Top Menu

And The Best FCPA Lawyer Is …


The short answer is how the heck would I know and what criteria would even be used?

Is one a “best” FCPA lawyer if one assists a business organization with a compliance program that effectively manages and minimizes risk such that the company is never under FCPA scrutiny and resolves an enforcement action?

Is one a “best” FCPA lawyer if one conducts a multi-million dollar internal investigation or is this “boiling the ocean” and deserving of a “worst” FCPA lawyer?

Is one a “best” FCPA lawyer if, after an internal investigation, one takes the government’s bait and voluntarily discloses or is this deserving of a “worst” FCPA lawyer recognizing that there is no legal obligation to disclose and disclosure results in a host of negative financial effects for a business organization? (See here and here).

Is one a “best” FCPA lawyer if one advises a client, largely for reasons of risk aversion, to accept a government NPA, DPA or administrative action or is this deserving of a “worst” FCPA lawyer recognizing that rolling over and playing dead is not the only option? (See here and here).

As to the above issues, and many more that might be relevant to FCPA lawyering, there is little transparency (and thus objective assessment by others) of the relevant criteria. Indeed, is there any legal practice as opaque as FCPA lawyering?

It has been noted in other contexts such as this Forbes article:

“Law is staging its own version of ‘every kid gets a trophy.’ Its award season is longer than baseball’s, and the list of award categories rivals the Oscars. Every week, all over the globe, the legal industry throws gala dinners to celebrate its ‘innovators,’ ‘visionaries,’ and ‘pioneers.’ These gatherings afford attendees a chance to dress up, schmooze with peers, feel important, and convince themselves that their industry is performing splendidly.”

This article in the Wall Street Journal states:

“Stroking lawyers’ egos has become big business. A proliferation of attorney awards and rankings — more than 1,200 by one count — is inundating law-firm marketing departments, and an industry of consultants has popped up to guide firms through the submissions process.”

As noted in the article:

“[S]ince the recession, the awards race has intensified, in part as legal-trade publications look to monetize honors to prop up revenue. Many of the rankings are bestowed by trusted brands that vet lawyers’ reputations by calling clients and reviewing court victories or major deals. Even these can ask winners to pay $500 for plaques, $5,000 for advertisements or $10,000 for tables at awards banquets. Newer contests are often pay-to-play, requiring several-hundred dollar submission fees or even withholding awards if certain products aren’t purchased. ‘A whole cottage industry has developed on playing off of lawyers’ egos and insecurities,’ said the head of one large New York-based law firm. ‘It’s accelerating dramatically because people see that there’s money to be had.’

The proliferation of law firm / lawyer rankings has infected the FCPA space and, consistent with the above article, most of the awards seem to be handed out by for-profit legal trade publications.

Among other fancy sounding awards is Law360’s “10 FCPA Powerhouse Firms.” As stated by the publication:

“The factors considered in selecting the winners included the number of attorneys at the firm working on FCPA matters and contributions to this developing area of law, including working on landmark FCPA cases, as well as client representations and outcomes.”

Turns out, size does matter. Query what is a “landmark” FCPA case?

And then there’s Global Investigations Review’s / Just Anti-Corruption’s profiles of “the top FCPA practices” divided into three categories: “elite,” “highly recommended,” and “recommended.” Because most everything published on those sites is behind a paywall, I can’t share the assumed exacting criteria.

Not a DC FCPA lawyer? Don’t feel bad, Global Investigation Review / Just Anti-Corruption has a list for you too. It’s called the “Best FCPA Lawyers Outside the Beltway.”

And then there was this “Best FCPA Lawyers” list compiled by the same publication. Law firm submissions played a “key role” in the overall rankings. Among the factors considered was “geographic reach” which included a “firm’s language capabilities and a strong understanding of the socioeconomic and cultural nuances that come into play when conducting witness interviews. We looked not only at what was asked, but why questions were asked and what the underlying strategy was behind the representation.”

Pardon for me asking, but how does one exactly measure “understanding of the socioeconomic and cultural nuances that come into play when conducting witness interviews.”

Interestingly, when compiling its rankings the publication mentioned the “proliferation of rankings,” but stated that the “FCPA practitioners deserve a forum to highlight their achievements.” The publication stated:

“[We] appreciate[] the demand placed upon firms and their marketing professionals. The proliferation of rankings and firm resources devoted to answering, maintaining, and updating submissions and attorney rankings is overwhelming. In conducting the awards we sought not to add to these demands, but to provide a credible source of business intelligence for the market and to recognize the accomplishments of firms and attorneys that generally must fall into non-FCPA categories when pursuing other rankings. FCPA practitioners deserve a forum to highlight their achievements.”

In my opinion, many of these FCPA or related awards are a racket. What typically happens is that the law firm or lawyers winning the award issue a press release mentioning the publication issuing the award (free advertising for the publication) and then congratulates itself for winning the award as if it was some big accomplishment. Not to pick on these law firms (several others could also be highlighted) but some examples of press releases are here, here and here.

I would love to know what percentage of these awards go to law firms and lawyers who are paid subscribers to the publications who bestow the awards?

For instance, some FCPA commentators tout awards from JD Supra (see here and here). My understanding is that these awards are pay to play because only individuals who pay JD Supra to carry their content are eligible.

Returning to the opening question … who is the best FCPA lawyer?

The short answer is how the heck would I know and what criteria would even be used?

What I do know is that most FCPA (and other legal) awards are pretty much a racket.

FCPAnalytics Is Data Driven

As stated by the DOJ's compliance counsel: "strong compliance must be data driven." FCPAnalytics strives to do just by assisting professionals in making efficient and informed decisions guided by data driven statistics.  

Learn More

Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes