A&O beats Freshfields as Slaughters remains top firm for FTSE100 clients

Allen & Overy

(A&O) has overtaken Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer in the number of FTSE100 clients it can lay claim to, according to the latest quarterly rankings from Hemscott.

With two new clients A&O has moved up to third place in the rankings, knocking Freshfields out of the top three.

A&O global head of corporate Richard Cranfield told The Lawyer: “Clients can slip in and out of the FTSE100 and it has nothing to do with us, but I’m not going to say I’m not happy about our ranking.”

Longstanding client Cable & Wireless moved back into the FTSE100 from the FTSE250 in December 2006, while A&O won Alliance Boots as a ‘new’ client following the merger of Alliance UniChem and Boots. For its part, Freshfields was the only firm in the top five to lose a FTSE100 client this quarter, which reduced its number to 18. This was due to PartyGaming sliding down to the FTSE250.

Freshfields global head of corporate Tim Jones believes that in general the last quarter has been very healthy for the firm, saying: “We’re very pleased. The year to date is looking very robust.” Clifford Chance was the only magic circle firm not in the top five ranked by number of FTSE100 clients, and its loss of two clients pushed it down to joint eighth place in that chart and to sixteenth place by total number of stock market clients.

Slaughter and May retained its position as the UK boardroom’s favourite, and has won two new FTSE100 clients to increase its lead over its nearest competitor Linklaters by five.

Birmingham-headquartered Martineau Johnson was a new entry in the top 20 firms with FTSE100 clients, bagging two this quarter.

With the exception of transatlantic firm Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw, Davis Polk & Wardwell was the only US-headquartered firm to make the list of top 20 firms ranked by number of FTSE100 clients. Considering the London office still has no English law capability, the result is even more impressive. Davis Polk counts the Royal Bank of Scotland and AstraZeneca as clients.

Davis Polk London-based corporate partner Tom Reid said: “We’ve put a premium on partner continuity in the office, so people are here for 10 years and more, advising clients on all their US needs and getting as close to them as their English advisers. But also, if you look at our client list, there’s a strong bias towards sectors where being in the US is inevitable. Forget Sarbanes-Oxley, if you’re a pharmaceutical company or a financial institution, you need to be in the US.”

A&O also managed to beat Freshfields in the total number of stockmarket clients it represents (on both FTSE and AIM), claiming 65 to Freshfields’ 60. This pushed A&O into, and Freshfields out of, the top 10 (see table).

Over the last quarter A&O has won seven new stockmarket clients in all, the most of any entrant other than new leader Norton Rose and Travers Smith, which jumped to fourteenth place from sixteenth by winning eight new clients.

Those eight new clients marked the biggest gain of any firm in the top 20. Travers head of corporate finance Spencer Summerfield told The Lawyer: “We’ve had a push over the past 18 months to goafter listed PLCs as new clients. A few years ago we lost a number of clients because they got taken over, so there was a push to fill the gap. The hope is that, during the next recession, we’ll be in a better place by doing restructurings and the like for our clients rather than relying on purely transactional work, which is what historically we’ve been known for.”

New clients that Travers has won include LSL Property Services, which listed last November with a £200m market capitalisation, and North Irish media company UTV.