Wolff & Samson vaulted to the top of New Jersey's bond counsel rankings in the first half of 2013, due to its handling of a $1.4 billion New Jersey Turnpike Authority revenue bond issue.

The March sale represented nearly half of the total debt — $2.856.5 billion — that the West Orange firm handled for its clients in the first six months of the year.

It had 30.6 percent of the market share and handled a total of 12 issues among 22 firms ranked, based on statistics provided by Thomson Reuters Corp.

The firms handled 165 issues from January through the end of June, worth a total of $9.333.7 billion. Wolff & Samson led the pack for the same period last year.

Newark's McCarter & English came in second, handling nine issues worth $2.357.8 billion. That represents 25.5 percent of the market share.

The bulk of its work came from January's $2.253 billion refunding of existing debt by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority. Most of that debt came from financing for school construction projects.

"That was a very large project for us," says Barbara Kroncke-Moore, the head of McCarter's public finance department. "During the first part of the year, the market was good for refinancing" because of low interest rates, she says. "The market presented a good opportunity for refinancing."

Kroncke-Moore, who is based in the firm's Boston office, says interest rates have been increasing in the last couple of months, and believes that there will be a gradual shift away from refinancing to issuing bonds for infrastructure projects.

McCarter was in the fifth spot at the midpoint of 2012.

Red Bank's Gluck Walrath finished third, handling nine issues worth $1.021 billion, or 10.9 percent of the market share. The firm was in ninth place at this time last year. Gluck Walrath was followed by the Newark office of Hawkins Delafield & Wood, which handled seven issues worth $870.5 million, representing 9.3 percent of the market. The firm was in third place after the first six months of 2012.

Newark's McManimon, Scotland & Baumann, which finished fifth, handled the most issues, 45, out of the firms ranked, worth a total of $618.7 million. That represents 6.6 percent of the market.

"That is the nature of our practice," says Edward McManimon III of the firm. "We represent a lot of local governments and our practice is up and down the state. We handle three to four times the number of issues than anyone else."

Like Kroncke-Moore, McManimon says the bulk of the work performed by the firm in the first half of the year involved refinancing of existing debt.

"Until about two months ago, interest rates were as low as I've seen them in 40 years, at 2 percent or less," he says.

McManimon notes that there continue to be infrastructure projects that have to be funded at the local level.

"Municipal governments are always building roads, sidewalks and sewers, and upgrading their computer systems," he says.

McManimon, Scotland was bound counsel for the Lenape Regional High School District's $40.8 million refunding school bonds, the city of Trenton's $33.6 million general obligation refunding bonds and Hopewell Township's $28.5 million bond anticipation notes.

McManimon, Scotland was in second place in last year's midyear poll.

Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel ranked sixth, handling eight issues worth $391.1 million, a 6.6 percent market share. The firm, which has a Cherry Hill office, advised a series of seven bonds issued in March by the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency worth a total of $384.7 million.

Anastasius Efstratiades, who co-chairs the firm's business and finance department, told the Law Journal in April that the HMFA's catalyst was a new program using conduit bonds, issued by government entities but backed by banks or other financial institutions.

There's no exposure by the state agency, and the program attracts developers, Efstratiades said at the time. "Generally in the economy, the one area that there's activity is the multifamily real estate market … because there is some need for that," he said.

Obermayer Rebmann was not in the top 10 as of mid-2012.

Woodbridge's Wilentz, Goldman & Spitzer finished seventh in the rankings, handling 18 issues worth $297.7 million, or 3.2 percent of the market. Wilentz, Goldman was followed by Marlton's Parker McCay, which handled two issues worth $255.3 million, or 2.7 percent of the market. In the middle of last year, the firm was in the same position as now, as was Parker McCay.

The top 10 rankings were rounded out by Parsipanny's Inglesino, Pearlman, Wyciskala & Taylor and Teaneck's DeCotiis FitzPatrick & Cole.

Inglesino, Pearlman handled two issues worth $208.2 million, or 2.2 percent of the market, while DeCotiis, FitzPatrick handled seven shares worth $97.5 million, or 1 percent of the market.

Neither firm was in the top 10 in the midyear rankings last year.