Big hitter’s arrival offers challenge

That venerable institution, the American Bar Association (ABA), may be going through difficult times but the same cannot be said of the firms which are its members.

As the ABA puts the finishing touches to its extravagant outing to London, leading US firm Sullivan & Cromwell is boosting its London practice with three partners, including one of the most highly rated M&A lawyers in the world.

Neil Anderson’s arrival in London will take the firm’s European strength to 70 with 50 in London.

The move shows a bullish attitude. Indeed it could be seen as a full-blown challenge to the City.

Sullivan & Cromwell plays up the amount of M&A work in the capital but it also says the move is about better serving existing clients rather than taking work from City firms. At one level such claims are meaningless. By investing such high profile resources, Sullivan & Cromwell is upping the ante as far as City firms go.

Offering its clients the sort of service that formerly they could only receive out of New York sends a message to clients and competition that Sullivan & Cromwell is the place to be for M&A. Furthermore, it says that the firm, and US firms, are here to stay.

Anderson’s posting puts to rest any hopes UK firms may have that the US is not treating London seriously.

M&A work is on the up and Europe and London are becoming a focus. If UK firms are to capitalise on it, they need to be seen to be making the same commitment to clients as Sullivan & Cromwell.