In selecting this year’s Dealmakers of the Year, we focused, as usual, on the handful of lawyers who played pivotal roles in some of the most notable transactions of 2012. Our goal: to spotlight innovation and creativity in mergers and acquisitions, capital markets, project finance, and bankruptcy work that came together during a year that might have prompted Norma Desmond, if she was an M&A lawyer, to say, “I’m still big. It’s the companies that got small.” Conglomerates fell out of favor, driving spin-off and divestiture activity to historic levels—and emphasizing the work of lawyers. Spin-offs, in particular, require intensive, high-level lawyering. In capital markets, meanwhile, the recovery continued its wobbly and uneven pace, creating enough opportunity to be alluring and enough risk to be off-putting (again, good news for lawyers, who make their living mitigating risk). For pre-2008 nostalgia, consider the real estate market, suddenly strong enough to spur both the $16 billion acquisition of Archstone Equity and the $1.2 billion IPO of Realogy Inc. Feels like old times—but without the toxic assets.
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