November 21, 2013 4:00 am
Michael Aiello, partner and chairman of global corporate department, Weil, Gotshal & Manges
Michael Aiello has built a reputation as one of the top dealmakers in the industry, and has been at the forefront of developing an unusually proactive and strategic corporate legal practice. His department responded to the rise in shareholder activism with a programme to anticipate moves by activist hedge funds and defend hostile takeovers. This recasts the mergers and acquisition lawyer from a reactive adviser to a more strategic role.
The firm monitors stock movements and public filings, allowing it to warn companies if there is likely to be an activist event.
Lawyers provide analysis of a company’s defences and vulnerabilities before creating strategic plans to prepare for specific activists and proxy contests.
Since Mr Aiello, 44, took over the practice at the start of 2012, the firm has risen in the global league tables for private equity and M&A deals. He has advised on some high-profile deals, representing Sanofi in its largest-ever transaction – the $20.1bn hostile acquisition of Genzyme in 2011.
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Michael Fitzgerald, partner, corporate department, head of the Latin America practice group, Paul Hastings
Michael Fitzgerald, an innovator from his early days as underwriter to Merrill Lynch, decided to pursue a career in Latin American emerging markets at a time when few firms had expertise in the field. As part of the corporate, securities and Latin America practice group that left Dewey LeBoeuf following its collapse in 2011, Mr Fitzgerald helped a Mexican client complete a hostile tender offer as the coffee machines were being repossessed from the Dewey offices.
In 2004, he worked with the Mexican tortilla manufacturer Gruma to issue the first perpetual bond sold by a corporation. In 2011, Mr Fitzgerald was instrumental in the creation of Mexico’s Fibra, the first investment vehicle on the Latin American market comparable to a US real estate investment trust.
While he identified the potential of Mexico before it became “the place to invest”, he has retained a commitment to innovation. Clients praise his deep understanding of Mexican law and ability to offer advice.
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Kenneth Gallo, Partner and co-chair, antitrust practice group, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison
Kenneth Gallo, as managing partner of Paul Weiss’s Washington DC office, has built a team of lawyers to position the firm competitively against much larger firms and offices.
His plan to create a “non-traditional DC office” has seen leading partners added in the fields of securities, product liability and appellate litigation, complementing Mr Gallo’s own strengths in the two areas of practice that have dominated his career: antitrust and patent law.
Mr Gallo’s innovative patent work was demonstrated in his representation of biotechnology company Genentech. He has successfully defended the company against a $1bn misappropriation of intellectual property claim related to its development of Lucentis, a leading treatment for age-related blindness, and is involved in a number of other patent cases that sit at the forefront of scientific innovation.
In antitrust matters, Mr Gallo is involved in MasterCard’s battle with merchant plaintiff groups, in one of the largest class settlements in history. He speaks on behalf of a diverse group of co-defendants.
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Michael Goodman, senior counsel, commercial, Nike
Michael Goodman’s focus has been on the process design and re-engineering that are changing the way legal work is done.
Over the past four years, Mr Goodman has designed and implemented technological and creative solutions to restructure the way Nike manages contracts and assigns work to law firms and legal providers.
He has piloted technologies to automate the creation of supply and non-disclosure agreements so they can be created with a few clicks of the mouse.
The Transaction Solutions Center that features in the Business of Law category this year is the result of a collaboration with law firm Seyfarth Shaw. A redesigned process allows routine transactional work to be assigned and managed more efficiently, halving completion time.
Most recently, Mr Goodman developed a conceptual model for a “design sandbox” to help global companies organise and simplify the implementation of contract management systems. He is developing the concept to be used as a training tool for Nike.
He is quick to point out that implementing change is only part of the battle. Equally important is guiding the cultural shift and acceptance of new tools.
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Maximilian Grant, Partner and global co-chair of the intellectual property litigation practice, Latham & Watkins
Maximilian Grant drew on his experience as a Navy SEAL team leader when tasked with rebuilding Latham & Watkins’ intellectual property litigation team. Hiring in technically trained lawyers and applying military decision-making frameworks, Mr Grant created a “special operations” team that involves junior members and decentralises decision-making.
Mr Grant joined the firm in 2002, after serving as deputy assistant secretary of defence and before that as an aide to Senator John McCain.
In 2008, following the departure of a number of patent litigation partners, he went to Latham’s leadership with a plan to rebuild the practice. The IP Litigation group has since recruited 15 lateral partners and 60 technically trained associates and technical analysts, doubled revenue and increased profitability significantly.
“There is much talk about law firm management, but almost none about leadership, which is distinct,” says Mr Grant.
His own leadership style has been to train and authorise junior lawyers to make decisions at an earlier stage in their careers, encouraging the sort of initiative that Mr Grant says gives a legal team the edge in a trial.
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Randall Guynn, Partner and head of the financial institutions group, Davis Polk & Wardwell
Few lawyers have the opportunity to effect change at a global systemic level in the way Randall Guynn has. Widely recognised as a leader on financial regulatory reform, Mr Guynn recently played a central role in developing the single-point-of-entry method for solving the too-big-to-fail problem for leading financial institutions. The solution is an important step towards a safer and more efficient global financial system.
In 1987, he developed a legal argument that allowed Congress to give retroactive effect to the Trust Indenture Reform Act 1990. And, in 1993, Mr Guynn made proposals for modernising laws governing cross-border collateral arrangements that were later reflected in US and EU law.
When it became clear the US banking system was heading for a crisis in 2007, he says, “I knew absolutely nothing about bank failures and felt horribly unprepared.” He researched extensively and, by 2008, was able to take a leading role advising on the failures that followed.
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Douglas Meal, partner, Ropes & Gray
Douglas Meal, a seasoned trial lawyer, fell into his role as a privacy and data security specialist “by accident” when longstanding client The TJX Companies, a retailer, experienced a data security breach in 2007.
With little established law in the field of data security and privacy, Mr Meal was in the unusual position of defending the victim of criminal activity against a class-action suit brought by card issuers. He has since represented Sony, Heartland Payment Systems, Wyndham Hotels and others with highly publicised data breaches.
Mr Meal plays a leading role in Ropes & Gray’s privacy and data security practice and is considered a pioneer in the field. He is currently engaged in a first-of-its-kind litigation in which his client, the retail company Genesco, is challenging non-compliance penalties imposed on it by a leading payment card brand.
Genesco’s case goes to the heart of his work in this area by questioning the enforceability of Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS), the rules governing responsibility for financial loss resulting from breaches in data security.
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Trevor Nagel, partner, chair of the global sourcing and technology transactions Group, White & Case
In big business sourcing transactions, the lawyer’s role has traditionally been limited to drafting and negotiating terms and conditions. Trevor Nagel has helped to change that and says his main contribution has been “instilling in businesses the recognition that lawyers must be engaged throughout the life cycle of strategic sourcing initiatives”.
Before studying law, Mr Nagel was a social psychology academic. Understanding organisational behaviour has helped him to think differently about the interrelationships and incentives that underpin complex strategic sourcing arrangements.
Mr Nagel’s focus has shifted to the governance structures that underpin long-term vendor relationships. This led to integrating suppliers and transactions in multi-vendor environments using standardised relationships and sophisticated panel governance regimes. The result is the unique Infrastructure Cooperation Agreement created for Best Buy.
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Robert Reynolds Jr, partner and chief executive of SeyfarthLean Consulting, Seyfarth Shaw
The common thread running through the career of Robert Reynolds is revising the model for legal services delivery. He has embraced a move towards standardised legal solutions and is helping his firm redefine its market and how it serves its clients.
As a transactional lawyer working on restructuring, outsourcing and technology deals, Mr Reynolds saw a gap in the market for combining legal advice with a broader range of business solutions. He says the global recession pushed clients to demand much more creativity and innovation from their firms: “They needed more than matter-by-matter solutions. They wanted changes in thinking and better strategies.”
Mr Reynolds helped to launch SeyfarthLean Consulting, which provides integrated legal, management and technology solutions. He now focuses on strategic advisory services and programme management techniques. With Michael Goodman at Nike, he led the development of the Transaction Solutions Center featured in this report.
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Erika Rottenberg, vice-president, general counsel and secretary, LinkedIn
Erika Rottenberg began her legal career at Silicon Valley law firm Cooley before moving in-house at a series of technology companies. She served as general counsel at Creative Labs and SumTotal Systems before joining LinkedIn as its first full-time lawyer. In five years she has overseen a new level of engagement with global privacy regulators, and an initial public offering.
Ms Rottenberg’s first job after graduation was as a teacher in Alaska, but even then she was honing her skills. She acted as chief negotiator for the 2,400-member local teachers’ union on a contract valued at $250m.
She is an active contributor to social causes through pro bono programmes, creating opportunities for LinkedIn’s legal team and outside law firms, including a programme to provide legal counsel to immigrants.
Jeff Weiner, chief executive, praises the leadership she has shown in government relationships, privacy issues and navigating new regulatory environments, as well as her personal “dedication and passion for our mission, culture and values”.
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