RPL league turns tables on Skadden

RPL league turns tables on <a class=Skadden” class=”inline_image inline_image_left” src=”/pictures/web/images/15003_davidallen-MayerBrown90.jpg” />The litigation table published by The Lawyer shows which firms generated the most revenue from disputes last year. But reorder the table to rank firms by revenue per lawyer (RPL) and a different picture emerges.

For example, Herbert Smith rises from 35th in the revenue table to seventeenth when ranked by RPL.

At the head of the RPL list, New York blue-blood firm Cravath Swaine & Moore moves from 38th place to beat Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom to the number one spot.

Nevertheless, Skadden’s strategy of legal services diversification is obviously working – it comes fifth in the RPL rankings and takes the top spot for litigation ­revenue.

John Gardiner, co-head of Skadden’s international litigation and arbitration group, said: “We think this strategy has paid off and are pleased to be becoming as well-known now for our ­litigation work as for our premier M&A work.”

Also showing an improvement when ranked by RPL are Debevoise & Plimpton, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett and Sullivan & Cromwell.

All are members of The Lawyer’s ‘Sweet Sixteen’, a group identified earlier this year in the Transatlantic Elite as being at the ­forefront of the top-end transactional legal market.

The RPL table is a key indicator as to which firms inhabit similar ground when it comes to disputes. But the figures throw up some surprising results.

US legal market commentator Bruce MacEwen said: “Of the top 10, the most surprising result by far is that Proskauer Rose ranks third by RPL, but I’ve often thought of them as a ­diamond in the rough.”

The sheer size of the litigation groups at some of the major international firms illustrates the investment they have made in disputes. At Mayer Brown, London litigation head David Allen said the figures underlined litigation’s place as a key practice area.

“It makes sense to be able to offer a serious litigation capability and to have a very strong counter-cyclical ­practice, with sizeable teams in the key financial centres,” he said. “At Mayer Brown it’s not just an ancillary practice, it’s something we believe you need to think about strategically in its own right and develop accordingly. I believe this table shows how, in this context, we do have a ­competitive advantage.”

Herbert Smith litigation head Sonya Leydecker said: “These figures illustrate that we handle high-end work for ;clients ;involving ­business-critical issues of strategic importance.”

To view the Top 50 Transatlantic firms by litigation turnover, click here