Top Ten United States Cleantech Law Firms of 2011

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Business law (also known as commercial law) is very important within the clean technologies industry. Law firms help address numerous issues relevant to clean technology and renewable energy companies, including issues related to venture capital, debt financing (venture debt, project finance, and bank loans), energy regulatory, environmental matters and intellectual property. Below is my personal list of the top ten cleantech law firms in the United States. These firms have greatly assisted clean technology and renewable energy companies, from entrepreneurs to large, multimillion dollar companies.

1) Latham & Watkins has won numerous awards for its work in the clean technology and renewable energy sectors. By understanding that the environment and energy are global concerns, they have been able to become a leading law firm representing companies in a broad range of sectors, including emissions, biofuels, grid efficiency, solar power, energy storage, wind power, geothermal power, hydrogen power, recycling, transportation, green building, and advanced materials. Their areas of expertise spans every practice area that matters to a clean technology and renewable energy company over its life cycle, including capital markets, climate change, emerging companies, energy regulation, environmental regulation, intellectual property litigation, tax, technology transactions, project finance and development, and mergers and acquisitions. Latham serves clean technology and renewable energy companies with an on-the-ground presence in every major U.S. region (offices in Silicon Valley, San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles, Boston, New York, Chicago, Houston and Washington D.C.) and an unrivaled international reach (offices in the U.K., Germany, France, the Middle East, China, and other parts of Asia).

2) Mintz Levin is a leading law firm in cleantech nationally with global expertise in the commercialization of clean energy technologies. Their Energy & Clean Technology practice represents over 250 clients and has completed more than 180 transactions totaling $3.2 billion in value since 2006. They are the first law firm in the United States to build a dedicated clean technology practice group combining capabilities in emerging technology representation, project finance and development, and government relations to help clients pursue their business goals.

Their attorneys have been instrumental in driving the development of cutting-edge public/private financing mechanisms to enable commercial-scale deployment of clean technologies. The firm is also recognized for its work in the corporate and cleantech areas and is ranked 6th as issuer law firm and 8th as placement agent law firm – 2010 PIPEs League Table; ranked top 10 in IPO Leadership Rankings: IPO Issuers’ Law Firms – IPO Vital Signs; and ranked 6th among underwriters’ counsel and 2nd among disclosure counsel in Northeast – Thompson Reuters (Public Finance).

3) Cooley’s clean energy and technology team represents more than 200 leading cleantech companies, venture investors, and lenders. Cooley’s practice comprehensively covers the entire value chain, from startup and venture transactions through project development and finance, with specific expertise in wind, solar, biomass, biofuels, efficiency, carbon management, waste to energy, energy storage, materials science, water management, and smart grid technology. Cooley was recently ranked as the #1 law firm nationally for Clean Tech/Renewable Energy in Vault’s 2011 Law Firm Rankings. As more and more cleantech companies seek to deploy their technologies at refinery and utility scale, and as traditional project development is increasingly impacted by technology innovation, Cooley believes that expertise in all aspects of the business will be essential. Cooley has nine offices in major U.S. technology centers (Boston, Broomfield, New York, Palo Alto, Reston, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington) and recently filed an application to open an office in Shanghai.

4) Goodwin Procter’s Cleantech and Energy Practice represents entrepreneurs, operating companies, investors and investment banks. The lawyers at this firm help their cleantech clients protect and promote their ideas through patents and intellectual property licensing; obtain financing from angel investors, venture capital firms, and private equity funds; manufacture and deploy their technology under joint ventures, power purchase agreements, licensing and other arrangements; and realize exit strategies and otherwise capitalize on their investment. Goodwin represents nearly 140 companies, from start-ups to large public companies, in virtually every sub-sector of the cleantech space, including advanced materials, battery technologies, biofuels, energy efficiency, fuel cells and energy storage, advanced lighting, smart grid, solar, transportation, waste-to-energy, water and wind. Dow Jones VentureSource recently recognized Goodwin Procter as the 2nd most active law firm nationally in energy/utilities company venture capital financings. Goodwin was engaged in over 100 separate financings, mergers and acquisitions transactions and public offerings in the cleantech sector during 2009 and 2010, and the deal value of the approximately 75 cleantech-related closings in which they have been involved since 2010 is nearly $2 billion.

5) Wilson Sonsini has been consistently ranked as one of “America’s Best Corporate Law Firms,” due to its assistance with technology and growth enterprises around the world. In the last 50 years, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich and Rosati has established itself through its increased knowledge of clients’ industries and long-standing contracts in the technology sector. The expertise offered helps in multiple stages of business growth – from start-up companies to multibillion dollar worldwide enterprises. With offices in the United States and China, this company has helped over 300 public enterprises with a variety of issues, including securities, corporate law, and corporate governance.

6) Fenwick & West has a long history of working alongside clean technology companies, including alternative energy and energy efficiency. They have worked with a number of companies in a variety of fields, including power management, energy consumption, and alternative materials and fuels. Fenwick and West has offered a number of representative engagements, including corporate and financial counseling for entrepreneurs and startups in the alternative energy sector, representative of a variety of investors, patent counseling, and license drafting and negotiations. Some of the areas Fenwick currently represent include advanced gasification, biofuel and biochemical production, smart grid, thin film and high-concentration photovoltaics, and advanced fuel cells.

7) Loeb and Loeb is a multi-service law firm with more than 300 lawyers in 5 offices across the U.S. and 1 in China. Loeb has a strong reputation representing startups to multi-national, Fortune 100 companies, venture capital and private equity firms, and investment banks involved in the cleantech industry. Loeb regularly assists with angel, venture and other private financings, mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures, IPOs and other public offerings of equity and debt, and acting as outside general counsel to companies. Loeb is a also a proven leader in delivering the transactional, litigation and regulatory services required by cleantech projects worldwide. For instance, Loeb has extensive experience with projects in a wide range of renewable energy sectors, including wind, hydroelectric, solar, geothermal, waste-to-energy, fuel cell and landfill gas sources. Loeb regularly works with equity and debt investors, utilities, lenders, contractors, developers, energy suppliers, transmission owners, and others in a variety of dynamic project ventures. Loeb’s cleantech capabilities include tax equity investments, tax credits, renewable energy credits, DOE loan guarantees and grants, US Treasury cash grants, interconnection agreements, energy purchase agreements, transmission, hydro relicensing, environmental and land use, real estate and construction, federal and state rate cases, and federal and state regulatory and compliance matters.

8 ) Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe had been dedicated since 1863 in aiding clients in achieving their overall goals. Orrick, Herrington and Sutcliff is well practiced in a number of transactional areas, including capital markets, global infrastructure, energy, mergers and acquisitions, banking and finance, and emerging companies. This law firm has been integral in developing environmental preservation programs, including energy conservations, office construction and operation, indoor environmental air quality, community service partnerships, and recycling within their offices. .

9) Vinson & Elkins with over 50 clean energy clients ranging from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies lawyers have closed transactions totaling more than $11 billion in value in this sector in the last five years. These include venture capital financing (representing companies and investors), M&A, project development and joint venture deals, technology licensing matters, and dispute resolution. This firm’s main strength is its energy practice, stemming from its roots in Texas.

10) Bingham. Bingham is a leading international law firm with 1,100 lawyers in 13 offices across the U.S., Europe and Asia. They have significant experience in the clean technology, renewable energy and infrastructure sectors, with decades of experience developing and implementing new energy sources both in the U.S. and abroad. Their lawyers include seasoned practitioners who have developed new renewable energy technologies as principals and represented emerging growth companies, project developers and sponsors, equity investors, tax-credit investors, and debt finance sources. They are one of the few firms that offers deep experience in all of the major disciplines needed for our clients to thrive in this market, including lawyers experienced in project development and finance; commercial technology and intellectual property; all forms of relevant financing, ranging from angel investing and venture capital/private equity investing to debt and equity capital markets and project finance; mergers and acquisitions; IPOs; environmental, land use and natural resources permitting and litigation; tax and tax financing;

Article by Shawn Lesser, Co-founder & Managing Partner of Atlanta-based Watershed Capital Group – an investment bank assisting sustainable fund and companies raise capital, perform acquisitions, and in other strategic financial decisions. He is also a Co-founder of the GCCA Global Cleantech Cluster Association ”The Global Voice of Cleantech”. He writes for various cleantech publications and is known as the David Letterman of Cleantech for his “Top 10″ series. He can be reached at shawn@watershedcapital.com

About Author

Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.

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