Linklaters loses top M&A spot as law industry struggles

Steve Dinneen
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LAW firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom overtook UK rival Linklaters LLP to advise on the highest value of global mergers and acquisitions last year.

London-based Linklaters LLP fell from first to fifth, according to data collected by Bloomberg.

All of the top five firms advising on mergers and acquisitions worked on fewer deals with less value than last year. Skadden advised on $212.4bn (£132bn) worth of deals, a quarter less than the previous year. Linklaters’ drop was even steeper, down 55 per cent

The total value of deals fell by almost a third to just over $1.7 trillion, the least-active deal market in six years. The previous year clocked up $2.5 trillion and 2007 a record $4 trillion worth of deals.

The deal market fell sharply after the subprime crisis hit and worsened with the collapse of Lehman Brothers. But there were signs of a tentative recovery, with a 54 per cent rise in the fourth quarter last year.

Sullivan & Cromwell, who ranked first for four straight years through 2007 and was second last year, suffered the steepest fall from the top, dropping out of the top 20.

Scott Simpson, co-head of Skadden's global transactions group, told City A.M.: “Our mature global platform has served us well in a year when much if not all M&A was strategic in nature. We expect the upturn in strategic M&A to continue.

“In addition, the capital markets have improved and there is more liquidity so M&A will continue to improve in 2010.”