When the results of our sixth annual Who Represents America’s Biggest Companies survey came in this summer, many of the same names landed on top. Take the San Jose, Calif.-based networking giant Cisco Systems Inc.
In 2005 its most-used corporate transaction firm was Fenwick & West. In 2006? Fenwick & West was on their list again. What about defense contractor Lockheed Martin Corp.? In 2005 the Bethesda, Md.-based company named King & Spalding as the transactions firm that it turns to most. And in 2006? King & Spalding was still number one.
In a way, the similarity in the results came as no surprise. What struck us in the past was the consistency of our “most mentions” from year to year. “There’s no real reason to move elsewhere, and there’s risk involved with moving on” to other firms, says Rees Morrison, a law department consultant at Hildebrandt International in Somerset, N.J. Companies, he adds, “need these relationships, [and] most law departments stick with the partner and the firm they trust.”
Still, we were intrigued by the findings. We changed the methodology for the survey this year and were curious to see how this new approach would affect the results. In the past, we asked general counsel at the Fortune 250 to list the seven firms that they rely on most for litigation, corporate transactions, labor and employment, and intellectual property. But corporate counsel are a discreet group, and many were reticent to name the firms that top their speed-dial menu.
This year, in search of a more complete data set, we combed through state and federal records to see which law firms corporations were actually using when it came to commercial law and contracts litigation, corporate transactions, employment and labor litigation, and IP litigation and patent prosecution.
We tallied the number of mentions each firm received and compiled our new list. Keep in mind that, in order to appear on the charts in commercial law and contract litigation, and labor and employment litigation, firms needed to appear in at least two lawsuits. But because fewer firms appeared when we examined documents for corporate transactions and patent filings, we included every firm named in those areas.