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Continuing an upward trend in attorney peer and client rankings, Venable LLP markedly boosted its performance in the fourth annual Chambers USA survey of America’s leading business lawyers.

In the new Chambers U.S. directory for 2006, six of the firm’s practice groups – Corporate/M&A, Commercial Litigation, Employment Defense, Real Estate, Healthcare and Employee Benefits – were ranked in the top tier for Maryland and recognized for outstanding work in Washington and Virginia, up from four a year ago. 

The firm’s Washington-based Environmental group, Financial Services Regulatory Enforcement and Investigations practice, and the Government Contracts group, as well as the Virginia Construction group were all recognized among the market leaders.

In all, Chambers cited 35 Venable attorneys among its roster of the country’s leading lawyers, up from 29 last year. Chambers’ rankings are compiled from interviews of the area’s top business leaders and legal advisors.

“The firm has experienced continued growth across a number of major areas in the past year and it’s heartening to see that momentum recognized by clients and other attorneys in our respective markets,” said Venable chair James L. Shea, himself a repeat in the 2006 directory in the litigation category.

Added managing partner Karl A. Racine, “As Chambers expands its own presence in the United States, we’re very pleased to broaden our own representation in the directory – the recognition given to our attorneys is especially satisfying because it’s based on peer reporting and word-of-mouth, which is where so much reputational excellence resides.”

Here are some Venable highlights from this year’s Chambers survey:
  • The "high-quality" Commercial Litigation group, ranked top tier in Maryland, won praise for being “thorough, professional, client-oriented and technically talented” and for its “holistic” approach to dispute resolution.   “Extraordinarily well-spoken," James Shea is regarded as an "extremely smart, straightforward litigator who fights hard but fair."  Respected by judges and practitioners, James Archibald is "organized, methodical and effective,” while Paul Strain is “prepared and charismatic - he deals with situations with confidence and grace.” James Gray is “experienced and skillful,” making “you go through every single step and work for all you've got.”  Michael Schatzow “will dive into a case and become a really passionate believer in his client's cause.” Virginia partner William Dolan, a “huge presence” in the courtroom and boardroom, is called “The Man” for his skill at handling contentious matters and for his “outstanding” white-collar and internal investigations work.
  • The Corporate/M&A practice maintained its top rank in Maryland and was among the best inNorthern Virginia. Noted for excellence in private company work, the corporate group was acclaimed for “high quality” counsel in restructurings and for working through complicated problems. Jim Hanks is noted as “a leading expert on corporate law issues.”  Tax partner Bryson Cook is cited for innovation and for his "creative structures."  Tuck Washburne is particularly appreciated for his “experience and client focus,” and is noted for his representations of both MBNA America Bank and Mercantile Bankshares in recent acquisitions. Michael Baader, partner in charge of the Baltimore office and chair of its corporate transactions group, is a “great lawyer and a wonderful guy,” who recently represented Ritz-Carlton in a worldwide series of $300 million agreements with mixed-use resorts. Virginiacorporate partner Thomas France has represented information security company SafeNet in its recent acquisition of MediaSentry, a provider of anti-piracy and business management services for the entertainment industry.
  • The top-tier Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation team, “extremely thorough, timely and outstandingly available,” has handled a major workforce reduction program for a leading international financial services company. Barbara Schlaff is “attentive, knowledgeable, easygoing, levelheaded and intelligent;” she was especially cited for her ability to “boil complex issues down to a simple level.” Ken Hoffman is “excellent, technically skilled and extremely thorough.”
  • Another top-tier practice, Employment Defense, was described as “extremely responsive,” in “offering clients the resources of a large firm with the feel of a boutique.”  Jeffrey Ayres is praised as a “tenacious and skilful,” and noted for a recent big win for a Marriott International in a discrimination suit. Ronald Taylor, cited as “one of the foremost experts on OSHA matters in the state, if not the country,” is “terrific, extremely pragmatic and he doesn't make a mountain out of a molehill.”  Robert Ames, called by one Chambers respondent as “the preeminent labor attorney in Maryland,” “achieves business-oriented results.” George Johnston, appreciated for his “experience, focus and judgment,”is also considered a real scholar and great for esoteric points of law.”  Todd Horn, in his first appearance on the list, was admired as a “fantastic litigator - one of the best in the courtroom, with a tremendous presence.”  Patrick Clancy is also seen as “top-notch” for complex employment litigation.  In the firm’s Virginia office, David Smith was praised for his over 30 years' experience on traditional labor counseling and dispute work.
  • Making its first appearance in Chambers, Venable’s top-tier Healthcare group is one of the most respected in the field, with a “full gamut of resources.” Connie Baker is sought out by physicians and hospitals for her regulatory experience and skill in credentialing.  John Sarbanes, called “talented and thoughtful,” is active in the senior living industry and also handles tax-exempt financing advice for nonprofit hospitals. And Peter Parvis is known for his regulatory expertise and niche in planning law.
  • The full-service Real Estate group, ranked top-tier inMaryland, is praised for producing “top-band work.” A “splendid and diligent” adviser, practice co-chair Kevin Shepherd “does a great job” for his clients.   Jim Wright is a “wonderful attorney - one of the best in Baltimore.”  Russell Reno, “one of the deans of real estate law,” has "seen virtually everything, is great with the fundamentals,” and masterminds “creative solutions to difficult problems.”  First-time Chambers pick Jan Guben is admired for his “organizational and drafting abilities, great judgment and common sense.”  In the Washington office, Philip Horowitz, who recently became president of the American College of Real Estate Lawyers, was noted for his recent representation of Westfield Realty in its $1 billion sale of 12 buildings in Northern Virginia, and also Louis-Dreyfus Property’s development of both 1101 New York Avenue, NW and the new headquarters for the SEC adjacent to Union Station. Stefan Tucker was called hands-down “the best real estate tax lawyer in DC” by one Chambers’ admirer; Tucker’s “advice goes beyond the usual chapter and verse. He also has an excellent grasp of a company's business objectives.”
  • Venable’s Environmental Criminal Defense group is “one of the finest enforcement practices in town,” according to Chambers.  An “extremely commanding presence,” practice co-chair Judson Starr is “the only person I would refer clients to for criminal environmental issues,” raves one Chambers respondent. Starr’s co-chair and former Justice Department Environmental Crimes Section Chief Joseph Block was also noted for his work on compliance and internal investigations. Peggy Strand, praised for her passion and strong work ethic, was noted for wetlands and natural resources expertise.
  • The Construction group in Virginia was noted as a “big mover in the area,” and lauded for its “depth and breadth of expertise.”  “Exceptional” attorney Wayne Lalle brings an “encyclopedic knowledge of the law and the industry”and a “focus on the business endgame.”
  • The national Financial Services practice is highly regarded for successfully handling the defense of enforcement proceedings before regulatory agencies.  Chambers cited the firm’s 2005 success in crafting a global settlement for a leading insurance company in alleged fraud claims by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency – “the first time a federal banking agency entered into a global settlement with any commercial company.”  Practice Chair Ronald Glancz is respected for his successes in the regulatory enforcement field
  • The “leading and well-respected” full-service Government Contracts practice was noted for its frequent work in  representing contract services clients in bid protests, “where the core group of lawyers has the resources to do ‘an extremely good job,’" Chambers noted.  The practice was also cited for handling intellectual property and corporate governance matters on behalf of government contractor firms. Group chair Thomas Madden was called a “strong litigator” and “a really well-known force,” as well as “highly capable” in critical cost issues.

One of the American Lawyer’s top 100 law firms, Venable LLP has attorneys practicing in all areas of corporate and business law, complex litigation, intellectual property and government affairs. Venable serves corporate, institutional, governmental, nonprofit and individual clients throughout the U.S. and around the world from its headquarters in Washington, D.C. and offices in California, Maryland, New York and Virginia. For more, visit www.Venable.com.