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The National Law Journal‘s Hot List is a list of plaintiffs’ litigation firms that we feel have done exemplary work during the past year. Though we paid careful attention to recent successes, all the firms chosen have track records that go back years, sometimes decades. But our selections were not based on vaunted reputations, impressive client lists or cases filed. We looked for results. Each of the 20 firms selected is described in a thumbnail sketch, which includes recent cases. This presented a challenge for some firms, especially those that handle large commercial cases, since so many settle confidentially. Consequently, the cases listed do not always represent the firm’s most impressive achievements. To be eligible for selection, at least half of a firm’s work had to be for plaintiffs and at least half had to be litigation. Most of the firms fit comfortably within those bounds. Two Houston firms, Susman Godfrey and Gibbs & Bruns, reported a greater percentage of defense work than the others, but still tilt toward plaintiffs. We eliminated solo practitioners and very small firms, regardless of their success, simply because our purpose was to recognize the work of law firms, not individual lawyers. Though some firms also appeared on our first list last year, we tried to begin with a blank slate and judge each nominee de novo. We do not wish to imply, however, that this process was scientific. We did not adopt objective standards against which to measure firms. The selections were subjective, and there are undoubtedly firms as worthy as those we picked. The choice of 20 was also an arbitrary limitation that forced the elimination of firms that otherwise were deserving. The firms included are a varied group, the largest of which is 135 lawyers. There are class action securities firms, toxic tort specialists, a firm that mostly does automobile cases and one that specializes in representing whistleblowers. They are scattered around the country, though fully a quarter are based in Texas. A word about what we are not claiming for the selected firms. We do not say they are the most successful or best. We don’t know how we would begin to judge which firms are best. Joe Jamail, who has been dubbed “The King of Torts,” recently discussed this topic in his Houston office. The crown was first given to him “tongue in cheek” by Melvin Belli, he said, who had tired of wearing it himself. Then, as a joke, local judges presented him with a literal crown now encased in glass on the conference table in his “war room.” The whole notion strikes him as absurd: “That title to me is tantamount to being elected the fattest horse in the glue factory.” Cleo Cacoulidis wrote the thumbnail sketches of the firms and conducted the research, assisted by Lindsay Fortado.

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