Weil Crushes Vault Bankruptcy Rankings

by lawshucks on July 30, 2010

If there was one stone cold lock for a pick in the Vault practice-area rankings, it was Weil Gotshal running away with the Bankruptcy table.

They sure did.

We don’t bother showing the scores for a couple of reasons: they’re usually pretty tightly packed; you have to read the methodology to make any sense out of it; and it’s common courtesy to incent you to go back to Vault and read the original source material.

This one was such a blowout that we included the numbers.

Weil beat its nearest competitor, Kirkland, 86.61 to 56.41, and even Kirkland was almost 60% higher than third-place Skadden (37.04).

The Top 10 (including one fantastic firm that just doesn’t belong, in our humble opinion and two titans of the field being called “pricks”) plus commentary after the jump.

2011 2010 Firm %
1 1 Weil, Gotshal 86.61
2 2 Kirkland & Ellis 56.41
3 3 Skadden 37.04
4 8 Jones Day 15.38
5 6 Milbank, Tweed 8.83
6 7 Wachtell Lipton 7.69
7 4 Akin Gump 7.12
8 5 Cadwalader 5.98
9 15 Davis Polk 5.13
10 13 White & Case 4.84

Those top 5 all make sense.

White & Case had a great year this year, with Tom Lauria popping up all over the place and causing problems. They should probably be ranked higher.

WTF is Wachtell doing there, though? Sure, they almost had Harvey Miller 50 years ago, but this is not a bankruptcy firm. Other than that, what did they do? They represented a bidder for General Growth, but that’s M&A, not bankruptcy. They don’t even list bankruptcy in their own practices.[Update: woops, see comments below]

Bankruptcy fans will remember a big dustup between Wachtell’s Chaim Fortgang and Miller over Sunbeam, but that was a decade ago, and led to this gem from a bankruptcy colleague describing the two:

They’re both pricks,” said one, speaking for many. “But we’re all pricks,” he added–meaning bankruptcy guys, not all lawyers.

Much as we love Wachtell, that ranking just shows the voters didn’t have a clue.

Further proof these voters blew it: Cravath (#11) hardly ever does bankruptcy at all and just did its first debtor-side deal, after bringing in a lateral because they had no inhouse capacity.

And where the hell is Dewey & LeBoeuf’s Marty Bienenstock?

Do you agree or disagree with these rankings?

  • Johnny Bankruptcy

    Wachtell lurks in the shadows of many bk cases, you just often don't see them. They usually rep some clever/cutthroat distressed fund, and they stay out of the spotlight as long as their client gets what it wants (and it usually does). For example, in Aleris, Wachtell's clients Apollo/Oaktree found a clever way to trigger a clause in a contract to screw over Willkie's client Highland Capital (which is no stranger to sharp elbow distressed moves).
    Do I agree with them at 5, though? No. Akin gump should be higher: they rep the same sort of folks as Wachtell, only in greater volume and more visibility. And Paul Weiss should be up there as well. Andy Rosenberg and Alan Kornberg killed it this year. Willkie also has some big roles, though not as many as they apparently used to (I'm too young to know much about it, but older folks tell me it used to be Weil/Willkie at the top).

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/lawshucks lawshucks

      Fair enough. Greenberg Traurig is another one that's missing, especially with the addition of Zirinsky et al.

  • Guest

    Interestingly, out of the 21 practice areas Vault looked at, Skadden is ranked in the top 3 in 10 or 12 and the top 5 in 14 or 15. (I lost count and didn't care enough to go back). Is that right? Is Skadden top of the heap in everything? Or is it just a question of name recognition?

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/lawshucks lawshucks

      The bankruptcy rankings in particular show that a lot of it is just name recognition. Skadden is good and they certainly deserve top marks in some practices, but in a bunch it's clearly just people naming firms they've heard of. We'll try to take a look to do a little meta analysis on the rankings, because you raise an interesting point and we're curious how many other firms got lots of top marks.

  • Bankruptcy Lawyer


    You have no idea what you are talking about in terms of WLRK's bk practice. They do list bankruptcy among their practices. The name that they use is "Restructuring and Finance." Many of the top bankruptcy firms use a name other than "bankruptcy" to describe their bankruptcy group for marketing reasons. E.g., Weil – Business Finance and Restructuring, Kirkland – Restructuring, Skadden – Corporate Restructuring, Jones Day – Business Restructuring & Reorganization.

    Wachtell is clearly one of the best bk practices. To minimize conflicts and maximize fees, they limit themselves to representing creditors. As Johnny Bankruptcy noted above, they often work in the shadows representing distressed funds or potential acquirors. Anyone who knows anything about the bk practice knows that Hal Novikoff, Scott Charles and their team are among the best in the business.

    • lawshucks

      You're right about listing it, we definitely missed that one, so we apologize (and it wasn't because we don't know what "restructuring" means, we just read too fast).

      But we still think that the vast majority of their "bankrtupcy" work is of the type Johnny described, not front line debtor or creditor work. Yes, when they do take on one of the traditional bankruptcy roles, it's always creditor side.

      But how many of the respondents are really aware of that kind of ancillary bankruptcy work WLRK does? Do you think they really considered all of the shadow work? Does stalking horse work really count as bankruptcy? We always think of it as M&A with a bunch of 363 procedures tacked on, not bankruptcy.

      And if they're so often in the shadows, do you really think the people surveyed know that, or did they just vote because they recognized the name?

      Thanks for the opinion and correction.

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