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Biglaw’s Most Underrated Firms by Practice Area

‘Standing with your arms folded is underrated.’

Hot air balloons, Ice Cube, new socks, Ray Guy, Uzbek food, Kevin Bacon, plus-size models, Pittsburgh… what do the items on this random list have in common? In some nook or cranny of the internet, someone is making the claim that they are “underrated.”

Apparently also underrated? The corporate group at Cahill Gordon, according to the ATL audience. Cahill received the most mentions as having an “underrated” corporate group in our ATL Insider Survey. Biglaw has a fairly stable roster of alpha dogs in each practice category (Weil in bankruptcy, Wachtell in M&A, etc.), but we wondered which firms’ practice groups deserve more recognition. So, among other things, our survey asks attorneys to nominate firms with underrated (and overrated) practices within the respondent’s own practice specialty. Litigators nominate litigation departments, tax lawyers do the same for tax groups, and so on.

Read on and have a look at the top three underrated firms in each practice area:

Below are the top 3 most underrated firms in each practice area, as voted by the ATL readership:

The practice of IP law is often considered the domain of speciality boutiques, but here are three full-service megafirms with powerful IP groups:

Underrated IP Practices:
Latham & Watkins
Gibson Dunn

Usually one thinks of D.C.-based shops dominating antitrust and regulatory work, but here are two Chicago-based firms and an old-school Wall Street stalwart getting some notice:

Underrated Antitrust/Regulatory Practices:
McDermott Will & Emery
Jenner & Block

The arrival of Weil/Dewey alumnus Martin Bienenstock certainly elevated the profile of Proskauer’s bankruptcy team. While all firms long for the prestige and fees that come with debtor representations, Chapter 11 cases have a huge range of roles for firms like Kelley Drye to play, including the representation of creditors’ committees, indenture trustees, and landlords:

Underrated Bankruptcy Practices:
Jones Day
Kelley Drye

Tax lawyers generally keep a low profile, but as we learned last week, they tend to be a happy bunch:

Underrated Tax Practices:
White & Case
Cahill Gordon
Proskauer Rose

Much like IP, labor law tends to be the bailiwick of specialty boutiques, but Sidley Austin has one of the largest labor and employment practices of any full-service firm in the world:

Underrated Labor & Employment Practices:
Sidley Austin
Seyfarth Shaw
Morgan Lewis

In addition to the aforementioned Cahill Gordon, the top underrated corporate practices includes the “go-to” firm for the energy industry, as well as Elie’s former employer:

Underrated Corporate Practices:
Cahill Gordon
Baker Botts
Debevoise & Plimpton

It might be a stretch to characterize a firm with a rich litigation pedigree that includes Gideon v. Wainwright as “underrated,” but so it goes with Arnold & Porter:

Underrated Litigation Practices:
Arnold & Porter
Willkie Farr
O’Melveny & Myers

So what do you think — any surprises here? Which firms are missing? Let us know in the comments. Next time, we’ll have a look at the overrated firms in all these categories. (If you haven’t yet, please take five minutes and take our survey here.)

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