Competition is tight for legal fees in this highly litigious society. Last year, very little business separated the top securitization legal shops from the rest of the pack across the ABS, MBS and CDO markets.

Law firms Sidley Austin Brown & Wood and Thacher Proffitt & Wood were the top legal advisers for asset-backed underwriters and issuers, respectively, in 2002, according to numbers released last week by Thomson Financial. Meanwhile, McKee Nelson LP was the top legal shop among MBS underwriters and Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft led in representing MBS issuers. In CDOs, Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton represented the most underwriting business and Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP handled the most business for issuers.

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