Davis Polk & Wardwell

International top 30 position: 27
Asia-Pacific International 50 rank: 25

To read about this firm’s Asia Pacific practice, please click here

The Asia Pacific profile is an edited version of a full write-up that appears in The Lawyer Asia Pacific 150, a comprehensive analysis of the legal market in the region that ranks the top 100 local firms and leading 50 international players by headcount. For more information and to purchase your copy please click here

Davis Polk & Wardwell posted global turnover of $910m in 2011 with $42.3m of that revenue coming from the firm’s UK operations placing it at 27 in The Lawyer’sInternational Top 30.

The firm’s election of a new managing partner, Tom Reid, in April 2012 heralded a change in strategic direction for the firm, which boasts a first-rate capital markets practice but which was viewed as behind its competitors when it came to international reach. The election of Reid was followed in short order by the hire of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer capital markets partner Simon Witty, giving Davis Polk English law capability in London for the first time.

The strategic change of direction seems to have paid dividends with the firm landing roles on a number of big deals, including acting for the target in the $28bn (£18bn) takeover of food giant Heinz by an investment consortium.

The Davis Polk corporate team advising Heinz included partners Arthur Holden, John Bick and Michael Davis, with associate Lee Hochbaum. Partner Kyoko Takahashi Lin advised on employee benefits and partner Kathleen Ferrell on tax. Also on the New York-based team was finance partners James Florack and Michael Kaplan with associate Sophia Hudson and antitrust and competition partner Ronan Harty.

The firm is also acting on the US aspects of the £50m Esure IPO announced in February 2013.

Asia Pacific

No. of lawyers: 87
Offices: 3

Davis Polk runs a tight three-office network in Asia-Pacific that focuses on capital markets instructions, debt and equity, mergers and acquisitions and private equity, with a fair chunk of litigation and regulatory work thrown in.

“Our strategy is a little different from that of some of the other firms — especially the UK firms — in the region,” says William Barron, the firm's Hong Kong office managing partner. “We tend to open offices in the big financial centres and then cover the whole region from those centres rather than having a boots-on-the-ground approach across many jurisdictions.”

That strategy implies the firm is happy with its existing office portfolio of Tokyo, which opened in 1987, Hong Kong (1993) and Beijing (2007). The firm's client base in the region is also fairly clear cut, with about 40 per cent being financial institutions and the remaining 60 per cent split between Asian, US and European corporates.

Barron appears both relaxed and bemused by the recent influx of global law firm competition across the region and to China especially. “The rush of lawyers to the country hasn't really affected us too much,” he argues. “I've been in the region for 20 years and you see firms come and go, they expand, and then they contract. It goes through cycles.”

Briefings from Davis Polk & Wardwell

  • Implications for the CFPB after the DC Circuit’s recess appointments decision

    A panel of three judges in the DC Circuit stunned Washington on Friday by striking down President Obama’s recess appointments to the NLRB in Noel Canning v NLRB on a basis much more sweeping than had been anticipated.

  • China antitrust review 2012

    Looking back at 2012, four years after China implemented its Anti-Monopoly Law, we can discern some important ways in which China’s antitrust regime today both mirrors and departs from antitrust regimes in other jurisdictions to which our clients are subject.

View more briefings from Davis Polk & Wardwell

Analysis from The Lawyer

  • Hong Kong

    US firms muscle in on Hong Kong

    Hong Kong IPO activity is hotting up again, but UK legal stalwarts are looking over their shoulders as US rivals make up ground fast

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99 Gresham Street

Global revenue 2011 ($m): 910
Global lawyers 2011: 772
No. of lawyers (Asia Pacific): 87
Offices (Asia Pacific): 3