2019 Vault Rankings
- New York#1
“Quality of work, particularly for young associates.”
“The people are passionate, intelligent and hard-working.”
“The hours can be grueling and unpredictable.”
“Lack of transparency”
“The need to constantly be available can be exhausting.”
Each year, a significant chunk of the world’s dealmaking—major mergers and acquisitions, antitrust and shareholder litigation, big-name restructurings, and multi-billion-dollar real estate ventures—gets cranked through the well-oiled machine that is Wachtell Lipton. Manning the apparatus are a gifted few, whose compensation far outstrips industry standards. While it may not be the biggest or the highest revenue-maker as a firm, it is the most profitable place in the world to practice law. Wachtell Lipton is one of the smallest firms in the AmLaw 100, but it is continually one of the top firms (and usually the top firm) when it comes to PPP, and it stands above the going market rate for first-year associate salaries.
The New York Four
Founded in 1965 by four princes of NYU's Law Review—Herbert Wachtell, Martin Lipton, Leonard Rosen, and George Katz—this resolutely New York firm still operates from a single Manhattan office. Public interest law champion Katz died young, at 57, in 1989. Rosen remained at the firm as Of Counsel until he passed away in 2014 at the age of 83. Wachtell and Lipton remain at the firm as active partners. In 1982, Lipton—who recently topped New York Magazine's list of the most influential lawyers in New York—actually created the “poison pill,” one of the most famous and enduring ways to protect shareholders’ rights.
History of Excellence
What sets the firm apart, even rivals concede, is that in a city of razor-sharp competitors, no other quite matches what Wachtell Lipton does. From its early days, the firm steered clear of run-of-the-mill corporate matters, choosing messier, riskier work. As such, Wachtell Lipton relies far less on bread-and-butter clients and politely declines more plebeian (if nonetheless profitable) engagements. The firm was one of the first to link its fees to deal value, a model that became the aspiration of most major M&A houses.
Historic matters for the firm include the death’s door resuscitation of Chrysler in the 1970s. The firm also played a key role in the much-publicized acquisition of Getty Oil Company, in which Texaco’s "white knight" offer was heralded as one of the greatest acquisitions in history. In more recent history, the firm has seen great success with LBOs and IPOs, corporate restructurings, and other finance matters. It took the lead on what some observers have called the most complex real estate deal in history: the successful negotiation of a master development agreement for the World Trade Center site following September 11th.
Hard Times=Cold Cash
Wachtell Lipton’s more recent work reflects its dominance as a corporate finance powerhouse as well as the economic climate’s provision of M&A and restructuring work. The firm represented Bank of America as it acquired Merrill Lynch, co-advised the U.S. Department of the Treasury when the government took over AIG, and advised the Feds during the takeover of mortgage giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.
IN THE NEWS
The firm represented T-Mobile and Deutsche Telekom in the $146 billion combination of T-Mobile and Sprint, Broadcom in its $147 billion proposal to acquire Qualcomm, Thomson Reuters Corporation in its strategic partnership with Blackstone for Thomson Reuters Financial and Risk (F&R) business valued at $20 billion, and Salesforce in its $6.5 billion acquisition of MuleSoft.
In the last year, Wachtell Lipton has had several significant appraisal litigation victories in the Delaware courts—including the Hilltop and Petsmart matters—creating important precedent-setting law on this hot topic du jour in the corporate governance and deal litigation space. In Hilltop, the firm achieved the first below-deal-price appraisal verdict in the modern era, which may help temper the growing aggressiveness of appraisal arbitrage funds. Also recently, in CB&I, the firm won a rare reversal in the Delaware Supreme Court, making new law in the underdeveloped area of post-closing true-up provisions. The firm wielded creative, new arguments in the Abbott and Cigna busted deal matters that gave its clients the space to renegotiate, or the ability to terminate, transactions in trouble.
The firm was once again at the forefront of REIT and real estate M&A, representing Gramercy Property Trust in its $7.6 billion acquisition by Blackstone, Annaly Capital Management in its $900 million acquisition of MTGE Investment, Quality Care Properties in its $3.9 billion acquisition by Welltower, including its related agreement with ProMedica Health System to acquire HCR ManorCare through a bankruptcy reorganization, Ventasin its revised governance arrangements with, and additional investment in, Atria Senior Living, in connection with Atria Senior Living's capital raise from Fremont Realty Capital, and Seritage Growth Properties in its $248 million joint venture transactions with GGP
Issuers undertaking the market’s largest and most visible offerings in connection with bet-the-business M&A activity engage Wachtell Lipton as issuer’s counsel to minimize execution risk—an example of this includes Abbott in its $15.5 billion Notes Offering.
Matt Guest was featured as one of The American Lawyer’s Dealmakers of the Year for his representation of Thermo Fisher Scientific in its acquisition of Patheon, the Dutch-based, New York-listed pharmaceutical company it acquired for $7 billion. The legal creativity required to make this deal happen was unprecedented for a Dutch deal. The firm represented companies in a number of other significant pharmaceutical transactions in the past year, including: Cigna in its $67 billion acquisition of Express Scripts, Zoetis in its $2.0 billion acquisition of Abaxis, Eli Lilly and Company in its $1.6 billion acquisition of ARMO BioSciences, and Mallinckrodt plc in its $1.2 billion acquisition of Sucampo Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
Wachtell Lipton was founded on a handshake in 1965 as a small group of lawyers dedicated to providing advice and expertise at the highest levels. We have achieved extraordinary results following the distinctive vision of our founders -- a cohesive team of lawyers intensely focused on solving our clients' most important problems.
About The Firm
51 West 52nd Street
New York, NY 10019
Phone: (212) 403-1000
Employer Type: Private
Executive Committee Co-Chairs: Edward D. Herlihy & Daniel A. Neff
Hiring Partner(s): By committee
Total No. Attorneys 2018: 265
1st year: $195,000
Summer associate: $3,750/week
30 out of 30 (2Ls) (2018)
New York, NY
Restructuring & Finance
Executive Compensation & Benefits