Litigation nation

Next month’s publication of The Lawyer UK 200 Annual Report is likely to make grim reading for most of the market’s transactional lawyers.

Not so the litigators. As we reveal today in a sneak preview of the annual report, litigators have been waiting in the wings for a while for their time in the sun (see blog). The former Lord Chancellor Charlie Falconer appeared to fire the starting gun for the upswing a year ago when he announced that the collapse of Lehman would trigger an explosion of mega-litigation. In hindsight, Falconer’s crystal ball gazing now looks a little off the mark, but at least the UK’s litigators are now getting busier.

“There has been a steady upturn,” says Clifford Chance London litigation head Nick Munday. “All lawyers are very busy and working at full capacity. There’s a lot of work involving partners, but many clients are trying to evaluate and consider whether to launch proceedings.”

Allen & Overy global litigation head Tim House agrees: “There’s been a rising tide and I’ve been surprised by that, I thought it would be a crashing wave. We do expect it to keep rising for a few years and the international practices to be busy for some time.”

As today’s sneak preview reveals, litigation now accounts for 18 per cent of overall turnover (£232.2m) at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, which was the clear winner at the 2008-09 year end.

The loser? Last year’s number one, Clifford Chance, which has now “right-sized” itself into second place.