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Keker & Van Nest, a 49-lawyer firm based in San Francisco, won The American Lawyer magazine’s first Litigation Boutique of the Year contest. The firm edged out four other finalists: Susman Godfrey of Houston, the runner-up; Chicago’s Bartlit Beck Herman Palenchar & Scott; Houston’s Beck, Redden & Secrest; and Washington, D.C.’s Zuckerman Spaeder. Keker & Van Nest was cited for a series of litigation successes, including major cases in intellectual property, legal malpractice and white-collar defense. In his report on the firm, senior reporter Paul Braverman wrote that “Keker & Van Nest lawyers handle cases of national importance … Not only do they win consistently, they do so while working in an environment that is a model for the legal industry in the areas of diversity and pro bono. Also, the partners like each other, or do a great job of disguising any animosity beneath a shower of banter and playful teasing.” This competition was open to litigation specialty shops outside The Am Law 200. The magazine’s editors invited some firms to participate; others nominated themselves. The contest was extremely close. The final decision, made by a panel of American Lawyer staffers, was based on the firms’ written submissions and oral presentations, supplemented by reporting with firm clients, opponents and observers. The contest covered the period between January 2003 through June 2004, which the finalists could augment during the final round of judging. All manner of litigation was covered, from pretrial settlements through appellate work. The Keker firm won despite a high-profile defeat in the federal government’s prosecution of Frank Quattrone, the former high-flying investment banker at Credit Suisse First Boston. John Keker, the firm’s founder and marquee attraction, represented Quattrone and lost at trial (the first trial ended in a mistrial). The finalists included:

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