Firm News and Announcements

Chambers USA 2020 Recognizes Blank Rome Attorneys and Practices

Blank Rome’s Maritime practice and attorneys have again been highly ranked by Chambers USA, notably receiving national #1 rankings in the areas of Shipping – Litigation and Shipping – Regulatory. The 2020 edition of Chambers USA recognized Blank Rome in a number of categories across a wide range of practices, and also ranked 69 Blank Rome attorneys as “leaders in their fields.” Read More »

Blank Rome Attorneys and Practices Highly Ranked in The Legal 500 United States 2020

Blank Rome’s Maritime practice and attorneys were again highly ranked and recommended in The Legal 500 United States 2020, notably recognizing Blank Rome as a “Top-Tier Firm” for Shipping – Finance, and Shipping – Litigation and Regulation. Read More »

Blank Rome’s Maritime Industry Team

Our maritime industry team is composed of practice-focused subcommittees from across many of our Firm’s offices, with attorneys who have extensive capabilities and experience in the maritime industry and beyond, effectively complementing Blank Rome Maritime’s client cases and transactions. Read More »

Coronavirus (“COVID-19”) Task Force

The outbreak of the novel coronavirus is impacting businesses and public life around the world. From supply chain disruption, government-ordered closures, and event cancellations to employee safety concerns and social distancing recommendations, every company is facing its own unique challenges in the face of the uncertainties surrounding this global pandemic. Blank Rome’s Coronavirus (“COVID-19”) Task Force is monitoring this ever-changing situation and is here to help. Read More »

A Message from Blank Rome’s Leadership

We hope it never becomes normal to share a message denouncing acts of discrimination, harassment, or violence against our communities of color. During these upsetting and anguished times, we reaffirm Blank Rome’s dedication to our core value and founding principle—an unwavering commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Read More »

Note from the Editor

Thomas H. Belknap Jr.

It is a safe bet that few people reading this note have been entirely unimpacted by the coronavirus pandemic. It is truly an event of worldwide scale that has, virtually overnight, fundamentally changed the way we work and live. The virus’ global effects will be felt long after a vaccine or cure is found, and in ways we can hardly imagine. One interesting anecdote has to do with energy consumption. As the United States rapidly shut down its economy in April to try to stem the spread of the virus, our national energy consumption dropped dramatically. Because of its relative cost, coal power plants were the first to be idled, with the result that by mid-May, America’s renewable energy sources—primarily wind, solar, and hydroelectric—had produced more electricity than by coal on 90 separate days in 2020. By comparison, in 2019, that occurred on only 38 days over the entire year. This trend will only continue as the incremental cost of solar and wind generation drops further in the coming years.

Meanwhile, the United States is on the cusp of an explosion of offshore wind projects that have been more than a decade in the making—particularly on the east coast, where the first offshore wind farm began operation in 2016 and many more are in various advanced stages of development. Blank Rome has been busy for several years now in advising clients—both domestic and international—on all aspects of these developing projects, from regulatory issues such as Jones Act and work-visa requirements, to environmental and permitting issues, chartering, contracting, corporate assistance, and beyond.

With all of this in mind, we decided to focus this special issue of Mainbrace primarily on the emerging U.S. offshore wind industry, providing critical analysis into U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Jones Act developments; a detailed overview of state and federal legislation and project development updates; comparative analysis of SUPPLYTIME and WINDTIME charterparty contracts; and insights into the potential post-COVID-19 implications on the offshore wind market. And while not offshore wind-related, we also provide a discussion on the dramatic Hanjin bankruptcy and the role to be played by the Federal Maritime Commission and Department of Commerce in case of future such bankruptcies.

We hope that you enjoy this Special Offshore Wind edition of Mainbrace and that you stay safe and healthy.

EDITOR, Mainbrace

Note from the Editor

Thomas H. Belknap Jr.

Happy (almost) spring! Every year seems to be a new adventure and a new challenge, and this year, on top of the dramatic new International Maritime Organization 2020 bunker regulations that have now come into force after much trepidation, we find ourselves watching as the shipping world (and everyone else) wrestles with the many market disruptions that have resulted from the global spread of COVID‒19, otherwise known as coronavirus. Throw in a presidential election in November, and there’s plenty of uncertainty to keep everyone guessing this year.

It’s not all bad news, however. Uncertainty brings risk, but it also generates opportunity, and the shipping world has always depended on its creativity and ingenuity to survive and thrive. We have every confidence that it will continue to do so in the future.

As always, we aim with this issue of Mainbrace to offer a diverse look at different aspects of the shipping industry: Jeanne M. Grasso and Kierstan L. Carlson take a look at the growing enforcement in the United States in respect of MARPOL Annex VI emissions violations; Jeremy A. Herschaft and Matthew J. Thomas bring us up to speed on recent developments in the emerging maritime blockchain platform, TradeLens; William R. Bennett, III, Charles S. Marion, and Anthony Yanez help us consider when a contract may or may not be a “maritime” one—and why it matters; Frederick M. Lowther imagines the future of carbon-free vessels; Joan M. Bondareff and Stefanos L. Roulakis give us an update on maritime-related developments in Congress; and William R. Bennett, III, and Lauren B. Wilgus take us through the complicated ins and outs of a maritime casualty investigation in the United States.

Added to the mix of current maritime news and trends, we also include some timely Firm announcements regarding new partners and teams who have joined us since January 1 as well as highlight the elevation of Lauren B. Wilgus to Maritime partner and our Chambers Global 2020 rankings. Additionally, we provide some important Blank Rome diversity and inclusion updates, including the sad news of the loss of our beloved colleague and friend Judge Nathaniel R. Jones, our Firm’s first Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer.

We hope you enjoy this issue. As always, we welcome your comments and suggestions for articles in future issues of Mainbrace.

EDITOR, Mainbrace

Firm News & Announcements

Lauren B. Wilgus Elevated to Maritime Partner

Blank Rome is pleased to announce that Lauren B. Wilgus was elevated from of counsel to partner, effective January 1, 2020. In addition to Lauren, the Firm elevated 10 associates and one additional of counsel to partner, and five associates to of counsel. 

Lauren B. Wilgus – Maritime and International Trade • New York

Lauren focuses her practice on international and maritime litigation, alternative dispute resolution, and business matters, notably involving domestic and foreign corporate interests as well as disputes concerning international and domestic commercial contracts, marine insurance coverage, and charterparties. She counsels on claims involving the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act, maritime attachment and vessel arrest actions, marine casualty investigations, recognition and enforcement of foreign arbitration awards and judgments, and commercial negotiations and dispute resolutions. Lauren is an active member of Blank Rome’s Maritime Emergency Response Team and leading maritime organizations and associations.

To view all of the Firm’s 2020 promotions, please visit Blank Rome Announces 2020 Promotions: 12 Partners, 5 Of Counsel.

Blank Rome Continues Expansion in 2020 with New Lateral Partners

Since January 1, Blank Rome has welcomed a number of lateral partners across its U.S. offices, enhancing the Firm’s services and capabilities throughout its various practices.

CRAIG R. CULBERTSON, Corporate, M&A, and Securities, CHICAGO – Press Release

JODI L. LASHIN, Corporate, M&A, and Securities, NEW YORK – Press Release

WILLIAM E. LAWLER, III, White Collar Defense & Investigations, WASHINGTON, D.C. – Press Release

STACY H. LOUIZOS, Corporate, M&A, and Securities, NEW YORK – Press Release

DEAN S. NORDLINGER, Corporate, M&A, and Securities, WASHINGTON, D.C. – Press Release

VANESSA G. TANAKA, Finance, Restructuring, and Bankruptcy, CHICAGO – Press Release

MASHA TRAINOR, Corporate, M&A, and Securities, PITTSBURGH – Press Release

PAUL H. TZUR, White Collar Defense & Investigations, CHICAGO – Press Release

LATERAL PARTNER TEAM: Tax, Benefits, and Private Client, NEW YORK – Press Release

      • HOLLY L. HYANS

Chambers Global 2020 Ranks Blank Rome Attorneys and Shipping Litigation Practice

Mainbrace | March 2018 (No.1)

Chambers Global 2020 recognized Blank Rome as a global leader in Shipping: Litigation–Global-wide, as well as Partner John D. Kimball as a leading shipping litigation attorney. Continue readingChambers Global 2020 Ranks Blank Rome Attorneys and Shipping Litigation Practice”

Diversity & Inclusion News

In Memoriam: Judge Nathaniel R. Jones

It is with great sadness that we share the news that our beloved colleague and friend Judge Nathaniel R. Jones passed away on Sunday, January 26, at age 93. Judge Jones joined Blank Rome in 2002 and served as our first Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer.

He was integral in helping to foster and promote our rich culture of inclusion throughout the Firm, and selfless in sharing his time and unmatched perspective with so many of us who are better people for having known him. In collaboration with Chris Lewis and Sophia Lee—his successors in the Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer role—we have developed a thriving and nationally recognized diversity and inclusion program that reflects his vision and passion. In 2013, we developed the Honorable Nathaniel R. Jones Diversity and Inclusion Award, which is presented annually to a Blank Rome attorney or professional who has demonstrated outstanding leadership in promoting diversity and inclusion. We are grateful to have the opportunity to honor and remember Judge Jones through this important award that will forever bear his name.

In Judge Jones’ obituary, our Cincinnati Office Chair Michael Cioffi notes, “Nate Jones was the kind of hero America needed that (Martin Luther) King described as ‘an extremist for justice’ in ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail.’ Nate’s unwavering commitment to justice, equality, and the rule of law made him a great lawyer and great man. His genuine humility and everyday kindness made him loved by all, including those on the other side of the political spectrum. His life is an important lesson and model to us all.” We couldn’t agree more. While we have lost one of the brightest legal minds and civil rights advocates of our time, his groundbreaking work, steadfast compassion, and inspirational life and legacy will surely live on through the countless lives he has touched—both at Blank Rome and around the world.

To learn more, please visit In Memoriam: Judge Nathaniel R. Jones.

Blank Rome Announces 2020 Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Update

Sophia Lee Continues as Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer in 2020; Christopher Lewis Transitions to Emeritus Role

Blank Rome is pleased to announce that Sophia Lee will serve as Blank Rome’s Firm-wide Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer and Christopher A. Lewis has transitioned to an emeritus role, effective January 1, 2020. Sophia and Chris have served as co-chiefs since January 2019, when Sophia joined Chris in this capacity. Chris was appointed to the role in May 2011 and has transformed the Firm’s diversity and inclusion efforts in significant ways.

As Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Sophia will continue to work closely with the Firm’s leadership on strategic initiatives and programming, including recruiting and mentoring; client partnerships, education programs, and special events; general counsel and thought leader roundtables; career development and advancement programs; and ongoing community outreach. She will also continue to chair the Firm’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee and work closely with the Firm’s BR Pride, BR United, and Women’s Forum affinity groups.

“I am excited to step into the role of Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, leading the Firm’s charge of increasing diversity, embracing inclusion, and advancing equity as we look to the future of the legal profession—from addressing the concerns of our legal communities to meeting the need of our clients,” said Sophia. “Standing on the shoulders of those who have come before me, the Honorable Nathaniel R. Jones, our Firm’s first Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, followed by Chris Lewis, I will be a steadfast advocate for diversity, inclusion, and equity who recognizes the legacy of our Firm’s founders, elevates our difficult discussions, and continues to push forward toward our ambitious goals and objectives. On a personal note, I am grateful to Chris for his mentorship, championship, and friendship as we have worked together over the years on the Firm’s diversity and inclusion initiatives and with the broader legal community.”

To learn more, please visit Blank Rome Announces 2020 Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Update.

Blank Rome Earns Perfect Score in 2020 Corporate Equality Index

Firm Receives 100 Percent for the Fifth Year in a Row on Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Scorecard on LGBTQ Workplace Equality

Blank Rome is proud to announce that the Firm has received a perfect score of 100 percent on the 2020 Corporate Equality Index (“CEI”), a national benchmarking survey and report on corporate policies and practices related to LGBTQ workplace equality, administered by the Human Rights Campaign (“HRC”) Foundation. With this score, Blank Rome has been designated for the fifth year in a row as a “Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality” by the HRC, and joins the ranks of major U.S. businesses that earned top marks this year.

The 2020 CEI rated 1,059 businesses in the report and evaluates LGBTQ-related policies and practices, including non-discrimination workplace policies, domestic partner benefits and transgender-inclusive health care benefits, competency programs, public commitment to the LGBTQ community, and responsible citizenship. Blank Rome’s efforts in satisfying all of the CEI’s criteria results in a 100 percent ranking and the designation as a “Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality.”

To learn more, please visit Blank Rome Earns Perfect Score in 2020 Corporate Equality Index.

Note from the Editor


Thomas H. Belknap Jr.

As another year comes to a close, it is a perfect opportunity to evaluate the challenges and opportunities that we faced—and hopefully, embraced and overcame—as well as the goals we will set for the year ahead. Whether in the personal or professional realm, in the maritime industry or beyond, a good team is always greater than the sum of its parts.

In this final Mainbrace edition for 2019, we take a look at progressive topics involving the ever-developing legal, regulatory, and financial landscape for autonomous vessels, as well as current developments regarding climate change and renewable energy in the maritime industry.

We also revisit key discussions involving insolvency-related judgments under chapter 15; exercising maritime liens against cargo and sub-freights; effectively utilizing personal jurisdiction matters; and the reach and limitations of U.S. forfeiture law. All of these timely articles remind us that the maritime industry continues to evolve, grow, and change—sometimes slower than we’d like, and other times at lightning speed—and we must therefore continue to work together to understand and safely adapt to important shipping developments as they occur.

We also highlight some of the recent accomplishments, recognitions, and newsworthy developments both within our Maritime group and our Firm as a whole. We are incredibly proud of our Blank Rome family of attorneys and professionals for working diligently every day to ensure that our clients, colleagues, and communities are valued and appreciated, and we are humbled and honored to receive recognition from our clients, peers, and the legal industry in doing so.

May the final weeks of 2019 bring peace and prosperity to you and yours during the holiday season and new year celebrations. We look forward to continuing our quarterly Mainbrace editions in the year ahead and working with you in 2020 and beyond.

EDITOR, Mainbrace

Blank Rome Named to Forbes List of America’s Top Trusted Corporate Law Firms

Blank Rome was named to Forbes’ inaugural America’s Top Trusted Corporate Law Firms list. In particular, Forbes recognized our Firm’s work in Banking & Financial Services as our “most recommended practice area.” Blank Rome is proud to join this select group of leading law firms ranked in this year’s list.

According to Forbes, the magazine partnered with Statista, a market research company, to create its first-ever list of 243 top U.S. corporate law firms, ranging from firms well known in the corporate and legal worlds to boutique firms that focus on very specific branches of the law.

For more information, please visit Blank Rome Named to Forbes List of America’s Top Trusted Corporate Law Firms.

Blank Rome Highly Ranked in U.S. News–Best Lawyers® 2020 “Best Law Firms”

Blank Rome’s Maritime practice was ranked in the top national and regional tiers for Admiralty & Maritime Law in the 2020 “Best Law Firms” survey by U.S. News & World Report–Best Lawyers.® Overall, the Firm was nationally ranked in 30 practice areas and regionally ranked in 82 practice areas.

Blank Rome’s highly ranked services and industries in this year’s survey include:



For more information, please visit Blank Rome Highly Ranked in U.S. News–Best Lawyers® 2020 “Best Law Firms.


Blank Rome Highly Ranked in The American Lawyer’s 2019 Midlevel Associates Survey and Summer Associates Survey


Blank Rome was notably ranked as one of the top five firms for midlevel associate satisfaction in The American Lawyer’s national 2019 Midlevel Associates Survey, and in the top 10 regionally for Los Angeles (#1), Philadelphia (#2), New York (#2), and Washington, D.C. (#8).

The annual survey asked third-, fourth-, and fifth-year associates to examine several aspects of job satisfaction, including compensation and benefits; training and guidance; relations with partners and other associates; interest in and satisfaction level with the work; the firm’s policy on billable hours; and management’s openness about firm strategies and partnership chances.

For more information, please visit Blank Rome Ranked Top 5 in The American Lawyer’s 2019 Midlevel Associates Survey.


Blank Rome was recognized as one of the top 10 law firms for summer associate satisfaction in The American Lawyer’s national 2019 Summer Associates Survey, and notably ranked regionally for Washington, D.C. (#1), Philadelphia (#4), and New York (#25).

The annual survey asked summer associates employed by the nation’s largest law firms to examine several aspects of job satisfaction, including quality of work, training and guidance, partner and associate interaction, and overall rating as a workplace.

For more information, please visit Blank Rome Highly Ranked in The American Lawyer’s 2019 Summer Associates Survey.