Covington & Burling

Covington & Burling” />Global turnover: $380m (£193.59m)
Profit per equity partner: $975,000 (£496,700)
Chairman: Stuart Stock
Number of lawyers: 604
Number of partners: 158
Main practice areas: Communications and media, corporate, international trade, IP, life sciences, litigation, dispute resolution, regulatory
Clients: AstraZeneca, Bacardi, Giorgio Armani, GlaxoSmithKline, Microsoft, Pantheon, Procter & Gamble, Société Générale
Number of offices: Five
Locations: Brussels, London, New York,San Francisco, Washington DC

Covington & Burling is one of those solid, full-service national firms that needs no introduction in the US but suffers from a lack of visibility over here. This lack of visibility is perhaps unfair, though, given its headline-grabbing clients such as Microsoft, which it represents on both sides of the Atlantic.

Of course most US firms can lay claim to an impressive roster of US clients, but Covington has also worked hard to get on some innovatively structured deals for European clients, such as advising Galapagos on its takeover of BioFocus, the first acquisition of an AIM-listed company by a Euronext-listed company.

In the US a lack of visibility is the last thing the firm needs to worry about. Covington was one firm that came under fire from Charles ‘Cully’ Stimson, the former deputy assistant secretary for detainee affairs, who in a radio broadcast encouraged corporate clients of Covington and other firms to fire their lawyers because they were representing ‘terrorists’.

Covington came out glowing from the fracas, while Stimson had to step down.

Covington chairman Stuart Stock will not comment specifically on the matter, but does say: “The Guantanamo cases are part of our pro bono practice. One element of that is that we see ourselves as a professional organisation rather than a corporate entity. We see that our obligation is to provide the best possible legal services to those who can’t afford them.”

That tradition extends to World War II and the US internment of its Japanese citizens, when Covington also represented detainees.

To boost both its presence and profile over here Covington has made some key lateral hires, not least Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld special consultant and former Dutch politician Wim van Velzen, who will advise Covington’s US clients on EU policy out of Brussels. In London last year the firm launched an international arbitration capability by hiring former Coudert Brothers partner Robert Pietrowski. The office specialises in corporate, IP, life sciences, litigation and regulatory.

“We’ve been consistently growing our presence in London for a while,” says Stock. In addition to the recent lateral hires, in November 2006 three London associates were made up to the firm’s all-equity partnership out of 10 firmwide.

The 50-strong office also appointed a new managing partner in 2006 in corporate partner Edward Britton. His main priority is continuing Covington’s growth strategy, focusing on the junior end. “Our trainee programme has just yielded our first associates and we have a really strong core of associates right now,” says Britton.