US firms in London now bring in a combined $4.6bn

The UK operations of the 50 largest US firms in the UK generated $4.6bn last year, new research from The Lawyer has revealed.

Four American firms generated in excess of $200m. The results underline the extent to which US firms have made inroads into the UK, and primarily London, legal market.

Gibson Dunn & Crutcher London corporate chair Charlie Geffen said: “There’s no doubt that the top US firms in London have established themselves at the highest end of the [UK] market and will continue to strengthen their position.”

White & Case cemented its position at number one, with a total UK revenue of $290m. The firm took the top position for the first time last year at the expense of Latham & Watkins following years of investment in its London office. Total lawyer headcount at White & Case grew from 342 to 363 last year while partner numbers grew from 89 to 95.

While Latham, static on an estimated $280m, had a more subdued year in comparison with 2015, London managing partner Jay Sadanandan said the firm’s core practices had a good year and grew market share. Indeed, as The Lawyer’s data confirms, Latham continued to grow headcount in 2016, albeit more slowly.

“We hired 12 laterals last year,” said Sadanandan. “The hires fit with our investment in the global platform in areas such as oil and gas, financial services and financial regulatory. They’ve helped us expand our client base in several areas.”

A raft of firms new to The Lawyer’s annual ranking also appear in the list. Brown Rudnick, for example, makes its first ever appearance in The Lawyer’s US ranking. Long known for its restructuring and bankruptcy practice, more recently the US firm has built out its disputes practice in London with litigators, white collar fraud specialists and international arbitration lawyers.

“Litigation and disputes is now around half of the practice here, which is the same as in the US,” said London office head Neil Micklethwaite. “There’s also corporate, primarily focused on the technology, life sciences and early stage funding areas. We act for a range of sources of funds to new business so we work with hedge funds a great deal. It’s why we’re based where we are [unusually for a US firm, Brown Rudnick’s London offices are in Mayfair].”

Similarly Proskauer’s growing London office is notable for a focus on its core area of private credit, reflected by its lateral hires. As London managing partner Mary Kuusisto put it, “our London office is purpose built for the asset management industry and pretty much everyone who works here across all of the groups is here because their work is for, or relates to, that group of clients”.

Bryan Cave, another new entrant this year, reports seeing most growth in its financial services group, which includes traditional banking, acquisition finance and fund finance.

In the last couple of years the firm’s London office, which also focuses on disputes and general corporate and commercial work, has also added corporate trust capability with the hire of Reed Smith partner Helena Nathanson in 2015, and structured finance, via the hire of the Macfarlanes’ head of structured finance and capital markets Rachel Kelly, also in 2015.

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