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In the course of selecting the best litigation department among U.S. law firms, The American Lawyer magazine handed out “honorable mentionsto a dozen firms. Among them are these four California-based firms: Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher Four years ago The American Lawyer described the firm as “the rescue squad” and the title still applies. Here are two examples: Wal-Mart Stores Inc. turned to Gibson Dunn to appeal a decision that allows 1.6 million of its female employees to sue the company for gender discrimination. The firm argued last August before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and at press time the court had not ruled. In another crucial appeal, Gibson rode in to take Aetna Inc. to the U.S. Supreme Court. There, the issue was whether health plan beneficiaries can sue their provider under state law for decisions on plan coverage. The court reversed the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals and agreed with Aetna that ERISA preempts such suits. Gibson isn’t just an appellate shop, of course. Representing Madison Square Garden and its parent Cablevision Systems Corp., it pursued litigation and public advocacy strategies that led New York lawmakers to block the controversial billion-dollar West Side Stadium project. In its biggest trial verdict, the firm won a $106 million jury award for Intertainment Licensing GmbH, a German film distributor, in a fraud suit against Franchise Pictures. (Franchise filed for bankruptcy shortly after the verdict.) On a more bizarre note, Gibson Dunn represented news organizations seeking access to records and proceedings in Michael Jackson’s child molestation trial, proving once again that important constitutional principles can grow out of carnival sideshows. O’Melveny & Myers Our previous Litigation Department of the Year had another good run, although not quite as sensational as before. O’Melveny has a lead role defending Merck & Co. in the roller-coaster Vioxx litigation and is coordinating more than 20 law firms in litigation brought by roughly 10,000 welders who claim welding fumes caused neurological disorders. The first case went to trial last year in Texas state court and ended with an 11-to-1 defense verdict. Local lawyer John Bissell took the lead in the courtroom, with O’Melveny providing cru-cial support. Both the Vioxx and welding teams are headed by class action expert John Beisner. Arguably Beisner’s biggest recent achievement occurred outside the courtroom with last year’s passage of the federal Class Action Fairness Act. Beisner has been widely credited as the architect of this bill, which will move more class actions into federal courts. O’Melveny enjoyed two U.S. Supreme Court victories, notched a $100 million international arbitration award against the Republic of Uruguay and produced a must-read 513-page report detailing misdeeds at Hollinger International Inc. At the moment, partner Daniel Petrocelli is trying to work his magic in behalf of former Enron Corp. CEO Jeffrey Skilling, who is on criminal trial in Houston. Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe For firm litigators, the famous Orrick “O” was a bull’s eye. The firm had a great run in the courtroom in 2004 and 2005, showing strength in an impressive variety of practice areas. Orrick won an acquittal on securities fraud and criminal conspiracy charges against the former chief financial officer of McKesson Corporation, which cost investors $9 billion when its stock collapsed. Orrick made the wise strategic decision to try the case before a judge. For Universal Instruments Corporation, Orrick (and co-counsel Susman Godfrey) defeated a $40 million patent infringement claim brought by a “patent troll.” In a rare securities class action trial, Orrick won a bench ruling for its client, Thane International Inc. And in an asbestos liability case pegged at $5 billion, Orrick’s Peter Bicks beat Texas plaintiffs’ lawyer W. Mark Lanier on behalf of Union Carbide Corporation. The firm was also successful in pretrial proceedings. Facing a formidable array of plaintiffs’ lawyers, Orrick, representing Wyeth, won a Daubert challenge to exclude evidence of a link between serious neurological impairment and thimerosal in childhood vaccines. The case was then dismissed. A settlement may best exemplify the firm’s accomplishments. After Hewlett-Packard Company sued client EMC Corporation for patent infringement, Orrick fired back with an aggressive counterclaim. In May 2005, HP ended up paying $325 million to EMC. EMC paid HP nothing. Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges Quinn Emanuel likes to be a little aggressive. Make that a lot aggressive. The Los Angeles-based firm, which recently celebrated its twentieth anniversary, is one of the few litigation-only firms in The Am Law 200. In the two-year period we reviewed, the firm took 24 cases to trial and 12 to arbitration. Its two biggest jury verdicts � both in excess of $100 million � were done under contingency or alternate fee arrangements. But it’s not a plaintiffs’ firm, handling, as it does, defense work for such clients as Time Warner Inc., International Business Machines Corporation and Nike, Inc. The firm’s biggest trial victory to date � a December 2003 jury verdict for $295 million � settled in 2004 for $192 million. The case was brought by two former Bertelsmann AG executives who sued their former employer, asserting they were the driving force behind a joint venture that led to AOL Europe Operations Ltd. Last year the firm won a $160 million award for client Freedom Wireless Inc. after a 15-week patent infringement trial targeting Cingular Wireless and others. The defendants are appealing. On the other side, the firm won a de-fense verdict for Scotts Miracle-Gro Company in an antitrust action brought by Aventis Environmental Science Inc. seeking $150 million. The firm is driving litigation over the collapse of dairy conglomerate Parmalat Finanziaria SpA. Representing Parmalat’s special administrator, Enrico Bondi, Quinn Emanuel has sued Citigroup Inc., Bank of America Corporation and Parmalat’s auditors, seeking billions. Not surprisingly, the firm is handling this for a partial contingency fee.

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