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Poll of those occupying in-house legal jobs finds the four most fearsome litigation teams in the US

Posted by: Laurence Simons 12/09/12

Horror films have long been missing a trick. Yes: Jack Nicholson hammering down a bathroom door and sticking his face through was mildy scary. Also yes: eerie girls in stained white dresses climbing up from out of wells on gnarled hands was quite frightening. We may even go so far as to say the Blair Witch Project, with its running and screaming and crying snottily into the camera, was a little bit spooky. But none of them had litigators in them.

Litigators are the scariest lawyers because i. they are mad at you ii. they are mad at themselves and iii. they are mad at the system, and they have the requisite paperwork to prove those things. And facing down these ticking time-bombs in court is never that fun. But what is fun is ranking them as per their scariness, which is exactly what the BTI Consulting Group did this week.

The firm polled 240 respondents, all in in-house legal jobs, and determined which of the top 200 and Biglaw firms in the US they dreaded coming up against the most. As a result of those interviews, the four scariest litigation teams were singled out and given the unnecessarily cool label 'the Fearsome Foursome'. A further 15 were honoured as 'Awesome Opponents', but that's not as good. This happens every year.

Anyway, and you might want to hide behind a sofa for this, the scariest Biglaw firms are: Boies, Schiller & Flexner; Jones Day; Kirkland & Ellis; Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. Scary, right? You're shuddering. Stop shuddering. Please calm down.

But how seriously to take all this? Well, BTI's methodology is pretty soulnd. The group has held more than 3,400 interviews over the course of 12 years, and has been drafting up a Fearsome Foursome for a few of them. Of the latest ranking - based on 350 interviews with legal counsel at some major, major companies - Boies Schiller and Jones Day are both new to the list, elbowing Quinn Emanuel and Latham & Watkins down into the less scary 'Awesome Opponents' category.
Significantly, BTI president Michael Rynowecer noted that both Boies Schiller and Jones Day had made the hallowed Foursome as a result of a very real tactical push to become "more aggressive" and "more pointed in their approach", which seems to have paid dividends: Jones Day is now the top legal adviser on the oh-so-vogue business of mergers, based on deal count at least, while Boies Schiller recently tempted star litigator David Bernick away from Philip Morris and into its haunting clutches.