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Duke Street Capital pushes regular advisers aside after Simmons wins beauty parade
Simmons & Simmons has seen off competition from Clifford Chance and Eversheds to win its first piece of work for private equity group Duke Street Capital. The firm's burgeoning private equity practice won a beauty parade to advise Duke Street and other institutional vendors on the sale and secondary buyout by Henderson European Partners of Leisure Link Group for £230m. Duke Street's normal adviser is Clifford Chance, though in the past it has also used Slaughter and May. Simmons got the chance to pitch because one of the directors at Leisure Link is a former director of SG Hambros, a client of Sim-mons. Eversheds is understood to have pitched because it had worked for Leisure Link in the past. Leisure Link was formed in 1998 through a management buy-in of Bass's leisure machine management business, backed by Duke Street. Clifford Chance acted for Duke Street on that deal. At Simmons, corporate finance partner Martin Saywell led the team, working alongside corporate partner Tim Field and tax partner Nick Cronkshaw. Ashurst Morris Crisp acted for institutional vendor Caxton-Iseman Capital, and the London office of US firm Gibson Dunn & Crutcher acted for the management. Dickson Minto advised Henderson. Saywell said: "We were put forward to handle the sale process. We'd have been acting for all the vendors - we beauty paraded and got it all - but they split in the end. Additional lawyers were acting for the management but they didn't come on board until late in the day."
"It was a very gruesome and gruelling August - the deals probably as difficult as you can get" Martin Saywell, Simmons & Simmons
There is no guarantee that Simmons will get more work from the client, but Saywell said: "It only closed on Monday [24 September] so I haven't had a chat with them. But even if nothing else were to come out of it, for us, I think it's a good vote of confidence." He said that the deal was incredibly complex to execute. "It was a very gruesome and gruelling August. You've got a sale exit and all of the issues involved with that, and then you have got the purchasing entity. You're talking about there being a very very large rollover of institutional and management interests - it's probably as difficult as you can get." This win is the latest in a bout of successes for Simmons' fledgling private equity practice, which also includes partners Charles Fuller and Ed Lukins. Last year, the firm scooped a role as sole European legal adviser to Nokia Venture Partners through a contact in the telecoms department - it advised the client0 in July on a euro15m (£9.36m) investment in Enition. Other significant deals for the department this summer included advising Spectrum Equity Investors on its ultimately unsuccessful euro3bn (£1.87bn) bid for Eircom.