Stepping on the gas

Today The Lawyer Transatlantic Elite, our annual exclusive analysis ­of the leading international firms’ strategies, is published.

This year, for the first time, we’ve taken a sector-led approach. That means zeroing in on energy and natural resources, unveiling in detail the strategic moves – office openings, hires and mergers – the top firms in the ­sector have made. If there’s a gold rush going on, it’s those firms that are ahead of the game that are most likely to strike it lucky. Take Latham & Watkins. Last year it launched an office in the US oil and gas capital Houston, ­targeting so-called ­’midstream’ (think pipelines) acquisitions with ­laterals from local rivals Akin Gump, Baker Botts and Vinson & Elkins. Last week the firm, ­alongside Bingham McCutchen, advised US ­natural gas ­company Energy Transfer Equity on its $7.9bn (£4.9bn) acquisition of ­Houston rival Southern Union Company. Nice work if you can get it. By being there, Latham did. Much of this year’s Transatlantic Elite is given over to the bulking-up strategies of Latham’s rivals.

But there’s more. Most notably Norton Rose’s natural resources-led double merger with Ogilvy Renault and Deneys Reitz in Canada and South Africa respectively – a move that highlights the frenzy in the sector.

Nestling at the back of the book is The Lawyer’s global top 50 firms by revenue. For the first time this includes not only the most recent US firms’ financial data, but also the results of the largest UK firms. While the big four have been estimated (they won’t be available until July) the ranking underscores the increasing prominence of what one New York ­partner of a deeply unglobal firm calls the “multijurisdictional behemoths”. This unapologetically derogatory term is a ­comment on the merger-led strategies of some. Again, most notably, Norton Rose, this year’s Law Firm of the Year at The Lawyer Awards, which enters the table at 32 due to its ­merger with Deacons. Next year it’s almost certain to rise further when Canada and South Africa revenues are factored in. By then Norton Rose might also have added the piece it ­really wants – the US.

The ’behemoth’ partner’s thoughts at that point will be interesting.

matt.byrne@thelawyer.com; www.twitter.com/lawyermatt