King & Spalding
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|No. of offices||20|
|No. of attorneys||1,000+|
|Major practice areas||mergers and acquisitions, financing transactions, regulatory law, litigation|
|Revenue||$1.1 billion USD (2017)|
King & Spalding LLP is an American law firm with over 133 years of service. It was founded and is currently headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia in 1885 by Alexander C. King and Jack Spalding. The firm has offices in Austin, Charlotte, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Sacramento, San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Washington, D.C. and Chicago. The also has a London-based international arm, King & Spalding International LLP, which opened in 2003, and offices or affiliates in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Frankfurt, Geneva, Moscow, Paris, Riyadh, Singapore and Tokyo.
In June 2018, Corporate Board Member magazine named King & Spalding as Atlanta's best corporate law firm for the second consecutive year, and also in 2018, ranked the company among the top 25 law firms in the United States preferred by corporate general counsel to represent their companies on national matters. In 2017, King & Spalding secured a top score of 100 percent in the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index (CEI), a national benchmarking survey on corporate practices related to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender and queer (LGBTQ) workplace equality. It was the fifth consecutive year the firm has achieved a perfect score in the index.
The firm has represented various, large companies and private equity funds, including Monsanto, Equifax, The Coca-Cola Company, ConocoPhillips, Post Properties, Carmike Cinemas, Cousins Properties, General Electric, Oxford Industries, BlueLinx Corporation, Brookfield Asset Management, Chevron Corporation, Energizer, Roark Capital Group, Belk, WestRock, HDSupply, H.I.G. Capital, Goldman Sachs Specialty Lending Group, Roper Technologies, SunTrust, Northlane Capital Partners, United Parcel Service and General Motors. The firm also "advises Donald Trump's real estate empire", according to one report which cited also the American Civil Liberties Union on the subject.
The firm played a pivotal role in the creation of the largest bank holding company in Georgia, The Trust Company of Georgia (now known as SunTrust Banks), as the firm's first M&A lawyers, including Hughes Spalding, advised early predecessors of The Trust Company of Georgia in transformative corporate reorganizations and combinations with other regional banking institutions, including the separation of Trust Company of Georgia from Atlanta National Bank and Lowry National Bank shortly following revisions to the law under the 1933 Banking Act and the merger of Trust Company of Georgia with Sun Banks in 1985. The combined bank later merged with Third National in Tennessee, Crestar in Virginia, and National Commerce Bank in Memphis, Tennessee and North Carolina.
In 1995, King & Spalding lawyers, led by partner Horace Sibley, advised the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, which staged the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. King & Spalding personnel in Atlanta raised more than $930,000 in support of United Way in 2018. In the 1800s, the King & Spalding firm incorporated and filed the charter documents of the Piedmont Driving Club. In 2006, former K&S partner Joseph Bankoff was unanimously appointed Chief Executive Officer of Atlanta's Woodruff Arts Center. A team of partners from the firm's Corporate, Finance & Investments team put together documentation to construct, brand, market and operate the Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The same King & Spalding team represented the City of Atlanta in its winning bid to host Super Bowl LIII in 2019. In 2014, Atlanta M&A partner Mike Egan advised Arthur Blank in the expansion of the Atlanta United FC. In 2015, Atlanta M&A partner Rahul Patel advised certain investors in the Atlanta Hawks NBA basketball franchise in a recapitalization transaction involving Grant Hill, Sarah Blakely and Jesse Itzler. In 2005, Egan and Atlanta M&A partner Ray Baltz represented Atlanta Spirit LLC in its acquisition of the Atlanta Hawks, Atlanta Thrashers and the operating rights to Phillips Arena in a transaction valued at $241 million. Corporate lawyers from King & Spalding have also represented the investors and the management team of the BB&T Atlanta Open, an ATP World Tour 250 tennis championship held annually in Midtown Atlanta.
In 1913, E. Marvin Underwood became Assistant Attorney General of the United States. In 1918, the presidential administration of King's and Spalding's former Atlanta law colleague Wilson appointed founder Alexander Campbell King as the Solicitor General of the United States. King & Spalding's senior partners include former United States Attorney General Griffin Bell (now deceased). Georgia's former US Senator and director of The Coca-Cola Company Sam Nunn (now retired), former Indiana U.S. Senator and now Director of National Intelligence in the Trump Administration Dan Coats, former Florida US Senator Connie Mack, and former Georgia governor George Busbee (now deceased) also joined the firm after their respective retirements from public office. From 1981-1984, retired partner Bob Woodward served in the Office of Tax Legislative Counsel of the U.S. Treasury Department, holding the positions of Tax Legislative Counsel in 1983-1984 and Associate Tax Legislative Counsel in 1982-1983. Chilton Varner was appointed to the Federal Civil Rules Advisory Committee by Chief Justice William Rehnquist in 2004 and reappointed by Chief Justice John Roberts in 2007. Current FBI Director Christopher A. Wray joined the firm in late 2005 before being appointed by President Donald J. Trump in 2017. King & Spalding's Zach Fardon, who was previously an associate from 1992-1996 and rejoined the Chicago office as a partner in 2017, served as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois from 2013-2017. In 2018, former United States Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates rejoined the firm's Special Matters and Government practice group.
The firm's current chairman Robert D. Hays has held the position since 2005. Former Atlanta M&A partner Mike Egan, who previously served as counsel to the Atlanta Falcons, was hired by Arthur Blank to the be General Counsel of AMB Group LLC. In May 2017, Jim Woolery joined the firm's Corporate, Finance & Investments practice group from hedge fund Hudson Executive Capital. Woolery was soon thereafter joined in the firm's New York City office by infrastructure M&A dealmaker Jonathan Melmed in August 2018.
Notable transactions and cases
Originally focused on Southern U.S. railroad and utility consolidation transactions in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, King & Spalding's international mergers and acquisitions practice has more recently advised on corporate transactions. Atlanta M&A partner W. Calvin "Cal" Smith, who recruited Woolery to the M&A practice, has acted for clients such as Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen in its $1.8 billion sale to Restaurant Brands International and Energizer in its $2 billion acquisition of the Rayovac and VARTA battery brands from Spectrum Brands.
The firm acted as the legal counsel for six Yemeni detainees, including Mohammed Al-Adahi. The firm was appointed as independent counsel to the Special Court for Sierra Leone, following allegations of war crimes against the country’s former president, and undertook litigation and research assistance for the prosecutor’s office in the U.N.-assisted Khmer Rouge Tribunal.
Defense of Marriage Act
In April 2011, the firm signed a $500,000 contract with the Republican-controlled United States House of Representatives to take on the case of defending the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage in federal law as the union between one man and one woman, in court for the House, with former Solicitor General Paul Clement as its lead attorney. After the contract was signed, the gay rights group Human Rights Campaign announced it would launch a publicity war to "shame" the firm and planned protest, ads in legal publications, and to try to influence students and potential clients dealings with the firm. Soon after signing, the firm asked to withdraw from the case after facing criticism from gay rights groups, citing an "inadequate" vetting process. Clement immediately resigned from the firm, writing in a letter to King & Spalding Chairman Robert Hays, "I resign out of the firmly-held belief that a representation should not be abandoned because the client's legal position is extremely unpopular in certain quarters. Defending unpopular decisions is what lawyers do...Efforts to delegitimize any representation for one side of a legal controversy are a profound threat to the rule of law." He added, "If there were problems with the firm's vetting process, we should fix the vetting process, not drop the representation." Clement immediately joined Bancroft PLLC, which took the case. The National Law Journal wrote that the event "leaves unanswered a myriad of questions about the status of Clement's other cases and clients, and the future of King & Spalding's D.C. appellate practice, which was built around Clement."
The firm was widely criticized by those in the legal community on both sides of the same-sex marriage issue for the decision; Attorney General of the United States Eric Holder compared the situation to the criticism of lawyers tasked with defending Guantanamo Bay detainees, saying, "It was something we dealt with here in the Department of Justice...The people who criticized our people here at the Justice Department were wrong then as are people who criticized Paul Clement for the representation that he’s going to continue." Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey said, "Although lawyers are not obligated in the first instance to take all comers, they are very much obligated not to quit in the face of criticism once they do take on a client. This is a bad message to send to lawyers and to clients." The decision shocked those lawyers involved in Supreme Court cases. Speaker of the House John Boehner issued a statement condemning the firm's "careless disregard for its responsibilities to the House in this constitutional matter." Theodore Olson, Clement's predecessor as Solicitor General and a same-sex marriage supporter, said, "I don't know of anything comparable to this. You have to be willing to stand your ground."
After King & Spalding dropped the case, Attorney General of Virginia Ken Cuccinelli terminated his office's relationship with the firm, writing in a letter to the firm that their "willingness to drop a client, the U.S. House of Representatives, in connection with the lawsuit challenging the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was such an obsequious act of weakness that I feel compelled to end your legal association with Virginia so that there is no chance that one of my legal clients will be put in the embarrassing and difficult situation like the client you walked away from, the House of Representatives." The National Rifle Association soon did the same.
- "Corporate Board Member Announces 18th Annual Corporate Law Firms Rankings - Corporate Board Member". Corporate Board Member. 2018-06-19. Retrieved 2018-08-14.
- "King & Spalding advises United Parcel Service (UPS) in its acquisition of Sandler & Travis Trade Advisory Services". www.kslaw.com. Retrieved 2018-08-14.
- Thrush, Glenn, and Julie Hirschfeld Davis, "Trump Picks Christopher Wray to Be F.B.I. Director", New York Times, June 7, 2017. Retrieved 2017-06-07.
- "How Atlanta Became the Host City for the 1996 Olympic Games: Part 1, Capturing the USOC Nomination". The Sports Historian. 2016-08-19. Retrieved 2018-08-14.
- "King & Spalding lawyer named Woodruff Arts Center CEO | Law.com". Law.com. Retrieved 2018-08-14.
- "Completion of the Mercedes-Benz Stadium to Enhance Atlanta's Role As a Sports Mecca - Global Atlanta". Global Atlanta. 2016-10-25. Retrieved 2018-08-14.
- "King & Spalding Helps Atlanta Score Super Bowl | Daily Report". Daily Report. Retrieved 2018-08-14.
- "https://www.bizjournals.com/atlanta/stories/2004/04/05/story3.html". www.bizjournals.com. Retrieved 2018-08-14. External link in
- Cleary, Tom, "Christopher Wray: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know", Heavy.com, June 7, 2017.
- "King & Spalding Opens Office in Chicago With Former US Attorney - Leaders League". www.leadersleague.com. Retrieved 2018-08-14.
- https://www.facebook.com/sarihorwitz. "Sally Yates returns to Atlanta-based law firm to focus on investigations". Washington Post. Retrieved 2018-08-14.
- Press Release (September 8, 2014). "Robert D. Hays, Jr. Re-Elected Chairman of King & Spalding". King & Spalding website. Retrieved July 8, 2017.
- "Falcons hire King & Spalding lawyer as general counsel". ajc. Retrieved 2018-08-14.
- "James C. Woolery, Veteran Deal Maker, Joins King & Spalding". Retrieved 2018-08-14.
- "King & Spalding Takes Private Equity Group From MoFo | New York Law Journal". New York Law Journal. Retrieved 2018-08-14.
- "James C. Woolery, Veteran Deal Maker, Joins King & Spalding". Retrieved 2018-08-14.
- Meredith Hobbs (July 20, 2010). "D.C. Circuit Rules Against Guantanamo Detainee". Law.com. Retrieved 2011-04-30.
- "Pro Bono Matters". King & Spalding. 2011. Archived from the original on 2011-05-03. Retrieved 2011-04-30.
- Law firm quits marriage act case, a win for gay-rights groups
- Lochhead, Carolyn (April 19, 2011). "GOP's big push to protect Defense of Marriage Act". SF Gate. Retrieved 20 April 2011.
- David Ingram, Tony Mauro (April 25, 2011). "Clement departs King & Spalding after DOMA withdrawal". The National Law Journal. Retrieved April 26, 2011.
- Paul Clement resignation letter
- GOP pushes on with marriage act defense after law firm backs out
- Former and current AGs agree: King and Spalding messed up
- King & Spalding Drops DOMA Case
- Behind A Major Law Firm's Decision To Ditch Its Defense Of DOMA
- Virginia AG cancels King & Spalding work for state after "obsequious act of weakness" in DOMA case Archived May 22, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
- King & Spalding Loses Another Client Over DOMA Decision