The Rushford Report Archives

Who are the best international 

trade lawyers in the world?

January, 2003: Publius

By Greg Rushford

Published in the Rushford Report

Because I have been covering legal issues for the past 16 years, people sometimes ask, who is the best international trade lawyer in Washington ? As if anyone could know.

            But now the story can be told.

            The best international trade lawyer in Washington is Gary Horlick, a partner in Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering and a powerful advocate for free trade. Alan Wolff, of Dewey Ballantine and a forceful advocate for domestic steelmakers, is second best.

            I know this because someone leaked me an advance list of the best trade- and customs lawyers in the world. The list, although not the rankings, will be published soon in the third edition of the International Who’s Who of Trade and Customs Lawyers, which studies and surveys such things.

            Yes, it’s okay to be skeptical. But still, even though the exercise is hardly exact science, Who’s Who offers an opportunity to quickly survey the international trade bar.      

            For openers, Horlick and Wolff really are widely respected for intellect. Each lawyer would be high on anyone’s top list. Certainly, nobody’s smarter than these two.

            But anyone who knows the bar well could tick off perhaps a dozen others who are in the same league. And are we to believe that Horlick and Wolff are so much smarter than Charlene Barshefsky, who sat in President Bill Clinton’s cabinet as U.S. trade representative and is now at Wilmer Cutler? The brainy Barshefsky is only the 13th best Washington trade lawyer, according to Who’s Who. The assertion might be good gossip, but it is ridiculous. No more mention of rankings in this space.

            Some really savvy lawyers from boutique firms -- J. Kevin Horgan and Donald deKieffer, for example -- aren’t on the list. They should be. And there is at least one lawyer from a big firm who might be on anyone’s list of the most influential political lawyers, but who doesn’t seem to be a top-flight


            That would be Robert Lighthizer, who represents Stand Up for Steel interests at the giant Skadden Arps. The shrill Lighthizer -- in my view, the Lori Wallach of the trade bar -- is the kind of lawyer who, when he loses cases, has been known to publicly impugn the qualifications of the judges. The best that I can say for Lighthizer, a former aide to Sen. Robert Dole, is that he is an effective political attack dog. But if you are looking to pay due respect to an able lawyer who works the protectionist side of the street, Roger Schagrin is one of the first to come to mind. But Schagrin, who represents domestic steel interests, runs his own small firm and hence is ignored in the Who’s Who survey.   

             Despite such subjective quibbles, generally speaking, it does seem that the International Who’s Who has a decent eye for talent. Wilmer Cutler has seven out of the 119 Who’s Who picks worldwide, which is the most lawyers from any one firm on the list. In Washington , two other Washington-based Wilmer Cutler partners are listed besides Horlick and Barshefsky: Robert Cassidy, Jr. and John Greenwald. Horlick and Greenwald, by the way, each formerly headed the Commerce Department’s import administration, back in the 1980s when that bureaucracy still calculated antidumping margins honestly. 

            While I know Washington lawyers better, it is apparent that Who’s Who was right on target in at least some of its international choices, such as Thailand ’s Pornprom Karnchanachari. If you have a trade issue in Bangkok , Pornprom is the man to see. In Brussels , Edwin Vermulst, of Vermulst Waer & Verhaeghe; and also Philippe De Baere, of Van Bael & Bellis, are considered very able. And it is difficult to imagine a "best" list that didn’t include Akin Gump’s Brussels partner, Jacques Bourgeois. And in Geneva , Sidley Austin’s Scott Andersen knows the WTO inside and out.

            [While you can’t blame Who’s Who for sticking only to lawyers in a survey of the bar, it is a mistake not to keep in mind other influential people who aren’t lawyers. David Hartridge, who retired last year as director of the WTO’s services division, is now senior director of WCI consulting, a Geneva-based trade consultancy of White & Case. And Doral Cooper, formerly the USTR’s top woman on Asia , is president of C&M International, the Washington trade consultancy affiliated with Crowell & Moring. These are people with major track records who are taken seriously in the bar.]

            In Washington , a few names on the list stand out -- and many names of widely recognized top-flight legal talent are noticeable by their absence.

            Take Michael Stein, a former International Trade Commission general counsel who is now a Dewey Ballantine partner. Stein is on the list. No problem there. But where is Dewey Ballantine’s John Ragosta? He’s one of the most creative lawyers in Washington . Ragosta has relentlessly pushed the Canadian softwood lumber case on behalf of the U.S. lumber industry for more than two decades. Anyone who can keep such a loser of a case going for that long has to be an extremely able advocate.

            Of course, Ragosta’s free-trade adversary at Weil, Gotshal & Manges -- Jean Anderson is also a savvy veteran. At least Anderson -- who has won as consistently as Ragosta has lost -- was not slighted by Who’s Who. Neither was Weil Gotshal’s Chip Roh, Jr., a former U.S. trade official known for his in-depth understandings of both trade law and politics.

            But Brenda Jacobs and the venerable Mike Daniels over at Sidley Austin -- two free trade advocates who know everything about how textile protectionism works -- aren’t even mentioned. This really is an oversight, especially since Who’s Who does recognize other Sidley Austin lawyers like David Palmeter and David Price. Price, representing the government of Vietnam , played a key role in the successful negotiations for the U.S.-Viet trade bilateral. In the antidumping area, nothing gets past Palmeter.

            The truth is, there really is too much talent in the trade bar to recognize in any one article: Robert Hertzstein (now at Miller & Chevalier), Homer Moyer, Jr. (Miller & Chevalier), Butch Almstedt (O’Malley & Myers), Peter Suchman (Powell Goldstein), Thomas Wilner (Shearman & Sterling), for instance. And nobody who has seen their skills in trade litigation would question naming Akin Gump’s Warren Connelly, Spencer Griffith and Valerie Slater on a best-and-brightest list. (Slater is now representing the U.S. catfish industry in its war with Vietnam .) But if I had a trade problem involving Korea , I would want to seek the counsel of Akin Gump’s Sukhan Kim  -- who for some reason isn’t on the list. And Akin Gump’s Michael Kaye should be there.

            Have a problem with U.S. Customs? It’s no longer necessary to go to New York , not as long as Washington has lawyers like Ken Weigel, a partner in Alston & Bird. But while New York customs lawyer Robert Silverman, of Grunfeld, Desiderio, Lebowitz Silverman & Klestadt, is rightly mentioned, trade partner Jeffrey Grimson in the D.C. office is not. Grimson’s good. Defending Chinese respondents, Grimson has lately ripped huge holes in the antidumping case brought by the U.S. apple lobby against Chinese apple-juice concentrate. 

            There are other noticeable  gaps and omissions.

            The Who’s Who list looks slightly foolish without the scholarly and persistent Elliot Feldman, of Baker & Hostetler, on it. Feldman has a Ph.d from MIT, a J.D. from Harvard, has taught at four universities including Tufts and Brandeis, and knows Nafta law thoroughly. And while William Clinton, David Houlihan, and Walter Spak -- all widely respected White & Case partners who often defend major Asian interests under fire in U.S. antidumping actions -- are rightly named, where are Chris Corr and Greg Spak? Where is Carolyn Lamm? Where is Ed Sim, in the firm’s Singapore office? (Sim is currently representing Vietnamese exporters in the catfish antidumping case.)

            Likewise, the list looks odd without Kaye Scholer’s Michael House and Julie Mendoza, although at least Kaye Scholer partners Donald Cameron and Christopher Parlin are recognized. But why isn’t Kaye Scholer’s Raymond Paretzky on the list? Paretzky is reputedly as brilliant as his resume: Yale Law, Oxford University (Rhodes Scholar), Queens College valedictorian.

            Steptoe & Johnson veterans Richard Cunningham and Susan Esserman are rightly mentioned. But Steptoe heavy hitters Mark Moran and Olin Wethington aren’t mentioned. Go figure.

            The omissions are even more glaring at Willkie Farr, where only Bill Barringer makes the Who’s Who cut. Has Who’s Who never heard of Ken Pierce, Chris Dunn, Dan Porter, Jim Durling, and Matt Nicely? These guys wage ferocious legal warfare. On behalf of Japanese steel clients, the Willkie Farr team drives the Stand Up for Steel crowd nuts.

            Of course, what could be called the protectionist side of the bar also has bench strength. Consider Terry Stewart, of Stewart and Stewart. This is the lawyer who is considered to have been the moving force behind the controversial Byrd amendment that allows U.S. private-sector petitioners in antidumping cases to dip into the Treasury and pocket tariff revenues. Even though the Byrd amendment is terrible public policy, Stewart is respected in the bar as a very good lawyer who delivers for his clients. 

            But even when looking at the "anti-trade" side of the trade bar, the omissions glare. Paul Rosenthal and David Hartquist over at Collier Shannon are on the Who’s Who list, as they should be. But for some reason the able Michael Coursey and Lauren Howard -- who was the first female managing partner of a major Washington law firm -- aren’t. Again, go figure.

            Meanwhile, readers who know the bar well have probably been wondering why Hogan & Hartson’s Jeanne Archibald, Mark McConnell and Lewis Leibowitz haven’t been mentioned. Don’t fret, they are all on the list. Leibowitz’ work with the Consuming Industries Trade Action Coalition deserves special mention. CITAC has played an important behind-the-scenes role in bringing the stories of U.S. small businesses who have been harmed by the Bush steel tariffs to public light. If corporate America really got behind CITAC -- like the steel lobby pushes Stand Up for Steel -- we would be talking about a major force.

            I can think of at least three other Hogan & Hartson lawyers who should have been recognized in the Who’s Who list, but weren’t: Warren Maruyama, T. Clark Weymouth, Lynn Kamarck.

            But perhaps blessedly, all lists -- and gossip -- have to end somewhere.