For life sciences companies, the stakes have never been higher in their choice of legal counsel. The past year has been one of great uncertainty for the industry. Life sciences M&A activity in 2016 was relatively flat, and the pace of IPOs dropped off dramatically. Many observers noted the contentious presidential campaign rhetoric cast real doubt on the future of pharmaceutical pricing and manufacturing, tax policy, and the overall regulatory climate, and the current administration’s tenure has hardly clarified matters. With the life sciences industry in a state of flux, attorneys working in the space must, above all, be prepared to deal with the unexpected.
Life sciences entrepreneurs face complex challenges, from financing and product development to clinical trials and regulatory hurdles. To succeed, they need skilled and knowledgeable counsel with a broad range of legal and business expertise, combined with deep scientific knowledge.
Last year, litigation finance firm Lake Whillans released the first-ever Life Sciences Law Firm Index, which identified the most active and relevant firms for life science companies. (The Index’s research was conducted by Breaking Media, the publisher of MedCity News and Above the Law.)
The Index was compiled using the criteria that matter most to healthcare innovators. To generate the Index scores, researchers collected data in three practice categories -- corporate, intellectual property, and regulatory -- and incorporated information on firms’ work with startup companies and thought leadership contributions.
Here are the top life sciences firms in the United States, according to the 2017 Lake Whillans index (a perfect score is 100):
1. Wilson Sonsini (86.0)
2. Cooley (84.5)
3. WilmerHale (83.4)
4. Latham & Watkins (79.9)
5. Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer (77.7)
Congratulations to these industry-leading life sciences law firms!
The top three firms in the 2017 Index are the same as 2016, with Cooley and WilmerHale swapping places in the second and third spots, respectively. Visit the Lake Whillans website for the full Index and more information, including the top firms in each category (corporate, regulatory, patent and startups).
Please note that the rankings methodology was designed to reflect a holistic view of the role of a law firm throughout the life cycle of a life sciences company: from inception through clinical trials. We must acknowledge it is common for companies to hire one firm as general counsel during its startup days and switch to another firm(s) later on, when, for example, they’re considering an M&A transaction. However, our approach rewards the law firm equivalents of “five tool players.” These firms can handle it all, from financings to patent prosecutions to regulatory matters. The Index firms can advise clients at every stage or inflection point of a company’s (or product’s) life cycle.