Freshfields pulls ahead in public advice league

City law firms enjoyed a bumper year in mergers and acquisitions business in 1995, earning around £200 million in fees out of a total City take of around £950 million.

In many cases City firms doubled the number of deal instructions compared with 1994 and there looks to be no end in sight to the high level of activity, according to a report in Acquisitions Monthly magazine.

Freshfields took first place in the journal's league table of lawyers acting for either financial advisers or companies in UK public takeovers, pushing Slaughter and May into second place after two years at the top. Freshfields acted in 31 deals worth £32.2 billion against Slaughter's 30 deals worth £29.7 billion.

This compares with Slaughters heading the table in 1994 with 16 deals worth just £4.1 billion, “which clearly highlights last year's boom,” said magazine editor Philip Healey.

Freshfields acted in the five biggest deals of 1995, including a joint role with Theodore Goddard for TSB Group on its £6.1 billion takeover by Lloyd's Bank. The firm was also the sole lawyer to Southern Electric, which beat off a £2.8 billion bid from National Power.

Slaughters stayed top among firms acting for companies only, with 22 deals worth £23.6 billion. Freshfields was close, with 20 deals worth £19.6 billion. Herbert Smith slipped from second to seventh with 14 deals worth £4.5 billion.

Five of the top six performers acted in Glaxo's £9.1 billion takeover of Wellcome. The exception was Linklaters & Paines, in third place with 19 deals worth £20 billion.

Allen & Overy rose from seventeenth to eighth place with 17 deals worth £7.8 billion. Norton Rose and Theodore Goddard climbed to seventh and ninth, compared to eleventh and twentieth last year. Norton Rose achieved a spread of deals, including two defences for Norweb – successfully against US bidders, then in North West Water's successful £1.8 billion offer.

McKenna & Co fell out of the top 20, while Simmons & Simmons slipped from fourth to tenth place, although it more than doubled its deals and almost quadrupled its deal value.