The Leader Column

If your edition of The Lawyer seems even more weighty than usual, it’s because it contains this year’s The Lawyer 100. (And if it’s not in your issue, then someone’s nicked it.)

This year associate editor Dearbail Jordan led a team that investigated fees and profits for the top 100 firms, the top 20 US firms in London and the top 30 barristers’ chambers, as well as delivering detailed analyses on their individual performances.

We have added three new elements this year. First, we have put together a breakdown of the top-grossing corporate, banking, litigation and real estate departments – something that we will be expanding upon in the coming weeks. There are a few surprises. Would you have believed that Freshfields beats Linklaters in both the corporate and banking revenue tables? Or that DLA performs so well in the real estate revenue table?

Second, and with the help of German legal magazine JuVe Rechtsmarkt, we have compiled the first ever report into the financial performances of the top 20 firms in Germany. Significantly, only a handful are still independent, which shows the extent of UK and US dominance.

Third, we have put together a London revenues table, which also investigates London-only profits for the larger firms. Most interesting is the fact that two US firms – Weil Gotshal and Shearman & Sterling – both make it into the City top 30, with £40.9m and £47m in revenues respectively.

What all this research shows is that there are incremental power shifts in the City. For instance, there is a strong argument that Camerons should be considered in the same grouping as traditional City stalwarts such as Norton Rose and Simmons, at least. Its profitability is easily comparable, its European network (particularly the Anglo-German axis) is strong and its M&A stock is rising.

The Lawyer 100 also shows that it is not just a question of whether Herbert Smith is in the magic circle (it isn’t), but whether Slaughters should be in it either. The magic circle as currently constituted is not a cohesive fivesome; it is four-plus-one, with Slaughters the Sunday driver of the group. It is our belief that Slaughters can no longer be meaningfully compared with the big four of Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Freshfields and Linklaters. With the big four deriving 54 per cent of their combined revenues from overseas offices, Slaughters’ Wachtell-like model leaves it increasingly isolated. Super firm and all that, but is it a case of fading glory? We’re just asking.