Celebrating London’s financial and business community and its most successful individuals and firms
Law Firm of the Year
The City’s legal sector continues to power ahead even in the face of great changes. From litigation to M&A the market is competitive with disruption coming from startups, big audit firms and high-performing US entrants. Nevertheless some of the City’s traditional players have put in outstanding performances in 2019.
Kirkland & Ellis
Chicago upstart Kirkland retained its crown as the largest law firm in the world by revenue this year, revealing a 19 per cent jump in turnover to $3.76bn. Profit per equity partner passed $5m for the first time after growth of seven per cent. London remains one of the firm’s fastest growing offices and it continued to build an impressive bench this year with big hires from Magic Circle rivals. Key deals this year include advising a consortium on its $10.1bn acquisition of Nestle’s skin care arm and acting for real estate investor Gazit-Globe on its €1.4bn takeover of Atrium European Real Estate.
Since floating on the Alternative Investment Market (Aim) in June 2018 Knight’s share price has rocketed 70 per cent. Its maiden full-year results to the stock market this July showed a 50 per cent increase in revenue and a 26 per cent increase in profit before tax, giving a further boost to investors. Knights has been an enthusiastic innovator, early to adopt a corporate, non-partnership structure, one of the first firms to take on board private equity investment and one of the first UK law firms to float. The firm has a clear strategy – to build the leading legal services business outside London. This year it has used its financial firepower to acquire law firms in Oxford and Leicester, and has invested more cash into its base in Manchester.
Eversheds has thrived since sealing a transatlantic merger in 2017 with Atlanta-headquartered Sutherland Asbill and Brennan, recording two years of strong revenue and profit growth. Revenue at the firm’s non-US business grew 11 per cent in 2018-19, following a 13 per cent increase the previous year. Profit per equity partner grew nine per cent to £886,000 following growth of 12 per cent the previous year. Highlights this year include winning a sole adviser mandate to counsel Dyson on privacy issues for three years and acting for Pollen Street Capital on its acquisition of forex firm Infinity International.
City stalwart Ashurst endured a tricky few years following its 2012 merger with Australian firm Blake Dawson. However, its management team has led an impressive turnaround with a decision to focus on its core strengths – banks and funds, energy and resources, real estate, infrastructure and digital economy – paying off with a run of strong results. In 2018-19 the firm delivered its third consecutive year of growth, boosting revenue 14 per cent to £641m with profit per equity partner up 31 per cent to £972,000. Recent highlights include advising long-time clients Transport for London on the sale and leaseback of Elizabeth lines trains and signing a multi-year deal to act as legal adviser to racing car manufacturer McLaren.
Latham & Watkins
US giant Latham continued to attract strong hires to its City office from rivals on both sides of the pond in 2019 as it rounds out its impressive offering. Figures published earlier this year show double-digit global revenue growth (up to $3.8bn) with the London office growing at an even faster rate. Profit per equity partner rose six per cent to $3.45m. Recent deals the London office has worked on include advising private equity firm BC Partners on a pharmaceutical carve-out M&A deal and acting for food processing firm Marel on its €2.82bn float on Euronext Amsterdam.
- 2018: Macfarlanes
- 2017: Kirkland & Ellis
- 2016: Allen & Overy
- 2015: Latham & Watkins
- 2014: Shearman & Sterling
- 2013: Freshfields
- 2012: Norton Rose
- 2011: Freshfields
- 2010: Slaughter and May
This category was introduced at the inception of the first City A.M. Awards in 2010.