transactions, including numerous successful Nasdaq initial public offerings. — Richard Acello

LISKOW & LEWIS

Liskow & Lewis has long been an energy-law player on the Gulf Coast, and its stakes in the game are getting higher. Since 1935, the 100-attorney law firm has grown at the same time as the petroleum, chemical and mineral industries in the region. It is now defending BP PLC in many of the oil spill cases filed following the Deepwater Horizon disaster. It has extensive experience in matters pertaining to the Oil Pollution Act and similar state statutes and Oil Spill Financial Responsibility requirements.

Liskow & Lewis, which has offices in New Orleans; Lafayette, La.; and Houston, has represented major energy companies involved in the domestic production, processing, sale and distribution of oil and natural gas. According to court records, clients include Texaco Corp., Shell Chemical L.P. and Exxon Mobil Corp. The law firm also has worked on oil spills caused by Hurricane Katrina and spills from pipelines.

In addition, Liskow & Lewis handles intellectual property, antitrust and white-collar criminal defense work. Recently, it successfully defended BP in a $40 million tax claim by the state of Louisiana. — Richard Acello

MCKOOL SMITH

In the wave of bankruptcy litigation set off by the financial crisis, McKool Smith saw a classic midsize-firm opportunity: When larger firms were conflicted out of suing a bank, McKool could step in. The Dallas-based firm picked up nine bankruptcy lawyers in New York and Texas, and opened an office in Houston. McKool, with 125 lawyers, now represents clients such as SemCrude L.P., Chemtura Corp. and BearingPoint in bankruptcy disputes.

In its traditional practice strengths, the firm has also been accumulating big wins. For the second year in a row, McKool won more Top 100 verdicts than any other firm — four, by VerdictSearch’s accounting. In March, McKool won a $106 million patent infringement case for VirnetX Holding Corp. against Microsoft Corp., its second such win against the software giant in less than a year. In August, the firm, which also has offices in New York, Washington and Marshall, Texas, won $138 million for Versata Software Inc. against SAP A.G. in another patent infringement case. And in October, the firm, serving as co-counsel in a class action against online travel companies, won a $20 million victory for more than 170 Texas cities over unpaid hotel occupancy taxes. — Julio Menache

MITCHELL SILBERBERG & KNUPP

From the Beatles’ Apple Corps to the latest video game creators, Los Angeles-based Mitchell Silber­berg & Knupp represents a cross section of multi­media in Hollywood. Clients come from movies, television, video, music, animation, and increasingly and, increasingly, interactive gaming and game software developers.

The 127-attorney firm, which also has offices in New York and Washing­ton, recently landed former Warner Bros. General Counsel John Schulman to chair its entertainment department.

Among Mitchell Silberberg’s recent projects are representing Apple Corps with its English counsel Philip Davis in Apple’s negotiations with The Walt Disney Studios in a remake of the 1968 Beatles animation Yellow Submarine. In Davis’ other multimillion-dollar deal he represented Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. in negotiations with Universal Pictures on the motion picture and allied rights for the popular video game “Bioshock,” a $200 million project with the director of Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and 3.

At the same time, James Guerra, a new media attorney is ­representing Wildheart Entertainment Group in the development of a project tracing the history of recorded music feat­uring Beatles producer George Martin. — Richard Acello

OBLON, SPIVAK, MCCLELLAND, MAIER & NEUSTADT

For Oblon, Spivak, McClelland, Maier & Neustadt, 2009 was a year of firsts — more than 4,000 of them. The 106-attorney intellectual property heavyweight became the first firm to obtain more than 4,000 U.S. utility patents in one year.

Oblon Spivak’s client list includes Toshiba, Toyota Motor Co., Mitsubishi Electric Co., Mitsubishi Chemical, BASF, Ricoh Corp., Sony Corp. and L’Oréal. The firm handles the largest percentage of U.S. patent work originating in Japan for Ricoh, Sony and Toshiba, and serves as the exclusive provider of U.S. patent prosecution services for Sony Europe and Sony China.

The firm has made several strategic moves, including opening an affiliate office in Tokyo. Based in Alexandria, Va., it also has streamlined practice groups into two core areas — patent prosecution and litigation. With several disciplines organized under these main areas, the firm has a greater ability to cross-sell among current clients and attract new ones. It also has two new blogs, The ITC 337 Law Blog, created in response to the growing area of international trade litigation, and the Patents Post Grant Law Blog, a forum for discussing patent re-examination issues. — Richard Acello

PIERCE ATWOOD

Pierce Atwood is growing beyond its Portland, Maine, roots with a tried-and-true formula: bolstering key practice areas in big cities. This spring, the 130-attorney firm added four intellectual property lawyers in Boston. The practice group started out handling transaction and licensing work for Maine organizations. It’s now branching into life sciences, energy, electrical and semiconductor IP work.

The firm opened a Washington office a couple of years ago to serve the growing energy sector. Washington clients include JPMorgan Chase; public utility holding company Unitil Corp.; and oil and natural gas producer XTO Energy Inc.

Alternative billing has helped add new clients, and the firm’s Catalyst Program, which offers low or deferred fees to select startup companies, led to new clients including Advanced Cell Technology Inc. and film production company Gum Spirits Productions. The firm’s other offices are in Augusta, Maine; Portsmouth, N.H.; Providence, R.I.; and Stockholm, Sweden. — Sheri Qualters

PORTER & HEDGES

Houston-based Porter & Hedges touts 19 different practices, but its energy group has created the biggest buzz lately. In early June, partner Randy King and a team of five attorneys acted as legal adviser to Noble Energy Inc. in its $544 million sale of oil and gas properties to Citation Oil & Gas Corp. Partner Bob Thomas and six others negotiated the acquisition by Canadian company Talisman Energy of interests in the Eagle Ford Shale Trend in southern Texas in May, and in April partner Chris Farazzi’s team of eight helped Petrohawk Energy sell 50% of its pipeline assets — for $875 million.

The firm also counts corporate work and bankruptcy restructuring litigation as its largest practices, said managing partner Robert Reedy. With the addition of four lateral partner hires in 2009, the 100-attorney firm is in a growth stage.

Reedy said the firm’s “flatlined” democratic organization of regular partner meetings bears much of responsibility for the firm’s strong reputation and integral place in the Texas markets. — Kevin Lincoln

SHARTSIS FREIS
See feature, “For Shartsis Friese, strong momentum.”

WHYTE HIRSCHBOECK DUDEK

A lot of firms have talked about becoming “true partners” with their clients. But Milwaukee-based Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek has taken that approach literally. In October 2009, Whyte Hirschboeck hired Paul Eberle, who founded Capital Data Inc., one of the firm’s clients, to be its chief executive officer. Even more unusual? Eberle is not a lawyer. “The firm decided that, if it was going to get serious about understanding what clients want, there were great opportunities in having someone without the traditional law firm background making decisions,” Eberle said. The bold move for the firm, which also has an office in Madison, Wis., appears to have paid off. Last year, the firm represented Metavante Corp. in a closely watched suit filed by Lehman Brothers Special Financing Inc., involving an interest rate swap agreement. In June, the firm finalized a $170 million deal for Royal Credit Union to acquire 11 branches from AnchorBank.

“These days, when every dollar clients spend on legal services is scrutinized, clients like knowing that their law firm understands where they’re coming from,” Eberle said. — Jeff Jeffrey

ZUCKERMAN SPAEDER

Zuckerman Spaeder’s strategy is simple: “staying focused on what you do well,” said firm Chairman Graeme Bush. For the Washington-based litigation boutique, that means achieving big wins for clients. Bush himself represents creditors seeking to collect on debts owed under the Tribune Co.’s bankruptcy. He negotiated a settlement, awaiting court approval, of about $451 million. “When we started the negotiations, the recovery was about six or seven cents on the dollar. We were able to increase that to about 35 cents on the dollar,” he said. Last month, it scored a $72.5 million settlement for a class of plaintiffs alleging that The Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. violated fraud and RICO laws by keeping millions in fees that should have gone to accident victims. As busy as it is, the firm, which also has offices in Baltimore; New York; Tampa, Fla.; and Wilmington, Del., in May was named the Pro Bono Law Firm of the Year Award for large law firms by the District of Columbia Bar. While many firms have tried to change their models in recent years to meet client needs, Bush said Zuckerman has stayed the course. “We were able to stay strong by continuing to do what we’ve always done.” — Jeff Jeffrey