The best of the batch in the business of banking

Allen & Overy

“In investment banking, the two names are Allen & Overy and Clifford Chance,” says one senior lawyer, but it is widely regarded that Allen & Overy just beats Clifford Chance to the title of leading banking practice. Worldwide, Allen & Overy has 60 banking partners and 250 fee-earners, 30 per cent of whom work from the UK. Key clients include Goldman Sachs and NatWest. The firm's leading banking lawyers include Philip Wood, who heads up the international banking practice, and managing partner David Morley. “It has a group of very good, experienced banking lawyers,” says one sector expert.

Clifford Chance

The 332-partner firm has several leading lawyers working in its banking practice including Michael Bray, Mark Campbell, Malcolm Sweeting and Stuart Popham, who heads up the global banking group. One lawyer describes the banking practice, which has 35 partners and 160 assistants, as “highly rated”. Its clients include Citibank and HSBC. One banking expert says both Clifford Chance and Allen & Overy are “dealing with the things that really matter at the top end of the market.” Clifford Chance recently acted for the lead manager of HSBC Markets on the £150m eurobond issue of First Mortgage debenture bonds.

Freshfields

Freshfields has 6 partners and 22 assistants in its banking group. One lawyer says: “Freshfields has got a very good banking capability,” while another adds: “Its reputation is second to none.” The banking group is headed up by partner Simon Hall, who is regarded as one of the leading players in asset finance. Recent high-profile deals include advising Air Liquide on the financing of its £7.2bn offer for BOC Group. The firm also advised Rolls Royce on its £576m facility raised to fund its recommended bid for engineering giant Vickers.

Linklaters

The international practice has 15 partners and 35 assistants in its UK banking group, which is headed by senior banking lawyer Haydn Puleston Jones. Leading practitioner John Tucker also works in the group, which has a solid reputation and is summed up by one lawyer as “a very good banking practice”. The firm was recently involved – along with Herbert Smith and Jones Reavis & Pogue – in the £1.5bn bond issue by Edison First Power, providing advice on corporate and banking matters. Last month, Linklaters' Paris office advised investment bank Rothschild on the £1bn merger of French supermarkets Carrefour and Promodes.

Norton Rose

Rated as a “very good firm” in the sector. One senior banking lawyer says: “It always will be a strong banking firm and it has come good in recent years.” Its banking practice, which is headed up by Stephen Parish, has 30 partners and 88 fee earners and accounted for 23 per cent of the firm's turnover in 1998/1999. Key clients include Abbey National, SG Hambros and Merrill Lynch. The firm recently acted for HSBC Investment Bank as a sponsor and broker to Lion Trust Asset Management, which had applied for admission to the Official List of the London Stock Exchange.

Lovell White Durant

The firm, which recently merged with German practice Boesebeck Droste, has 16 partners and 46 assistants in its banking group, which is headed by John Penson. The firm has a reputation as “very good in acquisition and management buyout finance”. One lawyer says it has an “excellent mergers and acquisition team. Daniel Mace [partner in the banking group] and his team are excellent”. Major clients include Dresdner Klienwort Benson and venture capitalist 3i. The firm has also worked for Barclays Bank for several years. One lawyer says: “Lovells' banking practice really is based on its relationship with Barclays.” Lovells recently acted for Vickers in Rolls Royce's £576m bid for it.