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And the most upwardly mobile law firm is? Client feedback pushes Latham to the top of Legal 500’s US edition

Often hailed as one of the greatest US success stories of the last 25 years, new research underlines the elevated position Latham & Watkins has attained in the world’s largest legal market.

The Legal 500 United States 2013 edition shows Latham as the highest ranked law firm judged by the total number of recommendations, putting the Los Angeles-bred giant ahead of a string of top Wall Street firms.

The 600-partner firm received recommendations in 55 practice areas. Recommendations are calculated by the research team of The Legal 500 based on client and peer feedback and the submissions of the firms themselves, and take into account multiple factors including track record in winning cases, the complexity of deals and innovation. Latham received 20 top-tier recommendations, including listings in areas such as capital markets (equity offerings and high-yield debt offerings), project finance (lenders and sponsors), energy (renewable and transactions) and telecoms and broadcast (regulatory and transactional).

Sidley Austin came out in second place for total recommendations, with 52 listings. Only shortly behind in third place with 51 total recommendations was New York’s Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, followed by Morrison & Foerster with 49. Fifth-ranked Covington & Burling had 44 recommendations, with the latter benefiting from the sharp increase in regulatory work in its Washington DC heartland.

The picture is different when it comes to top-tier recommendations, with Latham leading the pack just ahead of a group of elite New York law firms. Simpson Thacher & Bartlett came out in second place with 17 top-tier recommendations, Skadden in third place with 16, and Davis Polk & Wardwell and Sullivan & Cromwell followed with an equal 14.

Notably, Hogan Lovells, which as pre-merger Hogan & Hartson had 14 recommendations in 2009, now occupies 13th position in the total recommendations table with 36 listings and joint tenth for top-tier recommendations with seven listings.

The recently published findings also underline the continued relative lack of penetration by London’s top firms in the US. In 37th place, Clifford Chance, with established offices in New York and Washington DC, is the highest-ranking Magic Circle firm for total recommendations. Allen & Overy ranks 68th, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer in 71st place and Linklaters in 84th place.

The Legal 500 currently ranks just over 300 leading law firms in the US. The Legal 500 publishing director David Burgess commented: ‘If you think how long it’s taken for the Magic Circle firms to get a foothold in the US, it doesn’t bode well for Herbert Smith Freehills in New York. Considering their size, quality and global footprint, it’s clear that the Magic Circle firms are not resonating as well with clients as they would expect, or like to.’