Executive Compensation and Governance Cited as Top Concerns by Directors and General Counsel
NEW YORK, May 20 LawFuel.com — In a year when companies may need law firms more than ever to help navigate the pitfalls that are the result of a weak economy, law firms are finding themselves challenged to adapt and restructure to a new business environment. Recently, more than 6,300 directors and general counsel of publicly traded companies were polled for America’s Best Corporate Law Firms, a research study conducted by Corporate Board Member and FTI Consulting, Inc. to determine which corporate law firms are viewed as the best in the country.
This year, Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom ranks as the top corporate law firm in the U.S., marking its ninth year in the No. 1 spot. Moving further down the list, however, the 2009 survey showed significant movement of firms both up and down compared to 2008’s rankings. Several firms saw considerably higher rankings this year, including Cleveland-based Jones Day, Los Angeles-based Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, Houston-based Fulbright & Jaworski, and Los Angeles-based O’Melveny & Myers. This year’s ranking also saw the addition of two new firms to the top 20 list -Sidley Austin, based in both Chicago and New York, ranked No. 15th while New York-based Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson enters at No. 20.
“Once again, we offer our congratulations to Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom which ranked first in surveys of both company directors and general counsel,” said Neal Hochberg, senior managing director and segment leader – Forensic and Litigation Consulting, at FTI Consulting, Inc. “While the survey itself indicates that containment of legal costs continues to be a priority for general counsel and directors, it is also clear that in the current economic crisis, there is even more legal work to be done in large companies. In short, clients clearly want more for less, which means law firms must find ways to function more efficiently.”
“We’ve seen respected legal firms close their doors and layoffs of seasoned lawyers in what seems like unprecedented times for corporate law firms,” said TK Kerstetter, president and CEO of Corporate Board Member. “At the same time, those firms that have adapted to handle down-cycle issues and company restructurings are flourishing, while traditional corporate areas remain somewhat stagnant. Obviously the strong and smart will survive and, I predict, do rather well in 2010.”
The following are the top 20 national corporate law firms for 2009, according to the directors surveyed by Corporate Board Member/FTI Consulting (with their 2008 ranking in parentheses):
Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom, New York (1)
Jones Day, Cleveland (7)
Cravath Swaine & Moore, New York (2)
Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz, New York (3)
Sullivan & Cromwell, New York (5)
Weil Gotshal & Manges, New York (9)
Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, Los Angeles (13)
Kirkland & Ellis, Chicago (8)
Latham & Watkins, Los Angeles (6)
Fulbright & Jaworski, Houston (17)
Baker & McKenzie, Chicago (14)
O’Melveny & Myers, Los Angeles (19)
Davis Polk & Wardwell, New York (4)
Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, Palo Alto (14)
Sidley Austin, Chicago/New York (-)
Shearman & Sterling, New York (11)
Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison, New York (11)
Covington & Burling, D.C. (16)
Hogan & Hartson, D.C. (20)
Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson, New York (-)
The survey was mailed in January and also asked directors and general counsel of U.S. publicly traded companies to weigh in on important legal issues. Survey results show that general counsel ranked managing outside legal fees, e-discovery, data security, executive compensation and governance/Sarbanes-Oxley as top concerns for their companies, while directors cited executive compensation, internal controls, governance/Sarbanes-Oxley, and investor relations as their main concerns. A broader analysis of these results will be featured in a special supplement sponsored by FTI Consulting in the third-quarter issue of Corporate Board Member.
“Interestingly, the initial results from this year’s survey show that directors and general counsel have many of the same worries as last year. For example, the changes to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure that brought e-discovery to the fore are now three years old and Sarbanes-Oxley is now a seven year old law, yet these matters continue to weigh heavily in boardrooms,” said Basil Imburgia, senior managing director and FTI Consulting’s co-leader of Dispute Advisory Services – Forensic and Litigation Consulting. “Clearly, corporations are either unable to surmount these challenges quickly, or are unwilling to shoulder the cost of new implementations.”
In addition to naming the top 20 corporate law firms nationally, the Corporate Board Member/FTI Consulting study identifies the top law firm in 25 major U.S. metropolitan areas, according to the general counsel polled. Corporate Board Member/FTI Consulting also asked corporate general counsel which law firms they would most want to represent their companies on national matters. A complete listing of the national, general counsel, and metropolitan rankings appears in the second-quarter issue of the magazine and is available online at www.boardmember.com.
On May 21, Corporate Board Member and FTI Consulting will host the second annual Legal Recognition Dinner at the NASDAQ MarketSite in New York, honoring five distinguished general counsel and the top 20 national corporate law firms as identified by board members and general counsel in the 2009 survey.
About Corporate Board Member
Corporate Board Member is the leading information resource for senior officers and directors of publicly traded corporations, large private companies, and Global 1000 firms. The quarterly publication provides readers with decision-making tools to deal with the corporate governance challenges confronting their boards. Corporate Board Member further extends its governance leadership through an online resource center, conferences, director training programs, roundtables, and timely research. The magazine maintains the most comprehensive, up-to-date database of directors and officers serving on boards of publicly traded companies listed with the NYSE Euronext, The NASDAQ OMX Group and NYSE Amex stock exchanges. Headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee with editorial offices in New York, Corporate Board Member is published by Board Member Inc. and is the sister publication of Bank Director magazine, the leading information resource for officers and directors of financial institutions. For more information, visit www.boardmember.com.
About FTI Consulting
FTI Consulting, Inc. is a global business advisory firm dedicated to helping organizations protect and enhance enterprise value in an increasingly complex legal, regulatory and economic environment. With 3,300 employees located in most major business centers in the world, we work closely with clients every day to anticipate, illuminate, and overcome complex business challenges in areas such as investigations, litigation, mergers and acquisitions, regulatory issues, reputation management and restructuring. More information can be found at www.fticonsulting.com.