’Net working

Here’s a first. For years The Lawyer has analysed the strategy and performance of law firms.

We also profile in-house lawyers week in, week out. But up till now nobody’s analysed the legal histories of the top companies in a sector and dissected their relationships with external counsel.

As part of our Transatlantic Elite series, this week we unveil our research into companies that are household names, from Apple to Google. But it’s not just the famous brands: we also cover companies such as Symantec and Square, which are also transforming the tech world.

We’re publishing this with two audiences in mind: in-house lawyers who’d like to see how the giants run their departments, and UK private practice lawyers looking to scope out the market. The research should convince the latter that Wall Street isn’t necessarily where the connections need to be made.

Take the big tech trio of Cooley, Fenwick & West and Wilson Sonsini. They are truly embedded in the fast-growth heartland of California, but are now starting to look outward. Wilson Sonsini is now in Brussels, while Cooley, which has been sniffing around London for a while, is in Shanghai. If you read the full report, which is available to download (see feature for more details), you’ll see a raft of other firms mentioned, many of which most UK practices have barely heard of, let alone courted. They may not appear in the Global 100 charts, but they have relationships to die for and clients to kill for.

Tech has a different dynamic from other sectors, since the moment you’re up and running and online you can be global. That creates splendid opportunities for service providers outside California. It gives the smaller law firms with superior IP capital some serious edge, and individuals still matter; apart from antitrust disputes, this isn’t the magic circle’s territory.

Take Google: in the UK it uses Baker & McKenzie, RPC and Bristows among others. The fees are nothing like a meaty IPO, since most of these companies have enormous and sophisticated in-house capabilities, but our chart on page 19 shows that London doesn’t get much of a share
of tech IPOs anyway. It’s all about litigation.

Apple, Google and others have transformed the world in ways unimaginable 10 years ago. Here’s the inside track on their legal strategies.