King & Spalding

King & Spalding was founded in Atlanta and has grown alongside its Atlanta-based clients, such as The Coca-Cola Company, Delta Airlines, UPS, Home Depot and SunTrust Bank.

Turnover:

$514m (£261.83m)
Chairman: Robert Hays
Total number of lawyers: 800
Total number of partners: 230
Main practice areas: Banking and finance, energy, litigation, M&A, private equity
Clients: The Coca-Cola Company, Dow Chemical Corporation, General Electric, General Motors, GlaxoSmithKline, Halliburton, Lehman Brothers, Lockheed Martin, Shell, UPS
Offices: Five
Locations: Atlanta, Houston, London, New York, Washington DC

King & Spalding was founded in Atlanta and has grown alongside its Atlanta-based clients, such as The Coca-Cola Company, Delta Airlines, UPS, Home Depot and SunTrust Bank.

King & Spalding’s roots in the South have also allowed it to capitalise on a boom in litigation. Overall, the firm made a positive showing in the past 12 months, with profitability rising by 10 per cent.

New chairman Robert Hays says: “The South is the key area in the US for torts.”

Hays, who is both young and, according to sources, popular, leads a mass torts team that competes for supremacy against rivals such as Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, Baker Botts, Kirkland & Ellis, Shook Hardy & Bacon and White & Case.

Despite this strength in Atlanta and the regions, the last quarter of 2006 has seen blows to the firm’s New York operation. In September co-head of M&A John Graham left for Clifford Chance, while the next month finance partner Dominick DeChiara and senior associate Brad Vaiana quit for Nixon Peabody and private funds head Stephen Culhane joined Linklaters.

There are rumblings that the firm is not continuing the heavy investment in the most competitive legal market in the world that it made five years ago. Between 2001 and 2004 the New York office of King & Spanding doubled in size to 180 lawyers.

That growth has slowed and two years on the firm has just 185 lawyers – not a sizeable number in New York. There are complaints that the office is too reliant on clients sourced in Georgia rather than in New York. And the departees for UK firms have said their new firms’ international reaches as being far ahead of King & Spalding’s.

For now at least the firm is putting a brave face on its New York operations, with New York managing partner Michael O’Brien telling The Lawyer that it was a “mischaracterisation” to say the office was suffering depletion.

But although such stars as Graham may have left for pastures new, the firm can still lay claim to some heavy-hitting rainmakers, particularly in Atlanta.

The special matters and government investigation group in the litigation practice is well established, with a number of lawyers who have served in central government and more recently in the present Bush administration.

As with its main competitors from Bush’s home state of Texas, the firm’s energy practice is important, with clients such as Chevron Texaco and Shell. Hays says: “London’s becoming a clearing house for energy investments, LNG in particular.”

Accordingly, while trial lawyer Bobby Meadows, head of the Houston office, is the key relationship partner with all the firm’s energy clients, John Keffer, managing partner of the eight-partner London office, specialises not only in corporate, but in energy too.

The firm is launching an office in Dubai with partners from the Islamic finance and energy practices, having previously based things in the US and London.