In the 2014 edition of Chambers USA: America's Leading Lawyers for Business, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati and an impressive number of its practice areas and individual attorneys once again were recognized for excellence. The listings were compiled by the guide's independent, London-based publisher, Chambers & Partners, based on an intensive research process that included confidential interviews with thousands of law-firm clients and attorneys. This research was used to assess entire firms, practice groups, and individual attorneys on the basis of their technical legal ability, professional conduct, client service, commercial astuteness, commitment, and other valued qualities.
For additional details on this year's rankings, please see the online version of the guide.
Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati's antitrust team again was hailed among the country's best by Chambers. The guide characterized the firm as a "highly regarded antitrust litigation shop [that] continues to excel in the technology and intellectual property" areas, and referenced its representation of clients "across the spectrum of agency investigations" in addition to private and class action litigation and antitrust counseling. One satisfied client applauded the group as "a fantastic team of experts in their fields, providing top-notch service," while another noted that "subject matter expertise and practicality are the two characteristics of the lawyers we've been using." Researchers cited the group's representation of Autodesk, Bazaarvoice, Clear Channel, The Coca-Cola Company, Google, HTC, InterDigital, LinkedIn, Micron Technology, Mylan Pharmaceuticals, Netflix, Netgear, The Nielsen Company, NVIDIA, Transitions Optical, Twitter, and Universal Surveillance Systems in various matters.
On an individual level, "strategic genius" Susan Creighton was admired for her "outstanding antitrust practice based around technology," with one source describing her as "brilliant—extremely even-tempered and very easy to work with on strategy and the big picture." The "fantastic" Jonathan Jacobson—lauded as a "leading light" who "knows his antitrust law better than almost anybody"—similarly won accolades for his "unique grasp of the law" and was observed to be both a "leading litigator" and a "great person to work with." Both practice co-chairs were ranked among the top antitrust attorneys in the United States. Researchers also singled out the "really terrific" Scott Sher for his "amazingly fast and very thorough analysis." Charles Biggio, whom sources dubbed an "excellent lawyer," attracted notice for his "fine rapport with clients," while "great litigator" Chul Pak was praised as "extremely insightful, very unassuming, and very focused on client service." Additionally, Mark Rosman was ranked as one of the nation's top antitrust cartel attorneys, with sources calling him a "fair-minded, strong advocate" and a "hard-working, talented criminal attorney."
The firm's capital markets practice was named among the strongest in the United States and tied for the top ranking in California, with researchers noting that the team is "highly sought after for its work representing clients in the technology sector on IPOs and other equity offerings" and a "popular choice for the full range of capital markets work, with emergent strength in cross-border transactions." The guide also commented on the team's strength in investment bank representations and "plentiful experience" advising issuers. A client described WSGR as "one of the premier firms for tech companies," with "good commercial awareness" and valuable "technical expertise and domain knowledge." Another said that because the firm "sees a lot of Silicon Valley tech companies . . . it not only has legal expertise but can tell us what the market is like and what best practices are." Chambers highlighted the firm's representation of Tesla Motors in the company's $660 million convertible senior notes offering, Splunk in its $331.8 million follow-on offering, and Cornerstone OnDemand in its $253 million convertible senior notes offering, among other transactions.
While chairman Larry Sonsini was heralded as a "well-known and much-admired figure in the capital markets space," vice chairman Jeff Saper—who was ranked among the country's top capital markets attorneys—was "held in high regard by both peers and clients," with observers describing him as a "trusted leader who is uniformly respected by board directors." Similarly, John Fore, who was lauded as "credible," "experienced," and "a leader in the debt market," was praised for his "great perspective" and "expert" representation of tech and telecommunication companies. Further, "rock star" Katie Martin was recommended for her "impressive practice," her "marvelous reputation" in the debt and equity sphere, and her work on "some of the most significant capital markets deals of recent times, including the LinkedIn IPO."
As in previous years, WSGR's "premier" corporate and M&A practice tied for top honors in the nation, while also receiving the highest possible ranking in Northern California. Chambers commentators characterized WSGR as a "preeminent technology sector firm and a key player in the M&A market" that "represents private and public companies in high-value and business-critical transactions, with particular strength in the venture capital space." According to sources, the firm "is number one in [its] industry and, as a result, [is] involved in some interesting deals," is "very creative and the service we get is excellent," and has "a historical place in emerging company work in Silicon Valley which is obviously tremendous." Another observed that the firm's lawyers have "been successful because they have been able to work for clients on both sides of deals." Researchers referenced the firm's representation of Micron Technology in its $2.5 billion acquisition of Elpida Memory and Climate Corporation in its $1.1 billion sale to Monsanto as highlights, and named Autodesk, eHealth, Expedia, Google, LinkedIn, Netflix, and Riverbed Technology, among others, as significant clients.
Larry Sonsini was categorized as a "Star Individual" and described as "terrific" and "an established figure in the Northern California market," with the guide noting that clients were "full of praise" for his work, including his representation of Salesforce.com in its $2.5 billion acquisition of ExactTarget. Marty Korman was applauded for his handling of transactions in the technology sector, while "exceptional M&A lawyer" Mike Ringler was admired for being held in "high esteem by clients and peers alike." In addition, in Southern California, Marty Waters earned kudos for his representation of emerging growth companies.
The firm's venture capital practice—regarded as "the brand standard for venture capital legal representation"—again tied for the top ranking in the United States, with Chambers expressing particular admiration for its representation of start-ups, emerging companies, and venture capital funds in the technology space. Both Jeff Saper and Steve Bochner were recognized nationally for their venture work, with Jeff impressing clients with the "enormous amount of experience" he brings to each transaction, and "wise" and "terrific lawyer" Steve attracting notice from clients for his "very broad" expertise and work on company-side venture financings. In addition, "the highly experienced" Casey McGlynn was noted for his representation of start-ups and emerging growth companies in the life sciences industry, as well as the technology and telecommunications spaces, while Bob Latta was singled out for his work on both VC financings and M&A, especially in the tech sector.
In Texas, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati again tied for top honors in the corporate and commercial technology category, with researchers commenting that the firm has a "highly regarded" practice with "strong expertise in M&A, financings, and IPOs, and formidable experience advising on venture capital deals." One source noted that the team "handle[s] deals of the highest caliber," including Microchip Technology's $939 million acquisition of Standard Microsystems. Austin founding partner Paul Tobias was admired for his "considerable experience advising clients on M&A and public and private offerings" and his "strong client base of emerging companies and investors." "Fantastic" Brian Beard similarly was recommended for his work on behalf of emerging companies, as well as leading VC investors both in Texas and nationwide. Further, researchers commended Robert Suffoletta for his "broad roster of clients" that includes computer software and hardware companies, clean energy companies, investment banks, and VC funds, while sources called Joseph Alcorta "an excellent lawyer" who helped advise uShip on its $18 million Series B financing.
The firm also ranked highly in the guide's corporate and commercial category in Washington State. Researchers observed that the team has a "solid reputation for advising clients in the life sciences and technology sectors, as well as a range of high-growth businesses," and clients described the group as "a powerhouse, great on the private equity side" and as having "a strong reputation in the start-up market." Managing partner Patrick Schultheis elicited high praise for his corporate work, with one peer commenting that "he's amazing at taking companies public, and has a great reputation." The "very knowledgeable and experienced" Craig Sherman was lauded by clients as "a lawyer's lawyer" who "lays out recommendations clearly," and Michael Nordtvedt—praised as a "sharp young attorney" by his peers—received recognition for his representation of medical device, life sciences, and technology companies through all stages of their growth.
Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., Mark Fitzgerald garnered recognition for his representation of clients in a range of corporate matters, including early-stage financings, joint ventures, private placements, and mergers and acquisitions, with clients describing him as "very solid, knowledgeable, and responsive."
Employee Benefits & Compensation
This year Chambers again ranked WSGR's employee benefits and compensation practice among California's best. According to researchers, the "strong group . . . is well versed in a wide range of matters," with the guide citing their work for Salesforce.com in its $2.5 billion acquisition of ExactTarget, and for Meraki in its $1.2 billion acquisition by Cisco Systems. In particular, John Aguirre, who was dubbed "a popular choice in the market," was praised for his "legal excellence and technical expertise as well as practical and pragmatic help."
In California, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati attracted notice from Chambers for its "broad-ranging [IP] practice with transactional and disputes expertise in trademark, trade secret, copyright, and advertising law, as well as patents." Clients called the firm's IP attorneys "a great team; very sophisticated technically, with an excellent scientific understanding," and "very seasoned . . . they know exactly what technology companies need." In particular, the guide highlighted the firm's successful defense of an individual blogger in a copyright infringement suit brought by Righthaven, as well as its successful settlement of a patent infringement matter between client McAfee and plaintiff Intellectual Ventures concerning anti-virus software. Ed Poplawski received accolades from sources for his "expertise and perspective" and being "very good with the procedures and really knowledgeable about the law." Additionally, David Kramer was described by his clients as a veteran litigator and "a fantastic resource," and John Slafsky won acclaim for being "knowledgeable and very good at strategizing."
In Washington State, the firm's IP attorneys were recognized for their "diverse offering[s]" in both transactional and litigation work and being "especially active in the technology, media, and life sciences industries." As one client commented, "They are exceptionally good at what they do and it shows." The group's recent representation of clients Expedia, Amazon.com, and Bungie earned particular mention. Aaron Hendelman was praised for the breadth and depth of his practice, with his advisement of Amazon.com on trademark enforcement, domain name matters, and license agreements mentioned as among his high-profile transactions.
International Trade: Export Controls & Economic Sanctions
Josephine Aiello LeBeau, the leader of the firm's export controls and economic sanctions practice, again was ranked among the nation's top practitioners in her field. Clients commented that she's "good at giving business usable advice" and "easy to talk with; she doesn't get lost in the legal jargon." The Chambers research team also recommended Melissa Mannino, noting that "she is particularly well placed to advise on enforcement issues."
IT & Outsourcing
Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati's technology transactions-IT practice once again tied for the top ranking in the California IT and outsourcing category. Named one of the "Silicon Valley giants" in the field, the practice was applauded for seeing "their role as helping make the client successful not just with legal advice but also by introducing them to venture capitalists, potential recruits, partners, and customers." Work highlights included assisting Kno in its agreement with Samsung to have Kno's digital textbook app pre-loaded on a Samsung tablet and representing Hewlett-Packard in the recent sale of its webOS operating system to LG Electronics. The "very responsive" and "detail-oriented" Suzanne Bell ranked among the top tier of California's attorneys in this category, with clients saying that "she has such deep experience with technology companies it means she knows exactly what we need." Her lead role in the firm's work on the IP aspects of client Polycom's divestiture of Spectralink to Sun Capital was spotlighted. "Business-practical" Michael Murphy also came in for high praise, with one source simply saying that "he is probably the smartest lawyer I've ever met."
WSGR's life sciences practice was heralded as among the country's best, with Chambers stating that the firm fielded "a powerhouse corporate team specializing in representing emerging companies" and demonstrating "strength across areas such as IP counseling, FDA matters, and litigation." Researchers cited the team's representation of Pharmacyclics in a $60 million worldwide agreement to develop and commercialize PCI-27483, and its representation of Envoy Therapeutics on IP aspects of its $140 million acquisition by Takeda America Holdings. One source noted that the life sciences practice is "very creative about how [it] approach[es] problems and strategy, and [has] a lot of talented people." Those "talented people" include Ken Clark, who was singled out as "a prominent figure on the corporate team" and "a go-to practitioner for emerging companies." Casey McGlynn also achieved individual recognition on a national level, with peers describing him as "an enormously well-regarded lawyer, particularly in the medical device space." The firm's California-based life sciences attorneys also earned recognition as being "an outstanding and well-connected team with a very deep knowledge of the life sciences space," with one commentator noting, "They have been a big-deal firm in California for as long as the market has been around!" Vern Norviel was lauded as being "experienced, seasoned, and strategic" and "focused on optimizing intellectual property assets for his clients." Meanwhile, Ian Edvalson impressed sources with his excellent reputation in the field, with the guide noting his representation of Gilead in the $510 million acquisition of YM Biosciences.
Chambers expressed admiration for Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati's litigation department, with the firm's securities litigation practice tying for top honors in California. Researchers observed that "subject-matter expertise and practicality are the two characteristics that make them very cost-effective and efficient." Among the client successes cited were the firm's defense of Hewlett-Packard's directors in a shareholder derivative class action alleging the violation of both Delaware and federal law, as well as the defense of YouTube in putative class action claims alleging copyright violation.
When it comes to describing individual practitioners, "very" seems to be the word of the day: Keith Eggleton elicited praise from sources for being "very pragmatic and very strategic in his approach to managing litigation." Boris Feldman again was recognized among the top securities litigators nationwide, with peers describing him as "very wise, very able to take leadership on a case, and clearly in command of very complicated cases." "Very capable" Nicki Locker won accolades for her litigation and general corporate counseling work, with the guide singling out her defense of Juniper Networks in a putative suit alleging false or misleading reporting of financial results. In addition, Steve Schatz was recommended by Chambers for both his securities and commercial litigation work.
In Washington State, researchers singled out Barry Kaplan for praise, noting that he is "well regarded by peers for his work in securities litigation in particular, and is also highly experienced in dealing with contentious corporate governance matters."
Privacy & Data Security
Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati's privacy and data security practice was acknowledged as one of the best in the country, with a "significant number of attorneys who have previously held high-profile positions within the major regulators" and an "impressive track record." As one source commented, the group's "accessibility, speed of response, and ability to give practical advice are exceptional." Washington, D.C., partner and privacy practice leader Lydia Parnes was named among the nation's leading privacy and data security attorneys, with Chambers citing her negotiation of a $23 million settlement with the FTC on behalf of Google over alleged privacy violations as an example of her outstanding work. As one client commented, "[S]he is superb in both the depth of her legal knowledge and the savviness she brings concerning the privacy and data security environment."
Once again, WSGR was ranked among the top firms nationwide in Chambers' renewable and alternative energy projects category. The practice's work for Bechtel Development on the Soda Mountain solar project and for Own Energy in relation to a tax equity investment in wind projects came in for particular recognition. "They are bright and responsive," sources commented, "and have a lot of experience doing deals so they have a good pulse of what the market is."
Sean Moran was lauded for his vast experience in the renewable energy project finance sector, with the guide taking particular note of his work on behalf of a number of clients on a leveraged sale and leaseback financing of a wind-farm projects portfolio in California valued at more than $2 billion. "Intellectually curious" Todd Glass impressed market commentators with his advisement of Metrus Energy on the financing and development of various energy efficiency projects, while Chris Groobey earned distinction for his representation of Silicon Valley Bank in the financing of a portfolio of fuel cell power generation facilities. Additionally, Peter Mostow was singled out for acting for Kilowatt Financial on the acquisition and restructuring of the tax equity interests in a number of residential solar power portfolios. As one client noted, "[Peter] helps bridge differences and advises me on where I need to hold my ground and where something is not worth falling on your sword."
Chambers asserted that WSGR "has built a fine reputation for its tax practice," with one source commenting that it's "probably one of the best corporate tax firms out there." In particular, researchers highlighted the firm's work for Salesforce.com in a number of tax issues following its acquisition of ExactTarget, a deal worth $2.5 billion, as well as the tax matters it handled for Trulia following the company's $355 million acquisition of Market Leader.
Practice leader Ivan Humphreys again was recognized among the top tax attorneys in California, with sources calling him "one of the leaders in corporate M&A." Similarly, "super, super smart" Jonathan Zhu attracted notice for his ability to "keep the bigger picture in mind on international tax deals, while peers called Sean Moran a "diligent lawyer who really knows tax law."