Creative practitioners crack tough legal challenges
We’ll send you a myFT Daily Digest email rounding up the latest Legal services news every morning.
From enabling businesses to earn carbon offset credits to transforming drug pricing regulation for rare treatments, these practitioners demonstrated creativity and innovation in solving clients’ problems.
Arif Ali stood out for his expertise in internet governance. The cases he has led have broad consequences for how the internet is regulated, such as working on behalf of the domain name company ICM Registry, which secured the first arbitration tribunal decision against de facto internet regulator Icann to state that general principles of international law apply to governance of the internet.
Profiles compiled by RSGI researchers and FT editors. ‘Winner’ indicates the organisation won an FT Innovative Lawyers 2021 award
WINNER: Arif Ali, partner, Dechert
As part of the UN Compensation Commission after the Gulf war, Arif Ali combined mass tort, international reparations law, and computing power to handle millions of compensation claims.
More recently, his team won a victory for MOL, the Hungarian oil group, against Croatia by introducing criminal law procedures into the arbitration process.
Ali is also an authority on internet domain arbitration cases, representing domain registry Afilias against its rival, VeriSign, and the internet’s main naming body Icann, concerning the former’s alleged fraudulent acquisition of the domain name .web.
Erin Bosman, partner, Morrison & Foerster
Amid the growth of “smart” consumer products, such as smart fridges and wearable tech, Erin Bosman pivoted from working with pharmaceutical and medical device clients to advising the fledgling consumer tech industry.
Her business degree has proved beneficial in her work as a mass tort litigator, underpinning her team’s approach of helping clients to understand risks in unregulated areas and give holistic legal and business advice.
In Bosman’s work with wearable device group Fitbit, she helped the company recover from reputational damage relating to a product recall after complaints about skin irritation. She advised Fitbit to be proactive, co-ordinating experts in communications and logistics with scientific advisers to assist in the recall. She also advised Fitbit on its transition to producing medical ventilators during the pandemic.
Loren Brown, US vice-chair and chair of US disputes practice, DLA Piper
Clients of Loren Brown say the number one factor that differentiates his department is its ability to draw on a diverse range of expertise for any given project and its holistic approach to the client’s business and its goals. According to one in-house lawyer, Brown “takes time to learn more about the clients than just their problems”.
During 2020 Brown was a legal adviser to pharmaceuticals company Pfizer as it developed and distributed a Covid-19 vaccine, marshalling the law firm’s experts in medicine, pricing and a variety of legal disciplines to help accelerate the process.
He also worked with medical devices company Medtronic to increase manufacturing of ventilators to meet global demand, combining technical understanding of the products and risks involved with creative, strategic thinking.
Sergio Galvis, partner, Sullivan & Cromwell
As head of the firm’s Latin America practice, Sergio Galvis credits his success as the result of being a generalist — an approach he encourages other lawyers to embrace in their own practices.
The firm’s work in Latin America frequently draws on cross-disciplinary expertise from lawyers globally.
Last year, Galvis advised the US Treasury on emergency loans for air cargo carriers and contractors as a response to the pandemic. This year he advised Sumitomo Corporation, the Japanese investment business, on the sale of its share in the Sierra Gorda mine in Chile, which he had helped establish with a novel project financing structure in the 1980s.
Galvis is recognised in this report for his work to set up a blockchain payment system for frozen assets in the US to be sent as aid to healthcare workers in Venezuela during the pandemic.
Laura Swihart, partner, Dechert
Laura Swihart is co-head of the firm’s global finance and real estate practices.
Tackling the chronic underrepresentation of women in real estate finance law, she championed the firm’s mentoring programme for female lawyers and helped contribute to the firm’s number of female partners doubling in the past six years.
Swihart works closely with the US government-sponsored mortgage corporation Freddie Mac on its most significant legal challenges, such as the transition from Libor.
She recently helped design an affordable housing programme that would attract investors despite the government having a privileged position as a creditor. Swihart is also an expert on collateralised-loan obligations, as a form of debt that has additional flexibility for projects that are likely to evolve.
Alice Valder Curran, partner, Hogan Lovells
Alice Valder Curran has carved out a niche as an adviser specialising in drug pricing regulation in the US. Working with a coalition of drug manufacturers and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), a federal agency, she has developed an innovative pricing model for cell and gene therapies that allows for refunds in circumstances where these high-cost, one-time medicines fail.
At the firm, Valder Curran has set up an in-house strategic communications group to give clients seamless legal and communications advice.
She also supported the creation of a global legal project management team to provide technology-generated fee estimates, budget tracking and client-facing project management.
Kevin Lewis, partner, Sidley Austin
Kevin Lewis has decades of experience advising clients in the airline industry.
Twenty years ago, Lewis worked with United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and American Airlines to draft a capacity purchase agreement allowing carriers to expand passenger capacity by using fleets they do not own. This document still serves as a market standard today.
Lewis is also recognised in this report for his work helping United to invest in more sustainable aircraft and fuel.
During the pandemic, Lewis has helped several airlines to raise capital and revamp operations to become more sustainable. Clients describe him as an “extension of the team”, saying his breadth and depth of industry expertise enable him to think holistically about the business impact of advice.
Jeremy Lieberman, managing partner, Pomerantz
After a US Supreme Court decision in 2010, which limited the rights of foreign shareholders in US court, Jeremy Lieberman has been at the forefront in convincing courts to implement supplemental jurisdiction in securities cases to protect the rights of foreign investors.
This gives US federal courts the authority to hear additional claims related to the original claim, even though the court would lack the subject matter jurisdiction to hear the case independently.
Because of his work, in 2019, a US federal court certified parallel classes of investors that purchased shares in pharmaceutical company Perrigo on both the US and Tel Aviv stock exchanges.
Jeffrey Fort, partner, Dentons
Jeffrey Fort is helping clients to monetise their efforts to reduce the environmental impact of their products through carbon offset credits.
Fort has expertise in writing methodologies that clients are required to provide to governments or independent certification bodies in order to earn the credits. Each such project requires its own methodology, which can have significant upfront legal costs.
Fort created a methodology for advanced refrigeration systems, focused on cutting emissions. It has been recognised by the UN affiliate International Civil Aviation Organization for creating carbon credits eligible to offset the impact of international air traffic until 2040. More than 2m credits have been certified to date from 15 projects.
Liz Weiswasser, partner, Weil, Gotshal & Manges
After several technology partners left the firm, Liz Weiswasser pivoted its patent litigation practice to focus on life sciences instead. The practice now accounts for nearly 8 per cent of the firm’s revenues and headcount in the department has increased more than 30 per cent compared to 2019.
Weiswasser also co-leads the life sciences practice, the first formal multidisciplinary practice to be sponsored by the firm with its own client development and marketing budget. Clients praise Weiswasser’s ability to assemble a team that is diverse in skillset and includes under-represented groups.