Best Life Sciences Law Firm Ranking 2017

Life Sciences Law Firm Index | Q2 Update

The complex life cycle of a biotechnology product, pharmaceutical or medical device demands a broad range of legal expertise across many practice specialties. From intellectual property protection to corporate and regulatory advice, the leading law firms in the life sciences space combine sophisticated legal counsel with deep scientific knowledge.

Lake Whillans established the Life Sciences Law Firm Index to help identify which law firms are the most active and relevant for life science companies. The index was created in collaboration with our research partners at Breaking Media, the publishers of leading industry sites MedCity News and Above the Law.

We at Lake Whillans understand the vital role legal practitioners play in guiding a product through this enormously complex legal and regulatory landscape. The goal of the ranking is to inform innovators about firms leading the multi-faceted interplay between the legal market and the industry. Life sciences innovators rely on strong legal counsel to protect their interests at every stage of the product life cycle. However, in the case of an unforeseen and unavoidable setback, Lake Whillans is there to step in and help.

Our index was compiled using the criteria that matter most to healthcare innovators. In addition to collecting data in three practice categories — corporate, intellectual property and regulatory—we also incorporated information on the firms’ work with startup companies as well as their thought-leadership efforts to generate the index scores (a perfect score is 100).

Best Life Sciences Law Firm Ranking 2017

Firm Score
Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati 86.0
Cooley 84.5
WilmerHale 83.4
Latham & Watkins 79.9
Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer 77.7
Goodwin Procter 75.0
Kirkland & Ellis* 73.6
Ropes & Gray 72.0
Skadden 70.0
Fenwick & West* 66.7
McDermott Will & Emery 66.5
Covington & Burling 63.5
Morrison & Foerster 62.0
K&L Gates 60.3
Reed Smith 59.9
Davis Polk* 58.0
Sidley Austin 57.7
Proskauer 56.8
Mintz Levin 56.2
Perkins Coie* 55.0

Top Firms by Category



Cooley has had a truly remarkable recent run for life sciences transactions.  Cooley advised Medivation in its Decemeber 2016 acquisition by Pfizer for $14 billion. The deal will give Pfizer U.S. rights to Xtandi, a blockbuster treatment for advanced metastatic prostate cancer. In a deal announced in May 2016, Cooley also advised Jazz Pharmaceuticals on its $1.4 billion deal to acquire the clinical stage biopharmaceutical company, Celator Pharmaceuticals Inc. The firm was also busy with IPO work, including advising the underwriters in health IT genomics and analytics business NantHealth’s $91 million IPO (announced in June 2016) and advising Myovant Sciences in its $218 million IPO (October 2016). Myovant focuses on treatment for endocrine disorders.


Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati

WSGR’s patent group prosecutes more than 500 applications annually in a variety of pharmaceutical and life sciences technologies. In the past 12 months alone, a mere sampling of WSGR clients for whom patents were issued includes Twist Bioscience Corporation, Guardant Health, Aileron Therapeutics, Kura Oncology, and 10X Genomics. The firm’s patent litigators have also enjoyed a formidable string of successful representations, including that of Mylan in an inter partes review proceeding, which ultimately invalidated, in August 2016, two patents licensed to Teva Pharmaceuticals USA for its multiple sclerosis drug Copaxone. In addition, the Federal Circuit ruled in June 2016, for the second time, that Medtronic induced infringement of WSGR client NuVasive’s patent on detecting nerves during surgery. Also last summer, the Federal Circuit scrapped AngioScore’s $20 million win on breach of duty claims against WSGR clients TriReme Medical, Quattro Vascular, and QT Vascular over a heart catheter design.


Covington & Burling

Covington’s regulatory and government affairs practice has truly global reach. The firm is deeply involved in counseling trade associations in negotiating new European Union legislation concerning emerging technologies, including pharmacogenetics and gene therapy.  Covington also advises multinational biopharmaceutical companies on doing business in China, including setting and executing on the regulatory and legal strategies for engaging in drug R&D, manufacturing, and sales and marketing. In the United States, Covington is currently advising members of the pharmaceutical industry on FDA regulatory aspects of 21st Century Cures Act and the Senate’s Innovation for Healthier Americans initiative.

Startup work


WilmerHale has an enviable track record of success in counseling emerging life sciences companies. The firm serves as corporate counsel to Kala Pharmaceuticals—a clinical-stage pharmaceutical company focused on developing innovative ophthalmic products—including representing the company in a $68 million Series C preferred stock financing in 2016. WilmerHale also serves as corporate counsel providing financing, trademark, licensing and other advice to TransMedics, Ribon Therapeutics, BlinkBio, and Fulcrum Therapeutics, among others. In addition, the firm offers WilmerHale Launch, a resource for entrepreneurs and founders of startups in various stages of growth, providing tools and information on everything from formation to exit strategy.

A Note on Methodology

Our rankings methodology is 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.

In each category of practice, we identified the relevant, quantifiable factors. For example, under the Corporate category, our review included—but was not confined to—public and private financings, IPOs and M&A activity. For the Patent category, we included factors such as number of patents issued, “allowance rate” and successful patent defenses. Among the items in the Regulatory category are clinical trials, commercialization and approvals. The Thought Leadership ratings incorporated, among other things, the publication of white papers, contributions to third-party media, blogging and social media activity, as well as speaking or teaching engagements.

Within each category, firms were organized into tiers based on the complexity, value, variety and reach of their practice and scores were apportioned accordingly. Our rankings formula is as follows:

  • Corporate: 40%
  • Patent: 20%
  • Regulatory: 20%
  • Start-up work: 10%
  • Thought leadership: 10%

To complement our comprehensive review of all publicly available information, we invited firms to complete a questionnaire detailing their life science practices.

*Denotes a new entrant to the Index

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