Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft and Stroock & Stroock & Lavan look set to be the big winners in the bankruptcy cases of Northwest Airlines and Delta, with both firms generating huge fees.
Before its case has even reached court, Northwest has spent more than $12m (£6.7m) on retainers and legal advice. Cadwalader’s New York office has received payments of $5.6m (£3.1m) from Northwest.
The stricken airline has also paid the firm $1m (£550,000) towards future fees, but the payment is unlikely to last long, with the firm billing between $590 (£330) to $800 (£440) an hour for partners and up to $645 (£360) per hour for other lawyers.
On Delta, partners at Stroock bill between $550 (£300) and $950 (£530) an hour, with paralegals billing at rates of $170 (£90) to $275 (£150) an hour.
Airline restructurings have proved profitable for US firms. In 2004 Kirkland & Ellis submitted a bill of $59.7m (£33.1m) for fees and expenses on the bankruptcy of United Airlines’ parent company UAL.