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The Legal 500 Hall of Fame highlights individuals who have received constant praise by their clients for continued excellence. The Hall of Fame highlights, to clients, the law firm partners who are at the pinnacle of the profession. Starting with the United States, the criteria for entry is to have been recognised by The Legal 500 as one of the elite leading lawyers for six consecutive years. Fewer than 500 partners across the entire United States have made it into the inaugural list. These partners are highlighted below and throughout the editorial.

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The increased use of social media in the advertising arena continues to accelerate the move towards digital advertising, and escalates the globalization of marketing campaigns and the potential target audience, allowing firms with a global footprint to excel in the area. The prominence of social media in marketing has also brought an increase in privacy-related matters and Telephone Consumer Protection Act issues, which are increasingly cropping up in matters involving text and social media advertisements and direct messaging.

The renewed focus on the Lanham Act seen in 2015 sustained throughout 2016, with the number of false advertising claims continuing to rise across a spread of sectors. Challenges before the NAD and other regulatory bodies also remained prominent, as did consumer class actions. Particularly active sectors included pharmaceuticals, media, and food and drink. The high-profile and precedent-setting Pom Wonderful vs Coca Cola case ended in early 2016.

Several interesting trends occurred in the cyber law space during 2016. Firstly, the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Spokeo v Robins decided that consumers must demonstrate real harm caused as a result of a personal data breach, which essentially closed the door on many class action claims against companies that handle large quantities of consumer data and that have been subject to a cyber attack.

Secondly, the rise of ransomware attacks and the growing use of virtual currency has led to an increased awareness of blockchain technology and a greater need on the part of law firms to have the required expertise and resources in this space. Thirdly, many clients are being advised on compliance with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, which comes into effect in May 2018 and impacts the transfer of personal data and breach notification requirements.

Another trend in 2016 was an aggressive approach from the government in relation to regulatory investigations, especially in the healthcare sector, where penalties have increased significantly. Meanwhile, the technology sector demonstrated a willingness to push back on government requests for data; it will be interesting to see how this plays out under the new administration. Covington & Burling LLP, DLA Piper LLP (US), Hogan Lovells US LLP, Hunton & Williams LLP, and Ropes & Gray LLP continue to have the leading cyber law practices.

While the traditional elements such as film, television and music are still the cornerstones of most media and entertainment practices, the impact of new technologies and the digital era has brought an increased focus on virtual reality, gaming, social media and personalized content to practice groups operating in this area. On the corporate side, mergers and joint ventures between entertainment companies are prominent, with the high-profile creation of Amblin Partners - a joint venture between DreamWorks Studios, Participant Media, Reliance Entertainment and Entertainment One - being a particularly notable example. Foreign investment into Hollywood also makes up a substantial proportion of work for firms, with particular interest from China and the Middle East; intellectual property and First Amendment issues are also prominent in the media and entertainment space. Talent work is notable on the West Coast, especially in the music and film sectors.

The outsourcing market was strong overall in 2016, with trends showing a migration away from typical business processing outsourcings to ‚Äėas a service‚Äô type offerings that involve the convergence of data, cloud and analytics as well as, increasingly, blockchain technology. The outsourcing of only back-office functions is no more, and law firms also reported a rise in innovative customer-facing outsourcing transactions, particularly in the financial, hospitality and retail sectors.

In addition, cloud computing is becoming more sophisticated and is no longer used just for business-critical functions. Since the new administration took over, an anti-offshoring trend has emerged, with a greater emphasis on -and need for-domestic providers. Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, Mayer Brown, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP and Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP stand out as the dominant forces in the field.

With strong demand for technology businesses from domestic and international corporations and private buyers, total value for technology M&A deals in 2016 reached $323bn. Especially hot areas were software, cloud, cybersecurity and the Internet of Things (IoT), while semiconductors and IT services also showed robust activity levels.

For many law firms, technology transactions practices sit alongside technology outsourcing and IP groups, while other firms see it more as a part of a broader private equity, M&A, finance and capital markets practice. Many key people and practice leaders are based in Silicon Valley, San Francisco and Los Angeles, but firms often also have strong people in New York, Chicago, Boston and Washington DC.

Headline movement in the technology transactions market included Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati hiring Daniel Glazer in New York from Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP, where he co-led the technology transactions and emerging companies groups in New York and London; Goodwin recruiting Silicon Valley’s M&A expert Michael Russell from Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati; and White & Case LLP hiring Silicon Valley-based global technology M&A specialist Jason Tomita from Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP.

Consolidation continues to dominate the telecoms market, with several multibillion-dollar mergers and the opposition to said mergers generating a significant amount of work for the majority of firms. The increased interest of private equity companies in the field is also changing the direction of many firms’ work, a trend expected to increase with anticipated pro-business changes from the new administration focusing on reduced regulation. Other areas of focus include cyber law, privacy issues and telecoms infrastructure matters, alongside an increased emphasis on IoT mandates and over-the-top content.

The new chairman at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Ajit Pai, promises to bring a shake-up to the telecoms arena, particularly in the areas of net neutrality and open internet, which have created much debate over the past few years; Pai is a vocal opponent of the FCC’s Title II net neutrality rules. During 2016, open internet matters remained prominent throughout many firms’ practices, as did the FCC’s broadcast incentive spectrum auction, with the majority of firms taking part in one form or another. This has brought a substantial amount of work to both transactional and regulatory practices.

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