Sweet Sixteen: Slaughter and May

Star practices/people
Think Slaughter and May, think corporate. Think Slaughters
corporate, think Nigel ­Boardman, Chris Saul, Frances Murphy, William Underhill, Steve Cooke…

The firm’s corporate practice accounts for around half of total revenue and is a top-notch department in a first-class firm. Slaughters is undoubtedly the best connected of all the City players and acts for an incredible list of FTSE100 clients, not to mention institutions such as JPMorgan Cazenove and
Goldman Sachs.

The corporate focus spills over into the firm’s other areas of strength, with its restructuring practice being very much ­corporate-led. Star names in this area are Charles Randell, who also happens to be Mr Government (the nationalisation of Northern Rock was just one entry on a very long list of government ­mandates), and Jonathan ­Rushworth. The ­financial institution litigation practice is another standout.

Although Slaughters likes to think of itself as a full-service firm, there are certain areas, such as TMT, where its strength fails to show. For a firm with a pretty much flawless history, launching a TMT practice as the dotcom bubble burst was more than a little foolish.

Its dependence on FTSE clients looked shaky last year as private equity mushroomed, but post-credit crunch the strategy remains robust.

Slaughters’ lack of an ­international footprint could also become an issue in the long term although to date this has been far from a drawback.

The firm’s network of European best friends has served it well. Its strong links have paid off in recent years, with Slaughters winning a role alongside Spain’s Uría ­Menéndez (and De Brauw ­Blackstone Westbroek) advising Santander as part of the ­consortium whose high-profile e71bn (£47.7bn) buyout of ABN Amro completed successfully last year.

However, it is Slaughters’ ­relationships on the US side of the Atlantic that really makes its rivals weep. Cravath Swaine & Moore, Davis Polk & Wardwell, Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, Sullivan & Cromwell and Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz are all regular ­collaborators.

The verdict
Although Slaughters only has on-the-ground presences in ­Brussels, Hong Kong and Paris, its international reach is ­arguably as strong as any multijurisdictional players. Other firms have been forced to take more risks. Why? Because they aren’t Slaughter and May.