Fulbright & Jaworski

C. Mark Baker has taken on some of the world’s most controversial political leaders. In 2009, he went up against Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. Baker, 50, argued at the international Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague, Netherlands, on behalf of the Canadian company Nova Scotia Power regarding a coal contract that the Venezuelan government canceled when it nationalized the country’s energy industry. A ruling is expected soon.

“He’s replacing Vladimir Putin as my favorite opponent,” said Baker, an international arbitration lawyer based in Fulbright & Jaworski’s Houston office. “He loves to take over companies, but he doesn’t like to pay them.”

Baker is well known for his rep­resentation of Yukos Oil, once Russia’s largest oil company. In 2003, the company was set to merge with another oil company, Siberia’s Sibneft, before the Russian government blocked the deal. The company ended up bankrupt, with billions of dollars in tax claims and its billionaire boss, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, arrested. The $16.5 billion arbitration before the two companies was settled in 2007.

Baker, who said he wanted to become a lawyer at age 8, heads one of the nation’s largest arbitration practice groups. At Fulbright & Jaworski, he co-leads the international department, which includes more than 100 lawyers in 16 offices, and co-leads the firm’s 73-lawyer arbitration and alternative dispute resolution practice group.

Last year, he won two cases — at the U.S. courts of appeals for the 3d and 5th circuits — arising out of ongoing arbitration proceedings between his client, the Nejapa Power Co. in El Salvador, and the Comisión Hidroeléctrica Ejecutiva del Río Lempa, the state-controlled energy utility. The utility had asked the courts to seek depositions from three employees at the El Paso Corp., which provided legal advice to Nejapa. The courts denied the request in a dispute watched closely by lawyers in the international arbitration community, which, of course, is nothing new for Baker.

Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy

The renewable energy industry gained steam during the past decade, and at its legal vanguard was Edward Feo. As co-chairman of the global project finance practice at Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy, Feo, 57, spearheaded some of the biggest green projects of the decade. On his watch, the firm’s renewable energy group — among the first in the nation — has closed more than $35 billion in transactions since 2000. In the past three years alone, his group closed a landmark 140 project financings, which raised more than $125 billion for energy and infrastructure projects throughout the world.

Among projects the Los Angeles-based Feo has overseen is the 2009 landmark sale of Arcadia Windpower’s Bluewater Wind to NRG Energy Inc. He also spearheaded the $1.82 billion privatization of the Chicago Skyway.

In 2004, he played a lead role in helping seal the deal for a $123 million Three Winds Holdings wind project in Wyoming and California.

He also oversaw the development a $108.5 million Sweetwater II wind project in Texas, a $76 million Top Deer project finance deal and a $66 million Kaeheawa Wind Power project in Hawaii.

Latham & Watkins

Robert Wyman has been one of the key lawyers at the forefront of the climate change movement. The global chairman of the environment, land and resource department at Latham & Watkins, Wyman, 55, has been helping clients respond to new demands for cleaner technology to defend their current practices when under scrutiny. He spends much of his time convincing regulators, lawmakers and judges that his clients — be it power plants or lawn and gardening businesses — are committed to making cleaner products.

“You know the paper/rock/scissors game? That, to me, has been my practice in a nutshell,” he said. “The paper is government regulation, the rock is the environment and the scissors are technology. Just like the game, none of the three wins every time, but you try to keep them in balance.”

Using that philosophy, in 2008, he convinced the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit to let General Electric Co. build a $1 billion, energy-efficient natural gas plant in California, despite opposition from environmental groups.

More recently, last August, he convinced a federal judge in California to let a local government coalition issue building permits to new businesses in Southern California, despite claims by environmental groups that new development was harmful to the region.

Also a policymaking figure, he has served on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Climate Change Work Group during the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations. He currently represents the National Climate Coalition and California Climate Coalitions on implementation issues related to EPA and California global warming developments.