Global Law Firm of the Year

2nd place: Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer
3rd place: Latham & Watkins
Shortlisted: Baker & McKenzie, Linklaters & Alliance, Sullivan & Cromwell
The winner of the Global Law Firm of the Year Award, sponsored by Garfield Robbins, is White & Case.
There are very few US firms that have invested in building a global business, but White & Case has been at it longer than most, having opened in Paris in 1926. After years of cautious international growth, White & Case has made all the right moves to propel it into the big league.
In 12 months White & Case has doubled the size of its European operations to almost 700 lawyers. It pulled off a merger with one of the best independent German firms, Feddersen Laule Ewerwahn Scherzberg Finkelnburg Clemm, which added 180 lawyers and five German offices and which was accomplished with minimal fallout. The City office doubled in size to more than 120 finance and corporate lawyers and is now one of the best-resourced US firms in London. That office – previously only really known for project finance – is now on the acquisition finance map, having lured Maurice Allen's team from Weil Gotshal & Manges, among others. It may not have succeeded in merging with Paris firm Jeantet & Associ&#233s, but it opened offices in Milan and Rome with Varrenti e Associati and leading intellectual property (IP) firm Studio Legale Attolico.
In Asia, it was the same tale of growth, building a 40-lawyer Thailand operation and establishing a joint venture with Colin Ng & Partners to create a 100-lawyer Singapore office, one of only seven firms to be granted a licence. This year is the firm's centenary – it will have cause to celebrate.
In second place is Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. Of the magic circle firms last year, Freshfields made the biggest single leap in pulling off the most significant merger of 2000. The merger between Freshfields and elite German firm Bruckhaus Westrick Heller Lober means that the firm is set to become the dominant force in European M&A.
Latham & Watkins takes third place after a year in which the US management made European expansion a priority. It hired in London and finally cracked the German market with the Hamburg office – and the jewel in the crown – of Gaedertz. Expect even bigger things next year.