The Connecticut Law Tribune’s annual Litigation Departments of the Year competition was truly a case study.

We had well over 30 law firms submit nearly 60 applications, with some firms opting to compete in more than one category. We picked three general litigation winners, choosing one each among big firms, small firms and out-of-state firms with Connecticut offices. Beyond that, we picked 11 niche winners in both traditional and emerging practice law areas. Finally, as part of our fledgling tradition, we chose one veteran litigator for a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Here are our winners:

Litigation Department Of The Year: Sam Schoonmaker Has Left A Lasting Mark On Divorce Law In Connecticut


For more than 40 years, Greenwich divorce lawyer Samuel V. Schoonmaker III has advised television personalities and jet-set executives on how to end their marriages. He served as divorce counsel to fashion trendsetter Martha Stewart, financier Carl Icahn and former football start Frank Gifford.

Litigation Department Of The Year: Axinn Veltrop Has Patented Approach To Succeeding In Federal Court


A Johnson & Johnson subsidiary sought to stop a manufacturer of spinal implants from violating its patents related to the technology. Fast action was needed. So the company turned to a Connecticut law firm that prides itself on getting results in federal courts across the country—Axinn, Veltrop & Harkrider.

Litigation Department Of The Year: Siegel O’Connor Works Hard To Be A Leader In Employment Law


Siegel, O’Connor, O’Donnell & Beck likes to do more than win cases. The firm, with Hartford and New London offices, wants to have an impact on the law. Its leaders say they’re able to do that by keeping their focus on one practice area.

Litigation Department Of The Year: Saxe Doernberger & Vita Finds ‘Niche Within Niche’ Representing Policyholders


Saxe Doernberger & Vita leverages its specialized practice with a small but growing team to benefit its insurance clients to the tune of nearly $48 million a year in recoveries. The Hamden-based insurance litigation boutique describes its practice as a “niche within a niche,” referring to its decision to solely represent policyholders in coverage disputes.

Litigation Department Of The Year: Howd & Ludorf Uses Group Effort To Improve Its Defense Of Municipalities


Howd & Ludorf doesn’t have a roundtable of knights. But it has a roundtable of lawyers. The Hartford firm, winner of the Connecticut Law Tribune’s 2013 Litigation Departments of the Year Award for municipal litigation, regularly holds group discussions on cases to use the firm’s brain trust of 19 lawyers.

Litigation Department Of The Year: Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder Knows How To Choose Its Battles Carefully


Top 10 lists are popular. Here’s one that’s more than a little interesting: Of the top 10 personal injury verdicts in Connecticut history, the Bridgeport firm of Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder says it’s represented the plaintiffs in six of them.

Litigation Department Of The Year: Day Pitney’s Clients Include National Companies And Connecticut Icons


Day Pitney’s litigation department has represented some of the best-known companies in the state. Core clients have included national and global brands, such as and Wells Fargo bank, not to mention some of Connecticut’s most venerable institutions, such as Yale University.

Litigation Department Of The Year: Conway Stoughton Uses Teamwork To Gain A Competitive Edge


When former hockey teammates Matthew Conway and Paul Stoughton opened a law firm together 11 years ago, they decided to apply the same competitive edge that helped them score goals on the ice to reach goals for their legal practice.

Litigation Department Of The Year: McCarter & English Litigators Expand Reputation In Wide Range Of Practice Areas


When McCarter & English moved into the Connecticut marketplace about a decade ago, there was a general sense the New Jersey-based firm was strong in business litigation. Since then, the firm’s leaders like to think the reputation has grown.

Litigation Department Of The Year: Dori Hightower Seeks Less Confrontational Ways To Practice Family Law


Family law isn’t about winning or tearing down your opponent. It’s about coming to a fair and reasonable agreement so that both parties and their families can move forward. It’s about finding the best way to rebuild lives that have been ripped apart.

Litigation Department Of The Year: Robinson & Cole’s Appellate Unit Thrives With Team-First Approach


It’s a trend that Robinson & Cole partner Jeffrey White has noticed over the past 10 years. Larger firms outside of the appellate hub of Washington, D.C., have been focusing on building up teams of appellate lawyers to show their depth and expertise.

Litigation Department Of The Year: Wiggin and Dana’s White-Collar Group Features Former Prosecutors, Regulators


When big companies face big problems, they usually hire giant law firms with deep benches of lawyers. But one more modest-sized Connecticut firm is often hired to enter the ring against government prosecutors and regulators.

Litigation Department Of The Year: Cantor Colburn Brings Nonlegal Expertise In The IP Law Arena


Cantor Colburn is a law firm. And a haven for scientists. “I think almost 90 percent of our lawyers have a science degree. We’re either bored or we like to study,” joked the firm’s cochairman of litigation, William Cass, who has a mechanical engineering degree from Worcester Polytechnic Institute. “We have people with all levels of expertise.”

Litigation Department Of The Year: Danaher Lagnese Approaches Medical Malpractice Defense From Multiple Angles


Danaher Lagnese has medical malpractice defense down to a science. The Hartford firm’s 26 lawyers are divided up into teams based on areas of expertise. If a doctor who treats cancer patients gets sued, certain lawyers handle those malpractice cases involving cancer. Other teams focus on cardiology, birth injuries, nursing home and rehabilitation cases, orthopedics, anesthesiology and radiology.

Litigation Department Of The Year: Bingham McCutchen’s Small Hartford Office Has Many Big-Name Clients


Bingham McCutchen may only have eight litigators in its Connecticut office. But they insist there’s no shortage of staff or resources for the cases they handle both in and out of state. After all, there are 450 total Bingham McCutchen lawyers worldwide.