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May 27, 2010 3:02 PM

Transocean Taps Skadden, Sutherland for Oil Spill Work

Posted by Brian Baxter

UPDATE: May 28, 8:45 a.m. Click here for the latest from The NLJ on congressional testimony by BP executives.

As the "top kill" effort to stanch one of the worst oil spills in U.S. history suffered a setback after making some headway on Thursday, the owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig at the center of the disaster confirmed that it had retained two leading Am Law 100 firms to advise the company in litigation and congressional hearings.

The National Law Journal, a sibling publication, reports that Transocean has hired Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom's John Beisner, cohead of the firm's mass torts and insurance group, to advise the company on matters relating to the spill. (Members of Skadden's international tax practice have previously advised Swiss-based Transocean, according to the firm's Web site.)

Also representing Transocean, which has sought to delay depositions in oil spill-related litigation, is Sutherland Asbill & Brennan energy and transportation litigation partner Rachel Clingman.

Clingman--the head of Sutherland's Houston office--is testifying on behalf of Transocean at a House Judiciary Committee on Thursday. In written testimony to the committee, the NLJ reports that Clingman stated that underwriters forced Transocean's hand when it sought to limit its liability to $26.7 million. Clingman has temporarily taken on the title of "acting co-general counsel" at Transocean.

One Transocean employee testified at a proceeding in Louisiana on Wednesday about a disagreement between representatives of the offshore drilling contractor and BP on how to cap the well before a blowout on April 21. In a separate story, The NLJ reports that two federal courts in New Orleans and Mobile, Ala., have come down on opposite sides on the issue of staying oil spill civil suits.

Both Clingman and Beisner are relatively recent laterals to their respective firms. Beisner joined Skadden in May 2009 from O'Melveny & Myers, while Clingman joined Sutherland in August 2007 from Fulbright & Jaworski.

Transocean has also retained Lafayette, La.-based Preis Roy as local Louisiana counsel.

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