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Bond Counsel Rankings in 1Q See Big Changes From Last Year

The top rankings of bond counsel, underwriters’ counsel and disclosure counsel firms for the first quarter of 2012 changed substantially from those for the first quarter of 2011.

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Nixon Peabody LLP, the 20th-ranked bond counsel in the first quarter of 2011 and seventh-ranked bond counsel in all of 2011, was second in the past quarter, measured by par value counseled. Nixon Peabody had a 1.4% market share in the first quarter of 2011 that climbed to a 5% share in the first quarter of 2012.

Greenberg Traurig LLP also jumped up. While it was 10th in the first quarter of 2011 and 17th in all of 2011, it was third in the recently completed quarter. Market share went from 2.6% in the first quarter of 2011 to 4.9% in the last quarter.

Stradling Yocca Carlson & Rauth had a similar leap. It went from 36th among bond counsel firms in the first quarter of 2011 and 14th for 2011, to ninth in this past quarter.

If some are going up, others must be declining. Sidley Austin LLP, Edwards Wildman Palmer LLP and Chapman and Cutler LLP all lost market share and rank from the first quarter 2011 to the first quarter of 2012.

Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP held onto the top spot among bond counsel.

The rankings for the top 10 disclosure firms also showed a great deal of variation. Five of the firms among the top 10 for the first quarter of 2012 were not among the top 10 for the first quarter of 2011.

For example, though Sherman & Howard LLC was 13th in the first quarter in 2011 and 11th in 2011, it rose to fourth in the first quarter of 2012. Its market share rose from 1.4% in the first quarter of last year to 5.7% in the current quarter.

The issuance of municipal bonds took a particularly steep dive in early 2011 in the states that Sherman & Howard counsels, said partner Dee Wisor. They include Colorado, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico and Wyoming.

In Colorado, concerns about a ballot measure that could have restricted bond sales made issuers advance many bond offerings from 2011 to 2010, Wisor said. Nevada’s weak economy in 2011 curbed government issuance. Further, in early 2011 Sherman & Howard worked on many bank loan financings, which are not covered in the rankings, Wisor noted.

The rankings among underwriters counsel also saw a shift.

The second-ranked underwriter counsel for the first quarter of 2012, O’Neill & Borges, had no business at all in 2011. Based on counseling, just two issues totaling $2.7 billion in par value, it had a 5.2% share in the first quarter of 2012.

Mintz Levin also made a meteoric leap. It went from 62nd in the first quarter of 2011 to fifth in this past quarter. It went from three issues and a 0.3% market share in the first quarter of 2011 to eight issues with a 4.6% market share in the first quarter of 2012.

“A lot of things in the works have come to fruition,” said Mintz Levin partner Meghan Burke. Some of the deals came from a New York City office that has been open for about 10 years, she said, adding that luck was also a factor.

The top underwriters’ counsel firm for the first quarter of 2012, Fulbright & Jaworski LLP, had been just number eight in the first quarter of 2011.

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