Fourteen New York attorneys-including the late
Arthur Kramer, brother of playwright Larry Kramer-teamed up to
start Kramer Levin in 1968. The city was already well-stocked with
law firms, many of them dating back to the 1800s, so Kramer Levin
set out to distinguish itself on the basis of its skill, not the
depth of its roots.
From the start, Kramer Levin was positioned as
a full-service firm that didn't rely on a single hallmark practice
or longstanding relationship with one major client. This approach,
combined with the firm's small size, meant that some practice areas
were run by just one or two lawyers, but it also meant that Kramer
Levin was able to accept litigation, real estate, transactional,
tax and trusts and estates assignments. One of the reasons why the
firm was able to attract and retain partners and associates in its
early days was the fact that it offered attorneys a chance to work
in small teams and build their practices themselves, instead of
navigating through the crowds at larger firms.
By 1970, Kramer Levin was 20 attorneys strong,
and it had established its Manhattan headquarters in midtown east.
Thirty-five years later, the firm is 375 attorneys strong and has
moved a few avenues over to its current location.
Kramer Levin has been notably conservative
when it comes to expansion: the firm only ventured beyond New York
in 1999, when it swallowed up Rogers & Wells' Paris office to
obtain a 20-lawyer outpost in the City of Light. The location has
provided the firm with a vantage point from which it can more
easily handle cross-border assignments, especially those involving
European clients. Three years thereafter, Kramer Levin sought to
bolster its European presence through an alliance with British firm
Berwin Leighton Paisner; the firms agreed to loosen ties in 2007,
dropping the alliance in favor of a non-exclusive "preferred firm"
In 2011, the firm took its expansion
state-side and opened shop in Silicon Valley. The firm's west coast
office focuses on intellectual property litigation.
From Litigation to Land Use
With over 20 practice areas, ranging from
complex securities law to corporate restructuring to unmanned
aircraft systems, Kramer Levin's scope is broader today than it was
when the firm began. Nonetheless, some of its practice areas have
achieved special prominence, including the litigation department.
Led by name partner, Gary Naftalis, and Barry Berke, the litigation
department has represented the likes of JPMorganChase, Johnson
& Johnson, Sirius XM Radio, Deloitte, Rajat K. Gupta, and
Michael Steinberg. It has also worked closely with Lambda Legal in
arguing marriage equality cases brought by same-sex couples
petitioning the State of New York for recognition of their valid
out-of-state marriages. Kramer Levin has also been involved in some
of the largest and most complex bankruptcies filed in the U.S.,
including Caesar's Entertainment and Residential Capital.
On the transaction side, Kramer Levin has
represented Del Monte Pacific Limited in its acquisition of the
consumer foods business of Del Monte Corporation, and Perella
Weinberg Partners Asset Based Value Strategy in its agreement to
sell Flagship Rail Services to Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation.
The firm has also represented clients in the beauty and fashion
industries, such as Bobbi Brown.
The firm also has one of the largest and most
experienced land use practices in New York, and it has represented
most of the city's major developers and institutions. Clients
include the NYU Langone Medical Center, South Street Seaport,
Madison Square Garden and the Whitney Museum. Kramer Levin's real
estate group handles advice to real estate owners and developers,
private equity investors, investment bankers and hoteliers, among
others. Clients include the Related Companies, LP in the 26-acre
Hudson Yards development in midtown Manhattan and Sotheby's in
exploring relocation possibilities.
¡Hola Puerto Rico!
On June 13, 2016, Kramer Levin clients Franklin Mutual and
Oppenheimer funds scored a major win when the United States Supreme
Court ruled 5-2 that Puerto Rico's Debt Enforcement and Recovery
Act is pre-empted by the Federal Bankruptcy Code. Puerto Rico had
adopted the act to compel a restructuring of more than $18 billion
in bonds issued by the Commonwealth's electric, sewer, and highway
corporations. Kramer Levin's victory protects bondholders across
the United States from Puerto Rico's now-void statute. Franklin
Mutual and Oppenheimer Funds hold more than $1.5 billion in Puerto
Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) bonds.
Kramer Levin secured three critical wins for Depomed, defeating
all of Purdue Pharma LP's patent invalidity challenges in three
separate inter partes review trials. This marked one of the first
times that the Patent Trial and Appeal Board affirmed the validity
of all the patent claims subjected to inter partes review. The
decisions, which were affirmed by the Federal Circuit on March 24,
2016, are related to the patent infringement lawsuit that Depomed
brought against Purdue's drug OxyContin in federal district court
in New Jersey.
Kramer Levin represented Related Companies and Oxford
Properties, developers of the 28-acre Hudson Yards project located
above the Long Island Rail Road yards in Manhattan, in condominium
matters relating to two multibillion-dollar finance packages that
closed on December 11, 2015. The first financing transaction
included a $1.3 billion financing package and an $850 million
construction loan for 15 Hudson Yards, a 960,000-square-foot
residential tower. The second was a $5 billion financing package
for 20-30 Hudson Yards. The new 20 Hudson Yards will consist of a
1-million-square-foot retail destination and the adjoining 30
Hudson Yards will be a 90-story office building.
Always Bet on BlackRock
Kramer Levin represented BlackRock in its agreement, inked in
November 2015, with Bank of America's asset management business,
BofA Global Capital Management, to transfer investment management
responsibilities of approximately $87 billion of assets managed by
BofA to BlackRock. Earlier in the year, Kramer Levin had
represented BlackRock in its acquisition of FutureAdvisor, a leader
in digital wealth management. The deal, which was announced in
August 2015, enables BlackRock to provide financial institution
clients with technology that their clients can use to gain
personalized insights into their investment portfolios.
Breaking a Deadlock
Kramer Levin represented Elizabeth Elting, the co-founder,
co-CEO and 50 percent owner of TransPerfect, in a trial in Delaware
Chancery Court against Philip Shawe, TransPerfect's other co-CEO
and 50 percent shareholder. Alleging irreconcilable deadlock with
Shawe over the management and operation of the company, Elting sued
for the appointment of a custodian to put the company up for sale.
On August 13, 2015, the court awarded Elting a complete victory.
The precedent-setting decision to force the sale of a $1 billion
company reinforced the Court of Chancery's broad powers to do
equity in cases of corporate deadlock.
Love is Love
Kramer Levin capped a decade of work on marriage equality by
playing a key role in the ultimate U.S. Supreme Court victory in
June 2015. The firm filed an amicus curiae brief in Obergefell
v. Henry on behalf of nearly 2,000 mainstream clergy and
religious organizations-including leadership of the Episcopal
Church, the United Church of Christ, and Conservative, Reform and
Reconstructionist Judaism-supporting the freedom to marry. The firm
filed similar briefs in United States v. Windsor, which
struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013, and in the
wave of subsequent cases leading up to Obergefell.