Sweet Sixteen: Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer

Star practices/people

Rev £986m
PEP £1m
RPL £491,000

Global 2,023
London 618
New York 68

With a raft of names such as ­former corporate head Tim Jones, his successor Mark Rawlinson, Will Lawes, Ed Braham and David Higgins on the department’s roster, ­Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer is all but guaranteed a role on more than its fair share of big-ticket deals in Europe. Its client list bears this out: FTSE companies such as Tesco and Wolseley sit alongside private equity names such as Cinven, CVC and Permira.

As if that wasn’t good enough, Freshfields’ German corporate practice boasts an impressive number of DAX30 clients, which came from the firm’s tripartite 2000 German merger.

Finance, of course, is of vital importance to the firm, but it needs work in this area. This was underlined by the hire of White & Case banking stars Maurice Allen and Mike Goetz earlier this year. Their arrival will, ultimately, strengthen Freshfields’ US finance capabilities. Competition is another area where Freshfields is an undisputed market leader, with partners such as Deirdre Trapp leading the charge in ­London.

Top deals
» Defended the London Stock ­Exchange on the £2.7bn Nasdaq bid

» Advised Grupo Ferrovial on its successful battle to take over BAA

» Advised Northern Rock on its pre-nationalisation takeover approaches

Freshfields’ US office is exposed on the structured finance front. In the late 1990s the firm ­focused its energies on building a strong finance team stateside, but more recently that emphasis has shifted to dispute resolution and corporate. However, having been unable to port its corporate practice on a transatlantic basis, it will find it even harder to achieve this with finance, particularly as this practice is not as well established in western ­Europe. International expansion has also stalled slightly in the past two years as Freshfields has restructured its partnership.

Freshfields is one of the leading global brands. The strongest ­offices are London and Germany, but internationalisation is a major focus for management. London office head Tim Jones is working on a project to coordinate the movement of key personnel from London to the rest of the network in anticipation of HQ taking more of a back seat in future fee generation.

New York must be the priority, although at present it doesn’t have enough presence to make much noise in the upper echelons of the domestic corporate market. That said, what it does it does well. The firm’s US operations are highly profitable and last year surpassed London on revenue per lawyer, posting a healthy $1m (£508,000) against £491,000. The coming year may be different.

The verdict
When it comes to corporate, Freshfields is world class, but more work is being done to bring its global strategy ­together. If the firm managed to pull off a good US merger, its ­rivals would quake.