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Despite the slowing down of the U.S. economy over the past year, few of the nation’s largest corporate legal departments have laid off attorneys. Indeed, of the 100 biggest companies, only 22 saw a decline in the number of attorneys employed, according to The National Law Journal‘s 14th annual survey of who represents corporate America. At the vast majority of these law departments, the number of in-house attorneys either rose (at 51 companies) or stayed the same. There were few dramatic rises in the number of in-house attorneys, but even in the high-tech sector, there was little or no bloodletting. Microsoft Corp., for instance, added 35 attorneys in the 16 months since the last NLJsurvey of law departments. Over that same period, Hewlett-Packard Co. added 25, Intel Corp. added 15 and Dell Computer Corp. added five. Where the numbers did fall, they rarely reflected mass layoffs. AT&T Corp., for example, dropped to 256 attorneys from 260; Electronic Data Systems Corp. dropped to 87 from 96. Law firms have already been announcing layoffs, but so far most of the largest corporations have yet to follow this trend. The fallout from Sept. 11 may change this, but as of late September, few companies had targeted in-house lawyers as layoff candidates. Each year since 1988, The National Law Journalhas surveyed the law departments of the nation’s largest corporations to track the rise and fall of in-house attorneys and to determine who represents corporate America. The survey in 2000 covered the largest financial institutions as well as the largest service and industrial corporations. The survey this year covers only service and industrial companies. In the past, the NLJhas always asked these industrial and service institutions for the number of in-house attorneys throughout the company, the names and titles of the top in-house attorneys, the names of any board members who are practicing attorneys and the names of the law firms used most in the previous year. For this year’s survey, the NLJhas adjusted the questions. The question on board members has been dropped, and the question on outside representation has been changed to highlight litigation. Each company was asked to provide the names of up to five firms. Some chose to list more; others listed fewer. Firms are listed in the order given by the corporation. Some are listed alphabetically. Many are in order of the previous year’s billing records. Although the questions have changed, there is some similarity in the answers. In every previous survey, when companies factored in their corporate and securities work, New York’s Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom was always the law firm cited most often. In this survey, in which only litigation counts, Skadden is still the leader, but by a considerably slimmer margin. In 2000, the top five firms were, first, Skadden, with 31 mentions; second, Howrey Simon Arnold & White, with 24; Jones Day, Reavis & Pogue tied for third with Kirkland & Ellis, at 23; and Cravath, Swaine & Moore tied for fifth with Davis Polk & Wardwell, at 17. In 2001, the top five are Skadden, first with 22; Howrey in second, with 21; Sidley Austin Brown & Wood, third, with 19; Jones Day, fourth with 19 and Kirkland & Ellis, fifth with 17. Sidley Austin moved up from eighth; Davis Polk dropped to 10th and Cravath dropped to 14th. One firm that had been a perennial in the top 10 list for all legal work — Baker & McKenzie — is not even in the top 25 for litigation counsel. (See below for a fuller list of the most mentioned law firms.) Each company was also asked whether the firms cited were used predominantly or exclusively for defense, or whether they were predominantly or exclusively used as counsel when the company was acting as a plaintiff. If a law firm is hired predominantly for defense work, the letter (d) appears next to its name on the chart; if it is hired predominantly to sue other companies, the letter (p), for plaintiff, appears; if a firm is hired for both, the letter (b) is used. When compiled with an eye toward the firms’ specific roles, the list of most mentioned firms is a bit different. The top five defense firms, for example, are Skadden first and Baker Botts second, with four firms tied for third — Morrison & Foerster, Howrey Simon, Jones Day and Latham & Watkins.
Most Mentioned Law Firms
Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom 22
Howrey Simon Arnold & White 21
Sidley Austin Brown & Wood 19
Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue 18
Kirkland & Ellis 17
Baker Botts 15
Mayer, Brown & Platt 14
Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld 13
Latham & Watkins 13
Vinson & Elkins 13
Davis Polk & Wardwell 12
O’Melveny & Myers 11
Weil, Gotshal & Manges 11
Cravath, Swaine & Moore 10
King & Spalding 10
Morrison & Foerster 10

Related chart: Who Defends Corporate America

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