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Firms Regroup to Aid Clients During Financial Crisis

Posted Oct 14, 2008 1:00 PM CDT
By Rachel M. Zahorsky

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Hays Ellisen is doing something in his practice he’s never been asked to do before: lead a multidisciplinary task force advising clients on the biggest federal intervention into private finance in his lifetime.

The co-chair of Katten Muchin Rosenman’s structured finance and securitization practice, Ellisen heads the client advisory group on the U.S. Treasury Department’s proposed Troubled Asset Relief Program—aka the multibillion dollar Wall Street bailout and the credit crisis that spawned it—with fellow New York City-based partner Eric Adams.

"Up to this point, I have not been involved in something that requires an interdisciplinary advisory," Ellisen said. "This affects such different industries in such different ways."

Katten is one of several big law firms creating task forces to address the complex needs of clients arising from the bailout, often touching upon many different areas of law.

"The severity of clients’ financial issues is greater than anything I’ve seen in 35 years," said Greg Markel, chairman of Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft’s litigation department. "The dot-com bubble was a narrow problem, whereas the credit crisis is so wide-ranging, there is a broad need for expertise. There is more interaction among practice groups and more of a concerted effort among the groups" to address the complex needs of clients.

Both Ellisen and Markel said cross-discipline task forces are not new to law firms: The dot-com bubble and savings and loan crises of the ‘90s come to mind. However the magnitude of coordination among different practice groups today is unprecedented.

At Katten, the 25 attorneys on the task force analyzed the 400-page bailout legislation and are creating client alerts on the effects of new regulation and advising individual practice groups on the crossover client needs, including real estate, bankruptcy, tax and energy issues.

Potter Anderson & Corroon in Delaware, Ohio-based Roetzel & Andress and Holland & Knight have formed similar financial crisis advisory groups.

Chadbourne & Parke and Patton Boggs have also created internal response teams to the financial crisis.

As co-chairs of the task force, Ellisen and Adams speak as conference panel moderators about the financial crisis and Congress’ resolutions.

"People need to understand how it works if they want to participate," Ellisen said. "In today’s environment, in order to practice transactional or litigation, this plan is going to be something you need to understand and focus on deeply."

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