All is volatile among US firms in London

If you were to guess which might be the best-performing US firm in 2020, it could be one that hasn’t even opened yet. Two new US firms in our annual survey – Quinn Emanuel and Ropes & Gray – have been in London for less than five years, but Quinn already tops the London revenue per lawyer (RPL) table with $1.88m, and jointly tops the London revenue per partner (RPP) table with $5.7m along with Davis Polk. Ropes & Gray is the smallest international firm in the top 30, but it still managed revenues of $40m.


The volatility in this listing is extraordinary. Dechert’s UK revenue is up by

44 per cent after a spate of lateral partner recruits. The Dewey & LeBoeuf collapse gifted US firms a wave of talent across the world (McDermott being a particular beneficiary). But the fact that Davis Polk has entered the laterals market here shows a determination on the part of even the most conservative firms to pay top dollar for that growth. Milbank has had a bull run of quality laterals while Latham’s trophy hire of David Walker from Clifford Chance (see City column this week) shows a chequebook can prise even the most embedded City partner out of his home. Twenty-three US firms saw UK revenue rises this year.

I don’t want to make it sound too easy for the Yankees; it’s certainly a mixed picture for the green card crew that are classified American by dint of merger. Technically, Dechert ought to be put in this camp since it took over Titmuss Sainer & Webb in the mid-1990s, but the US firm spent much of the following decade ripping up the English practice and starting again.

Other merged outfits have not met with the same success, possibly because they can’t quite stomach that level of ferocity. The former Hammonds was going nowhere before its merger with Squire Sanders, but the merger hasn’t sparked much transformation. It comes bottom of the London RPL table with $360,000.

K&L Gates comes bottom of the London RPP table with $900,000, while Mayer Brown has posted its lowest firmwide turnover and partner profits in six years. It’s unlikely these firms will top our list in 2020 – unless they want to embrace wholesale cultural disruption.