Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts on lateral partner moves from Lateral Link’s team of expert contributors. Michael Allen is Managing Principal at Lateral Link, focusing exclusively on partner placements with Am Law 200 clients.
It’s that time of year folks: the dust has settled, the remainder of last year’s major moves have been executed, and it is time to vote for the Biglaw All-Stars of 2014.
To save you trouble, I have already assembled two teams, which we divide between a Western and Eastern Conference — brace yourself for a plethora of mixed metaphors.
With a lot of research, personal experiences, and a smidgen of subjectivity, I have compiled two teams of five lawyers with spots for two corporate lawyers, one intellectual property lawyer, one real estate lawyer, and one litigation lawyer. These lawyers lead significant groups at their respective firms.
Each team will represent one fictional company together: a massive mega-conglomerate high-tech real estate company that would make Mr. Heller and Ms. Erhman shiver in their boots. This fictional mega-conglomerate company requires the representation of five “starting” lawyers: two corporate, one IP, one litigation, and one real estate…
Starters: Western Conference
Your Western All-Stars represent a microcosm of the talented lawyers west of the 100th meridian (give or take a few degrees). Nonetheless, they are undoubtedly some of the most talented attorneys in their respective fields.
Ken Doran, Gibson Dunn
If you had to choose one word to describe Ken, it would be driven. You would hope for nothing less from the managing partner of one of the largest firms in the world. His calculated approach is a reminiscent of Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle. He expertly steered Gibson Dunn through the financial crisis and actually grew the firm. Under Doran, Gibson Dunn’s PPP hit $2.8 million and its gross revenue exceeded a billion for the first time. Universally respected and an unrivaled manager, Ken Doran is a natural choice to helm the formidable Western All-Stars.
John Keker, Keker Van Nest, San Francisco
Chambers describes Keker as “someone you go to with a case that needs to be fought, rather than settled. He is noted by sources for his prowess in IP-related work. He acted for the Regents of the University of California on a copyright infringement case relating to online video streaming.”
John Keker is a man that battles in the trenches. A Vietnam Veteran, there is a reason this man is among the most feared trial attorneys in law. He is routinely labeled as being among the best trial lawyers in the world, taking enormous cases including U.S. v. McGraw-Hill (Standard and Poor’s), SEC v. Brian Stoker (Citigroup executive), U.S. v. Lance Armstrong, and San Jose v. MLB. He built his prestigious firm from the ground up and elevates the performance of those around him. His tenacity and brilliance makes him the David Robinson and co-captain of this team.
Michael Woronoff, Proskauer, Los Angeles
Chambers describes Woronoff as “not just a good technical lawyer, but [a man with] keen insight for business and financial issues. He’s brilliant.” Sources say his counsel “puts you in a position to make a good decision.” Representative work highlights include representing Ares in the acquisition of Potomac Fusion by its portfolio company, Sotera Defense Solutions.
Michael Woronoff is the Magic Johnson of bridging the gap between New York and LA corporate law. He is one of two corporate attorneys ranked in five different categories by Chambers, including Band 1 for California Corporate M&A. While Keker is a titan in the courtroom, Woronoff is a master of M&A and Private Equity. He is well regarded for his ability to close deals, as highlighted by his accolade of Am Law’s Dealmaker for his work with Ares Management.
Intellectual Property (C)
Morgan Chu, Irell & Manella, Los Angeles
As Chambers notes, “The “phenomenal Morgan Chu is a highly regarded trial lawyer based at Irell & Manella. He is recognized as a premier patent litigator in the country, and chairs the firm’s litigation group. His practice encompasses a wide range of disputes, including antitrust, appellate and commercial litigation.”
Who better to compare Morgan Chu to than fellow UCLA alumni Kareem-Abdul Jabar. Morgan Chu has simply been one of the greatest from the minute he started practicing. In the same amount time that Kareem spent at UCLA, Morgan obtained one more degree than Kareem did championships (four to three). Morgan Chu is simply one of the most well rounded lawyers ever, a master in his practice, a master leader, philanthropist, public servant, the list goes on and on. He was also the first lawyer to try the first jury trial involving computer software — he has not only dominated the field, but he has also been a big part in creating it.
Jesse Sharf, Gibson Dunn, Century City
Chambers describes Jesse as “[o]ne of the leading figures of California real estate law, Jesse Sharf impresses clients as a real businessman’s lawyer and probably one of the most connected real estate partners that I’ve come across. He’s also extraordinarily practical in terms of closing a deal.”
If Jesse Sharf gets extra playing time from his coach (managing partner), it is well deserved. Sharf displays a consummate professionalism and mastery of Real Estate law, especially for finance and deal making in Los Angeles and New York, much like John Stockton mastered the art of the assist. Make no mistake though, Sharf is no auxiliary partner; a titan in his own right, he also raises the game of those around him.
David Breach, Kirkland Ellis, San Francisco
According to Chambers, “David Breach is an outstanding professional and an expert in investments, divestments and M&A. Sources say his devotion to client service is spectacular – he goes out of his way to be available and to gather the right resources within or outside of the firm to answer any question.”
David Breach is head and shoulders above most in his field. He not only is a solid corporate attorney but also a real leader in the field. We almost elevated him to team captain of the Western Conference, but that would not fully recognize his contributions in the practice. His humility and ambition make him the West’s honorary James Worthy.
Reserves: Western Conference
Being a reserve on these teams in not indicative of a lesser or lower status, and there are many more deserving lawyers of starting and reserve spots, but sadly there are only five for each.
Litigation: Brad Brian, Munger, Tolles & Olson, Los Angeles
Corporate: Brian McCarthy, Skadden, Los Angeles
IP: Matthew Powers, Tensegrity Law Group, Redwood Shores
Real Estate: Michael Meyer, DLA Piper, Los Angeles
Corporate: Larry Sonsini, Wilson Sonsini, Palo Alto
Starters: Eastern Conference
Keith Wetmore, Morrison Foerster, New York
Now Chair Emeritus, former Morrison Foerster head Keith Wetmore is undoubtedly an innovator and an expert in extracting the most from what he is given, much like Mike D’Antoni circa 2004 — for current Lakers fans, let’s be honest, there is only so much you can do with raw talent… very raw. During Wetmore’s reign, he doubled the revenue of the firm and tripled net revenue.
Brad Karp, Paul Weiss, New York
According to Chambers, “Brad Karp is a superstar of the litigation Bar and has an impressive reputation among peers and clients for his judgment, experience and leadership in court. One source comments, ‘He is someone that every major bank turns to if there is a crisis. He is someone who is recognized as just having excellent skills at providing advice.’”
A cerebral competitor, Brad Karp’s recent ascension has put him on pace to possibly become one of the best litigators of this era. Already a powerhouse attorney, he was catapulted to international fame for his representation of various Wall Street Banks in the aftermath of the financial crisis. His strategic, client friendly, and flexible approach makes him the honorary Tim Duncan of our Eastern Conference team.
Stephen Glover, Gibson Dunn, Washington, D.C.
“The tremendous Stephen Glover has built up a good practice in this market, according to admiring sources. He represents public and private companies in the full spectrum of corporate requirements, and has been particularly occupied with strategic acquisitions of late. He led the team on the Wolverine Worldwide acquisition financing,” says Chambers.
The 2014 D.C. M&A Lawyer is a fitting choice for the first corporate spot. A former clerk for the superlative Justice Thurgood Marshall, Glover has become a star in his own right. Between re-writing the rules on M&A and representing large entities including Marriott, Intel, and United Defense he still finds time for philanthropy — being named the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Lawyer of The Year in 2004. Steve is a slam-dunk as the Scottie Pippen of the team but much better looking than the real one.
Bill Lee, WilmerHale, Boston
Chambers describes Bill Lee as “a renowned trial attorney focusing on commercial and patent litigation. Recent work in the life sciences field includes acting for Wyeth (now Pfizer) and Altana Pharma (now Nycomed) in a patent infringement action against Teva, Sun Pharmaceutical Industries and KUDCo in relation to the patented active ingredient Protonix. Sources describe him as ‘just excellent’ and name him as ‘a leader in the legal space.’”
Dubbed “Mr. IP,” Lee’s representation has been as prolific as it has been complex. Since 1995, he has been named one of the “Best Lawyers in America” every year and named twice to the list of the “100 Most Influential Lawyers in America.” Lee, a former athlete, has ice-cold blood and relishes the challenges of going against powerhouse attorneys such as David Boies of Boies Schiller & Flexner. As the legal face of the smartphone wars and a consummate competitor, there is no question that Lee, Mr. IP, is the Jerry West or “Logo” of Intellectual Property.
Harvery Uris, Skadden Arps, New York
Chambers describes Harvey Uris as “a smart lawyer who doesn’t miss anything, and who is lauded for his strong problem-solving skills. He offers a wealth of expertise in all finance-related issues, and recently led the team on the abovementioned Centro Properties matter.”
Harvey Uris is a legal chameleon; he has tackled and mastered nearly every facet of real estate law and beyond from transactions to corporate tax shelters to loan securitization to REITS. His devotion to improving and expanding his practice year to year makes him the Kobe Bryant of real estate law.
Rodge Cohen, Sullivan & Cromwell, New York
Chambers describes Cohen as “retaining his legendary status as trusted counsel and industry ‘standard-bearer,’ and ‘continues to be spectacular’ at the forefront of the ongoing reform of banking industry regulations. His ability to ‘cut through issues that may hang up others’ and find creative solutions cements his position as arguably the preeminent attorney in the field. Cohen is considered to have particular strength in facilitating complex M&A deals, advising clients on overarching regulatory challenges and understanding regulatory dynamics. One source captures market feeling by commenting that he is ‘a role model of impeccable conduct, extreme professionalism and judgment,’ and attests that “he is simply one of the most amazing people I have ever worked with.”
The “Surgeon of Wall Street” exudes an easy and down to earth charm, but make no mistake, there is a reason this man is involved in all of the largest Wall Street dealings. He was a prominent player in the Wall Street bailouts several years ago and probably has more knowledge of the financial sector than any other lawyer. His modest demeanor and all-around excellence makes him the Larry Bird of this Eastern Conference team.
Reserves: Eastern Conference
Litigation: David Boies, Boies Schiller, New York
Corporate: David Katz, Wachtell, Lipton, New York
IP: Charles Lipsey, Finnegan Henderson, Reston, Virginia
Real Estate: Jonathan Mechanic, Fried Frank, New York
Corporate: Thomas Cole, Sidley Austin, Chicago
To quickly recap:
With only ten starting roster spots, it is impossible to include all of the titans of law. If you have a write in ballot or want to make your own team, take to the comments and let us know. Now it is your turn. I have set it up and it is time for you to decide: Kobe vs. Lebron, Richard Sherman vs. Darrelle Revis, Tupac vs. Biggie, Morgan Chu vs. Bill Lee, West vs. East, it is up to you.
Previously from Lateral Link:
• A Former Partner’s Perspective On Legal Recruiters And Lateral Partner Moves
• Headhunters. Huh. What Are They Good For?
• Taking The Temperature Of Your Career
• Planning For A Legal Career Overseas (Part II): Language Skills, Caveats, And What You Can Be Doing Now
• Planning For A Legal Career Overseas (Part I): Picking The Right Practice Area And The Right Firm
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