US Top 50 Firms in London Rank16

Elite New York firm Sullivan & Cromwell is characterised by its ‘generalist’ approach to legal services, a style that might on the face of it sound somewhat downmarket but in reality is anything but. Sullivan & Cromwell, one of the world’s most profitable law firms, has long sat right at the top of the legal market tree, scoring a succession of mandates on the world’s biggest and most complex M&A, disputes, banking deals and governmental matters. Indeed Sullivan & Cromwell’s

Elite New York firm Sullivan & Cromwell is characterised by its ‘generalist’ approach to legal services, a style that might on the face of it sound somewhat downmarket but in reality is anything but. Sullivan & Cromwell, one of the world’s most profitable law firms, has long sat right at the top of the legal market tree, scoring a succession of mandates on the world’s biggest and most complex M&A, disputes, banking deals and governmental matters.

Indeed Sullivan & Cromwell’s close links to the centre of US governmental power were underlined when a number of its lawyers, notably Jay Clayton, who became chairman of the SEC, joined President Trump’s administration.

Recent highlight Sullivan & Cromwell deals in just the space of a few months include representing Amazon in its $13.7bn acquisition of Whole Foods; Kite Pharma in its $11.9bn acquisition by Gilead Sciences; Panera Bread Company in its $7bn acquisition by JAB. The firm also has Wall Street in its DNA (Goldman Sachs is among its best-known longstanding clients while two former Sullivan & Cromwell partners, Gregory Palm and Karen Seymour, are currently the bank’s general counsel and co-general counsel respectively) and as such was front and centre of deals during and following the financial crisis of 2008. Its involvement in the highest-profile disputes continues, with for example the firm recently representing Volkswagen on its diesel emissions cases.

Nevertheless, Sullivan & Cromwell is also generally thought of as being among the more conservative of the top US firms, both in terms of its style and also in its growth strategy. It rarely hires laterally and also eschews bureaucracy, with the lawyers on its management committee also expected to put in a full-time fee-earning stint each year.

The firm was founded by Algernon Sydney Sullivan and William Nelson Cromwell in 1879 and continues to be run along traditional, all equity, single profit pool lines, with transformative cross-border mergers noticeably absent. That said the firm now has around 875 lawyers across 13 offices on four continents: four each in the US and Europe, three in Asia and two in Australia. Its most recent office launch was in Brussels off the back of the hire of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati competition partner Michael Rosenthal. Sullivan & Cromwell entered the London market in 1972 and its City office is now its second largest after New York.

In recent years Sullivan & Cromwell has focused on building out some less high-profile areas including alternative investment management, restructuring, high-yield and leveraged finance, investigations and IP. It has also looked to expand its Greater China practice.