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When the results of The National Law Journal‘s 20th annual Who Represents Corporate America survey came in this summer, many of the same names landed on top. Take Cisco Systems Inc. In 2005, its most-used corporate transaction firm was Fenwick & West of Mountain View, Calif. In 2006, Fenwick & West was on its list again. What about defense contractor Lockheed Martin Corp.? In 2005, Lockheed named Atlanta-based King & Spalding as the transactions firm that it turns to most. And in 2006 King & Spalding was still No. 1. In a way, the similarity in the results came as no surprise. What struck us in the past was the consistency of our “most mentions” from year to year. “There’s no real reason to move elsewhere, and there’s risk involved with moving on” to other firms, said Rees Morrison, a law department consultant at Hildebrandt International in Somerset, N.J. Companies, he adds, “need these relationships, [and] most law departments stick with the partner and the firm they trust.” Still, we were intrigued by the findings. We changed the methodology for the survey this year and were curious to see how this new approach would affect the results. In the past, we asked general counsel at the Fortune 250 to list the seven firms that they rely on most for litigation, corporate transactions, labor and employment, and intellectual property. But corporate counsel are a discreet group, and many were reticent to name the firms that top their speed-dial menu. This year, in search of a more complete data set, state and federal records were combed to see which firms corporations were actually used for commercial law and contracts litigation; corporate transactions; employment and labor litigation; and intellectual property litigation and patent prosecution. We tallied the number of mentions each firm received and compiled a new list. In order to appear on the charts in commercial law and contract litigation, and in labor and employment litigation, firms needed to appear in at least two lawsuits. But because fewer firms appeared in documents for corporate transactions and patent filings, we included every firm named in those areas. Our new system, though improved, isn’t bulletproof. We realize that much of what goes on in legal departments never sees the inside of a courtroom, so our emphasis on litigation and court filings inevitably limits how many times certain firms appear. Our data sources, which survey all federal courts, don’t cover every state. And we don’t make any distinctions between firms that may have been hired repeatedly and firms that are preferred providers. But as a trade-off, we have more data for more companies � and hence, a more complete picture of corporate America’s go-to law firms. Despite all of that, familiar faces dominate the listings. Chicago-based Kirkland & Ellis tops the commercial law and contracts litigation chart, and New York-based Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom leads the pack in corporate transactions again this year. Davis Polk & Wardwell was second. Littler Mendelson of San Francisco won the nod when it came to handling the most employment and labor matters, with Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart and Morgan, Lewis & Bockius tied for second. Fish & Richardson; Banner & Witcoff; and Hogan & Hartson tied for the top spot for intellectual property. There’s a good reason for this consistency, say consultants and in-house lawyers at blue-chip companies. When it comes to high-profile matters, it’s all about a firm’s track record and its relationship with the law department. At General Electric Co., for example, vice president and senior counsel of litigation and legal policy Alexander Dimitrief said his team relies on the same select group of law firms and partners. “It’s more than just familiarity with the company. The lawyer demonstrates a certain grasp of strategy and the image you want to project,” Dimitrief said. “They know what makes [us] tick.” While GE may be sticking with the firms it knows, some companies don’t automatically hire the firms that everyone else relies on. Take, for example, Pfizer Inc. Our data show that the company uses a lean roster of firms for corporate transactions that don’t appear at the top of our charts � Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft of New York; Dechert; and Fiddler Gonz�lez and Rodr�guez of Puerto Rico. General counsel Allen Waxman said he doesn’t necessarily look for big names � he looks for big ideas, and firms that might go against the grain. “Will [a firm] bring a unique perspective on a new matter?” Waxman asked. “To say, ‘I’ve done this a million times and here’s a model’ is great. But I’m interested in how you’re going to handle this particular matter.”

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