The UK200 2011 | By Matt Byrne
21 March 2011
15 December 2003
8 July 2002
17 June 2002
6 November 2000
With revenues up at the majority of international firms’ London practices, the City is proving a fertile hunting ground for those big-game players chasing the major league mandates.
In August Baker & McKenzie posted a global revenue that confirmed its position as the world’s largest firm by revenue. The 1 per cent rise in its London revenue to $192m (£120.73m) also underlined Bakers’ largest office’s position as a City player on a par with the likes of SJ Berwin (£122m) and above legacy Denton Wilde Sapte (£109m). As Bakers’ City office head Gary Senior confirmed: “Our London office is a big law firm in its own right.” More to the point, Bakers beats comfortably many hefty UK firms when ranked by average profit per equity partner (PEP). Last year Bakers’ PEP dropped slightly, but when its audited accounts are signed off later this calendar year they are expected to be not too far below last year’s £753,000. Not bad when you consider the firm lacks a sizeable US presence (17 per cent of total revenue).
Last year - for the majority of US firms that means calendar year 2010, whereas Bakers has a financial year that runs from 1 July to 30 June - was an impressive one for the majority of international firms in the UK.
Of the 27 firms in this year’s listing of the top international firms in the City that also featured in 2009’s list, all but six saw their revenues rise in 2010. By contrast, in 2009 21 of the top 30 firms saw year-on-year falls in UK fee income.
By describing these firms as international, The Lawyer primarily means US. Few of the London offices of heavyweight firms from other countries - think Spain’s Garrigues (total revenue e352.8m (£305.92m) last year), France’s Fidal (e300m) or Benelux firm Loyens & Loeff (e296m) - are large enough to make the top 30 table.
The exception is pan-European firm Salans. The UK now accounts for 13 per cent of its total $258m turnover. Salans is the first non-US outfit to break into the table, entering at number 28 following a year of rebuilding with a number of hires, particularly in Eastern Europe.
Back nearer the top of the charts, White & Case suffered one of the biggest drops in revenue in the table. After a torrid 2009, during which turnover fell by 19 per cent, from $245.9m to $197m following a succession of partner losses to Latham & Watkins, in 2010 White & Case saw another fall - this time, however, of just 6.6 per cent to $184m.
Indeed, White & Case managed to turn the tables on Latham in July 2011 when it hired London capital markets partners Michael Immordino and Jonathan Clark, a move that saw the relaunch of its Milan office.
Latham itself posted a 9 per cent increase in London revenue.
“We felt that 2010 was a great year, considering the economic environment we’re in,” enthuses Latham London partner Bill Voge, who is on the firm’s executive committee.
It certainly felt like a better year than 2009.”
Another firm that was in bounceback mode was Mayer Brown, which posted a healthy 16 per cent rise in revenue.
Only Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld and Kirkland & Ellis can point to higher turnover increases at 29 and 22.5 per cent respectively.
The latter firm has not been slow to spend the increased revenue it has made from the currently strong position of its restructuring and private equity practices. In London it hired Shearman & Sterling’s high-billing high-yield partner Ward McKimm, while further afield Kirkland made a dramatic push into the Hong Kong corporate market with the hire of seven partners from a trio of top-tier rivals.
The hires included three from Latham, three from Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom and one from Allen & Overy.