Sweet Sixteen: Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton

Star practices/people

Finances
Rev £445m
PEP £1.05m
RPL £520,000

Lawyers
Global 856
London 73
New York 488

Cleary Gottlieb Steen & ­Hamilton has been dedicated to developing a strong transatlantic offering, with a focus on private equity and finance, for years. Having launched a UK law ­capability in London in 1997, the office has grown to ­become a successful element of the global network – other key jurisdictions being France and Germany, where Cleary is deeply ­embedded.

In New York, partners such as Ethan Klingsberg and Paul Shim have been key in driving the office’s success. The firm’s ­relationship with key private equity client TPG has seen Cleary win a number of lucrative mandates in recent years.
New York partners have also been heavily involved in the wave of sovereign wealth investment in financial institutions and ­private equity firms. In February, partner Jeff Karpf advised ­Citigroup on its $19bn (£9.5bn) equity offering into which sovereign wealth funds all invested.

Top deals
» Citigroup on £3.75m equity sale to Abu Dhabi Investment Authority

» Temasek in its £2.5bn investment in Merrill Lynch

» TPG in £13.75bn Alltel acquisition

Corporate partner Michael MacDonald has played a big part in developing the London office while relatively new partner Tihir Sarkar has been instrumental in focusing attention on organic growth in the capital.

Last year Cleary restructured its graduate recruitment and trainee schemes in the UK.

It has now vowed to focus on ­developing the office via organic growth, which is a vote of faith in its UK infrastructure.

Weaknesses
Cleary has developed numerous
relationships with top financial institutions and private equity houses, such as Texas Pacific Group. Arguably too many.

“The firm has made a point of being advisers to everyone,” admits one Cleary partner.

“This is good, but we’ve ­neglected to capitalise on this with ­designated partner contacts for clients.”

For a firm that prides itself on integration and relationships, this looks careless at best. The biggest corporate brands want the highly-prized (and paid-for) appearance, as well as reality, of utterly devoted partners.

International
As far as transatlantic ­partnership cohesion goes, Cleary has at least made a ­genuine stab. All partners must spend time in the New York headquarters – an attempt to build up some partnership glue. Certainly it gives partners from other offices the opportunity to be better ­connected to the rest of the firm.

Cleary’s focus on organic growth, integration and international coverage is the envy of others in the Sweet Sixteen.

The verdict
The firm may have to work on its client management to ­become the number one transatlantic firm, but it is already among the leaders in the New York market, with a defined strategy of how to further embed its global brand from within its London office.