McGuireWoods ranked third on Financial Times’ prestigious North America Innovative Lawyers report for 2017, one of only two firms to make award shortlists in six categories — Most Innovative Firm in North America; Litigation and Disputes; Enabling Business Growth; Accessing New Markets and Capital; Strategy and Changing Behaviors; and Collaboration. McGuireWoods also was commended in the Rule of Law and Access to Justice category. FT recognized the legal innovators in a special report published Dec. 12.
“Innovation is a core value at McGuireWoods that’s incorporated in everything the firm does. We encourage our lawyers and staff to use their skills and ingenuity to help clients meet their most pressing business needs,” said McGuireWoods Chairman Jonathan Harmon. “We witness the results of this dedication daily, and we’re very pleased Financial Times continues to recognize our innovative approaches to client service and the practice of law.”
To compile the report, FT research partner RSG Consulting evaluated 533 submissions from 79 law firms and legal service providers and conducted more than 600 interviews with clients, senior lawyers, executives and experts. 2017 marks the second consecutive year FT honored McGuireWoods as one of North America’s most innovative firms.
The firm earned a “Highly Commended” rating in the Litigation and Disputes category for devising a one-of-a-kind strategy to settle costly environmental liabilities in bankruptcy. McGuireWoods partner Gregory Evans crafted a novel strategy allowing client Asarco to settle all Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act claims against the company for a fraction of the initial demand, obtain a release from future liability and pursue other potentially responsible parties for millions of dollars in contribution payments. In 2017, Evans successfully defended his groundbreaking strategy, winning before the 9th and 10th U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals — a strategy that now serves as a roadmap for others facing such environmental claims.
FT ranked McGuireWoods as “Highly Commended” in the Enabling Business Growth category for serving as lead outside legislative counsel for Exelon Generation and Commonwealth Edison Company in the drafting and passage of Illinois’ 500-page Future Energy Jobs Act. FT’s report commended McGuireWoods partner Mark Johnson for his work on the law, one of the most comprehensive state energy bills ever crafted. The Act, which took effect June 1, 2017, makes Illinois a state leader in climate and clean energy policy and revolutionizes the state’s regulatory framework.
The firm was “Highly Commended” in FT’s Accessing New Markets and Capital category for its work as lead deal counsel in the origination, placement and investment of proceeds from a first-of-its-kind off-grid, renewable and climate action (ORCA) note. With the innovative note, client Developing World Markets — represented by McGuireWoods partner Penny Zacharias —invested $60.8 million into 11 businesses promoting renewable energy and climate solutions across Latin America, Africa and Asia. The off-grid solar companies financed by the ORCA note now have the means to use new approaches to combat the energy crisis that affects more than 2 billion people globally.
The firm also ranked as “Highly Commended” in FT’s Strategy and Changing Behaviors category for McGuireWoods partner Scott Oostdyk’s creation of the Triage Project, a first-of-its kind pro bono initiative that will substantially expand legal aid in Virginia and serve as a model nationwide. The plan makes Richmond, Virginia, the first U.S. city to outsource legal aid matters in 12 practices to private-practice lawyers, thereby allowing legal aid groups to focus their scarce resources on three core areas. The project uses JusticeServer 2.0 — an online case management/referral tool that gives private-practice lawyers easy access to legal aid case files directly from their desktops. Also conceived by Oostdyk, JusticeServer earned a “Standout” rating in FT’s 2016 North America Innovative Lawyers report.
The firm received a “Commended” ranking in the Collaboration category for teaming up with Williams Mullen to launch the Unmanned Systems Association of Virginia. It is the first state-level organization dedicated to lobbying and advocacy for all unmanned systems industry sectors — ground, aerial and maritime. McGuireWoods partner and McGuireWoods Consulting senior vice president Michele Satterlund, who has carved out a thriving practice in the autonomous vehicles space, led the efforts. The association played an integral role in Virginia becoming the first state to pass groundbreaking legislation allowing unmanned personal delivery devices on sidewalks. The legislation opens the door to other advanced delivery technologies in Virginia and safeguards its status as a pro-growth state for the unmanned industry.
McGuireWoods also earned a “Commended” ranking in the Rule of Law and Access to Justice category for associate Betsy Hutson’s key role in completing research and analysis for the U.S. State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report. Last year, Hutson traveled to Peru as part of the project — spearheaded by the Human Trafficking Institute and the U.S. State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons — where she documented stories of trafficking survivors and met with key personnel in law enforcement, the government, the legal profession and nongovernmental organizations.
2017 marks the second straight year that FT has recognized McGuireWoods as a top firm for legal innovation. In last year’s FT North America report, McGuireWoods ranked 10th, with honors for Social Responsibility; Changing and Influencing Regulation; Data, Analytics and Intelligence; and Integrated Solutions.