Global firms rake in biggest turnover

BIG firms with a powerful presence overseas turn over half as much again as those without, according to a survey of the world's 50 largest law firms.

The survey, published by the International Financial Law Review (IFLR), also found that firms which have partners and associates permanently based in foreign offices are more successful than those that only have associations with firms abroad.

Of the UK practices, Eversheds, despite being ranked as the world's fifth largest firm with 1,028 lawyers, has only 1 per cent of its business abroad, and turns over an estimated US$650,000 per partner.

This contrasts starkly with Clifford Chance – rated the most international of UK firms – which has 37 per cent of its business abroad and a far bigger turnover of US$1.73 million per partner.

Eversheds managing partner, Peter Cole, said it was early days for the firm, which had previously concentrated on its nationwide presence in the UK. “We won't be charging all round the world overnight, but we know it isn't enough to look to where we are in the UK.”

Cole added: “Standing still isn't the answer – if you stand still, you go backwards. We see our next area of development as Europe, which will eventually be a single marketplace.”

Geoffrey Howe, Clifford Chance managing partner, declined to comment.

After Clifford Chance, the next most international UK firms are Freshfields (33 per cent abroad/turnover per partner US$1.47 million); Allen & Overy (22 per cent/US$1.46 million); Simmons & Simmons (21 per cent/US$890,000); Linklaters & Paines (21 per cent/US$1.7 million); Lovell White Durrant (17 per cent/US$1.28 million) and Norton Rose (16 per cent/ US$970,000).

The least international firms after Eversheds are Dibb Lupton Alsop (1 per cent/US$650,000) and Nabarro Nathanson (3 per cent/US$700,000).