Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s rare foray into lateral hiring started to pay off last year. The magic circle firm had a change of heart on banking; after years of neglect, it finally decided to focus on work for lenders. And at the heart of that strategy was one of Freshfields’ younger partners, Brian Gray. Together with another lateral, Chris Howard of Linklaters, he has genuinely revitalised Freshfields’ bank-facing practice.
Standout deals in 2004 included advising Barclays Capital, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and Royal Bank of Scotland on the £1bn facilities on Spirit Group’s £2.28bn recapitalisation; and for JPMorgan on Resolution Life Group’s £850m acquisition of the life insurance book of Royal & SunAlliance.
Freshfields has a way to go before it can challenge Linklaters for third place, but Gray’s determined marketing and banking track record will ensure that it is not out of the running. Brian Gray