The Lawyer recently revealed that combined UK revenues of the largest US firms in London grew by a miserly 1 per cent. But this masks a huge variance in performance, with some firms posting double-digit revenue growth and others slumping. Here, we explore who are the top US firms in London.

Picture of Aerial panoramic cityscape view of London and the River Thames, England, UK to illustrate top US law firms London 2017

The Lawyer broadly groups US law firms operating in London into three categories – the New York Elite, Global Business and Legacy UK. There are of course a diverse range of firms within these three ­categories, but this grouping enables a better like-for-like comparison of US firms operating in the UK.

The New York Elite

The New York Elite, consisting of nine firms, performed best in 2016. They collectively generated $1.1bn in revenue in the UK, a 4 per cent annual increase.

This group includes firms ­headquartered in the US that have expanded into the UK through office openings and lateral hires.

Shearman & Sterling was the stellar performer in this group, posting 14 per cent revenue growth to $169.7m. It also experienced the most significant revenue per lawyer (RPL) rise in the group – 11 per cent to $1.1m. Quinn Emanuel was the second best performer, growing revenues by 8 per cent to $60.7m. It did this by ramping up lawyer numbers in the capital from 32 to 49. Accordingly, London RPL declined 30 per cent to $1.2m. Aside from Debevoise & Plimpton, every firm in this group increased London revenues in 2016. Skadden, the largest firm in this group, increased revenues by 1 per cent to an estimated $190m.

Global Business

Global Business firms, which combine upper tier work with a strong international presence, performed well in 2016. They collectively increased revenues 3 per cent from $1.6bn in 2015 to $1.7bn in 2016. Covington & Burling ­performed best, growing revenues by 9 per cent to $69.5m and RPL 7 per cent to $1.0bn.

Akin Gump has performed best during the last five years, growing UK revenues 226 per cent from $27m in 2012 to $88m in 2016. It has achieved this through the mass hire of legacy Bingham McCutchen lawyers in 2014.

This group includes some of the highest revenue US firms in London. With revenues of $290m, White & Case is the largest US firm in the UK. Its revenues grew 2.5 per cent last year while RPL declined 2.5 per cent to $799k. Latham & Watkins is the second largest US firm in London by revenue. It ­generated an estimated $280m in the UK in 2016, the same as the previous year.   

Legacy UK

The Legacy UK group, which includes seven US-headquartered firms that have established a presence in London through merger, had a mixed year. Total revenues across the group declined 3 per cent to $1.1bn. Dechert was the best performer, with revenues growing by an estimated 14 per cent to $125m. However Dentons, Jones Day, Mayer Brown and Reed Smith all experienced revenue decreases.

Jones Day and K&L Gates have both grown revenues considerably during the past five years. Revenues at Jones Day have grown 28 per cent to $130m in 2016 while revenues at K&L Gates grew 21 per cent to $68m during the same period.