A question of Chance

Next week we’ll publish our third annual global litigation report. As you read this we’re still putting the finishing touches to the ranking of the world’s leading firms by litigation turnover.

Which means we can’t yet tell you the name of the firm in first place, or how many UK firms made the US-dominated list (just five last year), or the total amount of cash earned by the world’s top.
For this and more, you’ll just have to wait a week.

But we can tell you one thing – only one magic circle firm has seen its global litigation revenue drop in the past three years. A new wig and gown goes to anyone who said Clifford Chance.

While total litigation revenue at Freshfields has boomed 42 per cent over three years to £250.8m, at Clifford Chance income has fallen by 10 per cent to £179.5m. Our feature on pages 16-18 reveals the ­ambition of global litigation managing partner ­Jeremy Sandelson to stop that rot. In particular, Sandelson has the firm’s US practice in his sights, a part of the firm that even this most upbeat of lawyers would struggle to deny is a shell of its former self.

While Clifford Chance’s global network has been shoring up revenues, the drain of rainmaking US partners has long been an issue the firm needed to address. Sandelson’s fix is to focus on building four core global business streams including antitrust, white-collar crime and regulatory.

Taking a global line is hardly revolutionary, of course. Freshfields is doing much the same, highlighted most recently by its 60-partner fraud group launched this year. A global product group may be no more than a convenient marketing tool but in Freshfields’ case it highlights the investment it has made in the past 18 months in its US litigation group – contrast that with Clifford Chance.

Still, groups like this do have the benefit of being topical. Firms are under the cosh to deliver integrated cross-border products because general counsel are under pressure to be more efficient.

If this helps Clifford Chance join the dots and win work that keeps several of its international offices busy, all the better for Sandelson and Co.

It might even be enough to see it post a positive result next year.

matt.byrne@thelawyer.com