Sweet sixteen: Allen & Overy

Star practices/people

Rev £887m
PEP £1.025m
RPL £472,000

Global 1,879
London 893
New York 158

Allen & Overy (A&O) was one of the first UK firms to target the senior lender market in the early 1990s and did so with the ­greatest success. And for years that has defined its place in the UK market. It has also been buoyed by its leading UK insolvency practice and its top-tier derivatives and projects expertise. A&O was also one of the first firms to establish and cement its expertise in Islamic finance.

Now with a roll call of almost all the big-name banks and partners such as Stephen Kensell in banking, Boyan Wells in capital markets and David Krischer in securitisation, A&O is one of the mightiest UK firms for finance.

The London corporate ­practice, although not on par with finance, has started to push on during the past two years with star partners such as Andrew Ballheimer and Alan Paul.

Top deals
» ABN Amro on the £50.2bn Royal Bank of Scotland-led takeover

» Iberdrola on the £12bn takeover of Scottish Power

» Imperial Tobacco on the £11bn takeover of Altadis

A&O’s New York corporate group notably scooped a place on General Electric’s (GE) M&A panel in 2006. With Weil ­Gotshal & Manges it is one of only two panel firms to secure a place on all three of GE’s US, Europe and Asia groups.

Many of the non-transactional practice areas such as litigation and arbitration in London are high quality, but the teams are not of a sufficient size and ­international breadth to worry most transatlantic contenders.

Conservative A&O has fallen ­behind the rest of the magic ­circle in international reach, ­despite its US investment (and relative ­visibility). It is less prominent in many European markets than its magic circle ­rivals. This has ­hampered the firm’s ambitions with global clients and international expansion, ­especially as the ­dividing lines between ­investment banks, private equity and finance ­dissolved over the past decade. A&O’s magic circle rivals Clifford Chance, Freshfields Bruckhaus ­Deringer and ­Linklaters look more rounded.

A&O is represented in 20 ­countries and several emerging markets. Its Benelux bureaux are among the most-rounded and respected of all the international firms’ there, even in corporate. In fact, it is still Benelux rather than London that has traditionally powered much of A&O’s ­European ­corporate strength in jurisdictions such as Germany.
The firm has grown into a semi-respectable outfit (for an alien) of around 150 lawyers in New York, with a noted derivatives practice. But this is still not enough to win the most serious US ­corporate instructions.

The verdict
A&O’s finance strength is ­undoubted, but it still has patchy coverage in certain ­jurisdictions, notably Central and Eastern ­Europe. Plus the firm still has numerous practice area holes to plug and New York to sort out if it is to rise to the top of the transatlantic tree.