LINKLATERS has closed the gap on Slaughter and May at the top of the FTSE100 adviser rankings.

The figures, by financial information provider ­Hemscott, rank law firms by the number of listed clients. In the quarterly rankings top-placed Slaughters has lost two top 100 companies from its roster of 27.

Since February longstanding clients 3i and ­transport operator FirstGroup have dropped out of the FTSE100 following falls in their share prices.

Meanwhile, Linklaters saw its number of top 100 clients remain steady at 24, reducing the gap with Slaughters to one.

Were Linklaters to overtake the City firm in the rankings it would be a major shift in the FTSE hierarchy, with Slaughters the perennial favourite for listed companies.

Linklaters global head of corporate David Barnes says: “I’m glad to hear our clients have remained stable in these turbulent times and that we’ve closed the gap between us and Slaughters.

“What tends not to change is that, over a long period of time, Linklaters and Slaughters have consistently had the largest number of FTSE100 clients, rising and falling slightly in any given period.”

Third-placed firm Herbert Smith is five clients behind Linklaters, despite gaining one company ­during the last quarter.

What has changed is the kind of companies that make up the FTSE100, with financial institutions falling off the bottom of the list during the past 18 months.

They are often replaced by large energy and natural resources companies from abroad, such as Linklaters clients Fresnillo, the Mexican mining group, and Kazakh miner Kazakhmys.

Barnes says: “Many of these are emerging market mining companies that have come to list on London, and part of our strategy has been to position ourselves to work on those larger IPOs and to position ourselves for the corporate relationships going forward.”

The rise of the natural resources company has also helped Norton Rose rise up the table for FTSE100 clients. With its expertise in the sector, the firm gained two clients in the last quarter, rising from twelfth to eighth -the best performance of any firm in the top 20.

One of the new additions was oil and gas company Petrofac, and the firm also counts Drax, the UK’s largest coal power station, among its top 100 clients.

Norton Rose global head of corporate Tim Marsden says: “We have no specific strategy to target FTSE companies, as they already tend to be overlawyered.

“We seek long-term relationships through our focus on specific sectors.”

The firm has, however, targeted large European companies through its presence in Continental Europe. It acts for BNP Paribas, Société Générale and Calyon among others.

Marsden argues that the changing face of the FTSE100 is not necessarily bad news for law firms, adding: “Lawyers do well when things are down and when things are going up. It’s when things are static that lawyers don’t do so well.”

Elsewhere in the rankings, Herbert Smith gained a client when platinum ­producer Lonmin entered the FTSE100 last quarter, remaining in third place with 19 clients.

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer slipped a place to fifth after two of its clients – Wolseley and the London Stock Exchange Group – left the FTSE100.

The sharpest fall in the top 20 was Berwin Leighton Paisner, which dropped from eighth to twelfth place.

In the Hemscott rankings for small cap and fledgling clients, Ashurst recovered the top spot. The firm gained two clients during the last quarter, raising its total to 30 and seeing it overtake Slaughters at the top.

Scottish firm Dickson Minto continued its rise, gaining two clients and bringing its total to 26.

But Slaughters did ­manage to lead the table ranking law firms by the total number of listed clients.
The firm lost one listed client but still took joint first place with Norton Rose. Both firms now have 108 listed clients.

Eversheds, which led the listed clients table in February, lost three companies and dropped to third in the rankings.