Lawyers in the Chicago office of McDermott Will & Emery landed major victories in legal disputes — no matter where in the country they had to fight. The team in 2012 racked up two of their biggest wins on behalf of chemicals maker Celanese Corp. and grocery retailer The Kroger Co. "I think this was an exceptional year for us," said Chicago-based McDermott partner Lazar Raynal, the firmwide trial practice leader.

In Southern Chemical Corp. v. Celanese, a McDermott team led by Raynal and Amy Doehring secured a complete trial victory for Celanese in a state trial court in Houston. The firm also won for Celanese $558,000 in direct damages. Southern Chemical claimed $4 billion in damages against Celanese over a contract for methanol, widely used to produce other chemicals.

In Fred Meyer Inc. v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue and Ralphs Grocery Co. v. Commissioner, partners Roger Jones and Andrew Roberson were victorious in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit for Kroger. They fought off $567 million in taxes, penalties and interest that the Internal Revenue Service sought in a dispute concerning a 1992 transaction that happened during the bankruptcy proceedings of Federal Stores, Federated Department Stores and Allied Department Stores.

Raynal said the firm is determined to build its tax-dispute practice. "For us, it was part of a long-term strategy that is paying off," he said. — Andrew Ramonas