A Look Back on 2020 at Chaffetz Lindsey
In a year where a global pandemic has limited our ability to connect in person, we’d like to take this opportunity to wish you all the best for 2021 and to share some of our team’s highlights from 2020.
We began 2020 by adding key lateral partners Caline Mouawad and Alan Lipkin. Caline deepens our strength in international arbitration while Alan has brought us leading bankruptcy and restructuring expertise.
Perhaps because we started our firm in difficult times in 2009, we have remained optimistic in the face of the pandemic and its effects on the world and our city. Even as we went into lockdown and remote working, we took the decision to keep building with the hiring of associates Silvia Marroquin, Eli Meltz, and Alicia Yeo. They join our elite associate team that compares favorably to anyone’s in talent and exceeds most in enthusiasm and commitment to our clients.
We also had some big wins this year as summarized below in our “Practice Highlights.” Along the way, our caseload has grown to nearly $19.5 billion in dispute. We completed six plenary arbitration hearings, and briefed and argued a number of major, dispositive motions in court. Most importantly, we found new ways to keep our team connected and to communicate with our clients and community. We organized over 40 virtual internal and external events and published 24 articles.
We also all contributed – both as a firm and individually – to support those hardest hit by the pandemic. Our staff created and drove a “Donate Your Commute” campaign to funnel some of our saved travel costs to New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI), a pro bono organization, and to City Harvest, which assists New Yorkers struggling with food insecurity. 100% of the Chaffetz Lindsey team contributed. We are also diverting a portion of our unused travel and entertainment budget to an organization that provides relief to displaced restaurant workers in New York.
We extend our deepest gratitude to our clients and friends who make our firm possible and our work meaningful. This has never meant more to us than it has over the past year. We hope 2021 brings good health and happiness to you and yours.
With the addition of Alan Lipkin, one of the city’s long-time leading practitioners, we now have a full-fledged bankruptcy capability and an active practice currently representing creditors in a range of chapter 11 cases (such as 24 Hour Fitness, Kings and Balducci’s Super Markets, and Arandell Corporation) as well as out of court debt restructurings. His experience with chapter 15 cases dovetails with our substantial cross-border litigation and arbitration practice.
We proved this year that our litigation skills are transferable to new industries and new areas of the law. In a landmark ruling in August, the Court of International Trade held that the Department of Commerce’s denial of our client’s requests for exemptions from the Trump Administration’s Section 232 steel tariffs violated the Administrative Procedures Act.Following that ruling, we negotiated for more than $100 million in tariff refunds.
In Utica Mutual v. Fireman’s Fund, we were hired the day after a jury returned a $64 million verdict against our client. Although there was a lengthy trial record, our review of the contract language convinced us that the trial court had erred in denying summary judgment. The Second Circuit agreed 3-0, reversing and directing entry of judgment for our client. While reversal of a jury verdict is rare and the scope for reinsurers to contest a loss cession is properly quite narrow, we predicted that the Second Circuit would follow its prior rulings enforcing the plain meaning of contractual terms.
This has been an amazingly busy year for our international arbitration team. We recorded three notable wins in confidential arbitrations and two more in enforcement actions. In addition, we are awaiting results from six merits hearings completed this year. We are also thrilled to have deepened our bench with Caline and several new associates. Meanwhile, despite the pandemic, the team has remained fully engaged with thought-leadership and, for example, has been at the forefront of helping users and institutions adapt to remote arbitral hearings.