Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan has lost its place as the top-ranked firm for disputes income, after another US giant posted a total litigation revenue of nearly $1.3bn.

Kirkland & Ellis has secured the number one spot for the first time, after posting a total disputes revenue of $1.266bn.

Rank 2018 Rank 2017 Firm Disputes revenue ($m) 
1 2 Kirkland & Ellis  1,266.0
2 1 Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan  1,229.8
3 4 Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom*  1,213.7
4 3 Jones Day*  1,175.6
5 5 DLA Piper  1,080.0
6 7 Morgan Lewis*  1,000.5
7 6 Sidley Austin  971.7
8 8 Gibson Dunn & Crutcher  919.8
9 10 Latham & Watkins  919.2
10 9 Baker McKenzie  867.8


Kirkland is one of only two firms in this year’s top five that has consistently posted an increase in litigation revenue over the past five years. The other is Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom, which has ramped up significantly in areas such as white collar fraud, particularly in London, in recent years.

Under the skin of the $30bn global disputes market

But in 2015 Kirkland all but caught and overtook Skadden in terms of global disputes revenue, posting $1.129bn to Skadden’s $1.133bn. A year later Kirkland inched up one more place to second behind Quinn Emanuel, until its 2017 performance saw it leave all of its rivals in its wake.

In this year’s Global Litigation 50 the firm reported an increase in a wide range of matters such as complex shareholder disputes and joint venture-related litigation, a rise in corporate identity fraud, impersonation and hacking, an increase in investment treaty disputes, an increase in state attorney general actions in the US, and a rising number of sexual harassment lawsuits and complaints associated with the #metoo movement.

“We are providing clients with risk management assessments, reviews of compliance procedures and SEC disclosure requirements, insight into possibilities of derivative and class action lawsuits, and communication management advice,” comments the firm on the latter and most recent trend. “We are also advising certain clients with active litigation and government investigations in this regard.”

Other major matters for Kirkland over the past year have included representing a group of Mexican investors in claims against the government of Spain for multiple breaches of the Mexico-Spain bilateral investment treaty; representing Syngenta in multidistrict litigation in more than 3,500 lawsuits alleging false advertising related to its commercialisation of a genetically-modified corn seed in the US and in China; and representing Allergan in various state and federal governmental investigations, congressional inquiries, and civil suits in multiple courts related to its sale and marketing of opioid pain killers.

Kirkland wouldn’t be Kirkland if its year didn’t feature some major lateral hires, and the past 12 months was no exception. Notable arrivals include a five-partner enforcement team from Ropes & Gray in the US, London, and Hong Kong in August 2017 (including Chicago managing partner and global anti-corruption and international risks co-chair Asheesh Goel), as well as approximately 20 other related attorneys; the hire of Richard Sharpe in Hong Kong from Clifford Chance as part of the growth of the international risk team in Asia; that of Nicola Dagg, the head of Allen & Overy’s IP litigation practice in London, to establish an IP litigation practice in Europe; the lateral recruitment of Aaron Marks and Joshua Greenblatt in New York from Kasowitz Benson Torres to focus on multinational financial institutions in suits and arbitrations involving securities and financial products; and most recently the hire of Sandra Goldstein, the former head of litigation at Cravath Swaine & Moore and Stefan Atkinson (a Cravath litigation associate) in New York.

The total value of disputes handled by firms ranked by revenue in The Lawyer’s Global Litigation 50 2018 edition rose by 6 per cent during the most recent financial year from $29.023bn to more than $30bn. The total has now grown by 17.6 per cent over the past five years from $26.164bn in 2013.

The Lawyer’s Litigation Top 50  2018 report is now available to buy. Contact market.reports@thelawyer.com to purchase a copy.