Gibson Dunn & Crutcher fought off stiff competition from firms such as White & Case and Dentons to win The Lawyer Awards’ international firm of the year title.
Gibson Dunn wins for delivering on a clear strategy of building a broad-based, international disputes and transactional offering in London on a US platform, which City corporate chair Charlie Geffen says helps it to “offer top-quality US capital markets and regulatory advice”.
“We’re doing it slightly differently in that we are not building it just around private equity and capital markets, important though these are,” he adds.
Instead, the firm is aiming solidly at high-end work and has made a series of significant senior appointments in the past 18 months from the likes of Ashurst, Herbert Smith Freehills and Kirkland & Ellis. The appointment were geared towards building Gibson Dunn’s English law capability and continuing to secure the firm’s future expansion, after it doubled its City office space from 35,000 sq ft to 75,000 sq ft in the past year.
“In London, we have been thoughtful about what we want to do,” says finance co-chair Stephen Gillespie. “We have hired people with the professional profile and personal characteristics that are aligned to the firm’s culture and I don’t think anyone has found it a difficult transition.”
Gillespie says there has been a “huge effort” on the management side to support new joiners despite the geographical distance between Los Angeles and London. Gibson Dunn recently expanded its international network even further after recruiting a Latham & Watkins partner duo for its second German office in Frankfurt. This is in line with the firm’s plan to “build a broader corporate and finance base”, says Gillespie, with both partners practising in those areas.
“Germany is an important market and if you’re serious about the country, you’ve got to be in Frankfurt too,” says Geffen. “It’s all part of the joined-up plan.”
Gibson Dunn has grown throughout the year and posted its 20th year of record revenue of $1.53bn. Average profits per partner also increased to around $3.19m, with London playing an important part in its consistent growth.
Despite the firm’s success, Geffen still admits: “We’ve got a long way to go and we’re pleased, but not satisfied.” However, the work and investments it has made in the past year demonstrate its international capability and make it a worthy winner of this category.
Gibson Dunn prides itself on its low-leverage model, with 22 partners to 65 lawyers in London. The firm believes clients prefer this way of working because they can get the advice they need from the firm’s most senior lawyers.
“Our low-leverage model means clients have more time with partners, which is more efficient and attractive to clients both here and around the world,” says Geffen. “It also helps that US clients have a preference for working with US firms.”
Client relationships and key deals
The success of Gibson Dunn’s strategy is borne out in an enviable deal and case list from the past year.
The firm’s litigation mandates include advising UBS on global foreign exchange investigations and acting for Asda and its parent Walmart on a major equal pay claim, which is currently at the tribunal stage.
On the transactional front, Gibson Dunn acted for Towers Watson on its $18bn merger of equals with insurance giant Willis, picking up the mandate thanks to its knowledge of both the UK and US markets.
It is representing new client Gala Coral on competition aspects related to its merger with Ladbrokes, as well as brick maker Forterra on its listing on the London Stock Exchange.
In private equity, Gibson Dunn advised funds managed by Oaktree Capital Management in the sale to Blackstone Real Estate Partners of 6m sq ft of UK logistics assets owned by a joint venture between Oaktree and Anglesea Capital.
Gibson Dunn’s approach in London appealed to The Lawyer Awards’ judges, who say the firm has a “clear US and UK-focused strategy”.
They agree that the firm’s platform has enabled it to win “good deal mandates” over the past year, including Markit and Gala Coral.
“Gibson has had some good client wins,” one judge says. “It continues to capitalise on the lateral hires of 2014.”