Quite simply, Cravath, Swaine & Moore is considered one of the most prestigious law firms in the world.
It is on the short list of those that handle the biggest deals and bet-the-company cases.
It is of course not “the firm” that handles the high-profile clients, but individual partners leading teams through the long nights, tense exchanges and complicated legal analysis that happens well before a deal or verdict hits the news.
Cravath is first up in our series naming the most powerful partners at top firms. We compiled an initial list of influential partners and asked current and former Cravath attorneys, their clients and those attorneys who have worked with and against them to help us bring the list down to 10.
(We were convinced by several attorneys that our initial list was missing a few names, so the top 10 has a couple of partners not included in our original post.)
Power in firms means many things — who runs the place, who brings in the business, and who keeps the reputation at lofty levels. Power also belongs to those who have solidified their places as the young leaders the elder statesmen know the firm cannot survive without. For Cravath, naming only 10 was not a simple task. That said…
'Number one for me will always be Evan.'
We heard versions of that phrase over and over. Evan Chesler is the firm's Presiding Partner and is widely considered to be its public face.
CEOs listen to what he tells them, and judges are equally impressed. One attorney mentioned a federal judge who spent two transcript-pages worth of time describing his respect for Chesler.
On top of that, he is one of the country's best litigators. His firm bio notes that he has represented IBM, Time Warner and Bristol-Myers Squibb, among many other marquee companies.
Clary is the firm's Head of Litigation. Known as a brilliant oral advocate, he was named a 'national star' for his work in securities litigation.
Clary was lead counsel for Credit Suisse in its Enron-related litigation and successfully argued to reverse class certification in that $40 billion suit. We're told veteran litigators attended the lower court arguments just to see Clary in action.
He is also one of the firm's leading pro bono participators, earning five Legal Aid Outstanding Pro Bono Service Awards (2004-2008).
Forrest was not on our original list, but we were told repeatedly this upwardly mobile litigator deserved a spot.
She has the usual list of distinctions -- Benchmark Local Litigation Star, Best Lawyers in America recognition for antitrust law and, in 2007, she was one of The American Lawyer's 'Fab 50' young litigators.
Following an appearance by Forrest in the SDNY, clerks emailed a Cravath associate, gushing with praise and saying they would mark their calendars for her next appearance. If you work with Forrest, you'll work a lot, but associates see it as a feather in their caps.
She regularly handles litigation for Time Warner Cable and is currently representing major record companies in their years-long copyright battle against LimeWire.
Goldstein serves as Managing Partner of Cravath's litigation department. She became a partner in 1987 and by 1994 had been named one of the firm's Managing Partners.
Goldstein is another one who was missing from our original list, but associates current and former pleaded her case. She is currently defending Xerox in two separate securities class action cases.
Being a firm leader is not always fun: when Cravath told its associates about the significantly decreased bonuses of 2008, Goldstein, Evan Chesler and fellow-partner Scott Barshay signed that unwelcome memo.
Marc Rosenberg is in his tenth year as a partner at Cravath and currently serves as co-chair of the corporate section's Corporate Governance and Board Advisory group.
The National Association of Corporate Directors named him one of the '100 Most Influential Voices in the Boardroom,' a recognition that translates to being a firm leader -- when CEOs listen to you, you continue to bring in big work for the firm.
A powerful corporate partner at a peer firm gave Rosenberg high praise. In addition to calling his wide-ranging practice 'fascinating,' Rosenberg is the type of lawyer you should call when you don't know what type of lawyer you need, we were told.
Faiza Saeed's name pops up all the time in CLE programs on M&A transactions, and her name also popped up repeatedly as we prepared this list.
Her clients include Morgan Stanley, Kraft and DreamWorks; it was Saaed who advised Kraft on financing matters in its successful bid for Cadbury.
She also earned the distinction of being one of The American Lawyer's Dealmakers of the Year in 2005 for her year-long effort to spin off DreamWorks Animation SKG from DreamWorks, which resulted in an initial IPO that raised more than $934 million.
Saeed has an unusual undergraduate degree for an M&A attorney -- Economics and Molecular Biology from Berkeley.
Slifkin has a pair of degrees from Oxford, symbols of what people say is his extremely sharp intellect.
He was one of 2008's 'Lawyers You Need to Know in Securities Litigation.' Slifkin's bio boasts he's handled 'numerous high profile matters for some of the largest corporations in the world,' name-checking Alcoa and Morgan Stanley.
Slifkin had an eventful January. A New York state supreme court judge granted a Morgan Stanley motion for summary judgment against Discovery, ruling the credit card company owed its former parent $800 million from an earlier antitrust settlement with Visa and Mastercard. But even brilliant litigators take hits, and Slifkin and Cravath legend Paul Sanders lost a huge and long-running securities fraud trial brought against their client, Vivendi. Of course, that only means more work for Slifkin -- Vivendi plans to appeal.
Bill Whelan currently serves as the Practice Lead of Cravath's Securities Group and its managing partner for Administration.
His bio notes he has spent the last 15 years devoting 'a substantial amount of his time to representing issuers and investment banks' in IPOs and debt and equity offerings.
Though the traffic of IPOs obviously slowed considerably in the last year, Whelan has already been a part of what everyone hopes will be a resurgence in 2010 -- he represented Symetra Financial Corp., a company partly owned by Berkshire Hathaway, in its January IPO.
John White serves as Co-Chair of the firm's Corporate Governance and Board advisory practice. He has also served as recruiting partner and corporate department head.
White took a brief break from Cravath from 2006 to 2008 to work at the SEC, where he served as the Director of the Division of Corporation Finance, playing, his bio says 'an integral role in the SEC's response to the various market crises in 2008.' A sojourn to an influential position at the SEC certainly solidifies one's 'powerful' status upon return to the firm.
A corporate partner who worked on the opposite side of a securities offering with White describes him as both nice and easygoing -- qualities sometimes not expected, but always appreciated, from an influential partner at Cravath.
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