The entries have been assessed and our research completed: we are now delighted to reveal our International Firm of the Year for the 2020 Legal Business Awards.
This award acknowledges leading independent non-UK or US law firms – operating onshore or offshore – in mainland Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia, Australasia, the Middle East and Africa. Key factors taken into account by our judges include a clear demonstration of growing market share, a well-conceived business strategy, stellar financial performance, strong management, a successful recruitment and retention strategy and a significant client development programme.
Winner – BonelliErede
Slaughter and May’s Italian ally, BonelliErede, laid claim to moving ahead of its competitors with a key strategic move last summer – taking over litigation and corporate independent, Lombardi e Associati.
It was undoubtedly a significant move in an Italian legal market traditionally used to schisms. The merger sees Bonelli strengthen its position as the largest of the country’s three champions, growing its lawyer headcount by 70 to more than 500. It almost doubles Bonelli’s disputes ranks, adding 40 lawyers to hit 100. The rest of the legacy Lombardi team is split across restructuring, M&A, intellectual property, administrative law and banking.
Management at Bonelli – led by president Stefano Simontacchi – is now bullish about its prospects in a market where the litigation scene has traditionally been dominated by small boutiques, claiming that a general counsel or a company that has a major litigation issue will make Bonelli its first port of call. For Lombardi – a highly regarded disputes boutique – tying up with an institution secures its future in an Italian legal market that is consolidating fast.
In a static market where the big three firms are to an extent dominated by patriarchs, Bonelli has emerged with a clear strategy of innovation and internationalisation. While it is clear to point out that it is not pursuing growth at all costs its recent moves have demonstrated an ambition that could move it ahead of its competitors.
Highly commended – Noerr
Well respected by peers and a previous winner in this category, German market-leader Noerr has a solid track record of revenue growth over the last decade, having more than doubled its turnover from €105.8m in 2009. Its most recent financial performance was particularly strong, increasing turnover by 13% to €229.4m while revenue per lawyer rose 6% to €542,000.
To drive its goals of remaining at the forefront of its home market, Noerr has continued to invest significantly over the past 18 months, especially through strengthening in corporate, litigation and regulatory through partner promotions and lateral hires, as well as pressing ahead with the modernisation of the infrastructure and digitalisation of the firm.
BDGS was formed in 2013 by four former Gide Loyrette Nouel partners who believed that a small, transactions-focused player had more chance of success than a large firm. The 35-lawyer practice has quickly established itself as the strongest domestic challenger to local leaders Bredin Prat and Darrois Villey Maillot Brochier.
De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek
Considered the top independent law firm in the Netherlands, De Brauw turned over €174m in 2018, thanks to the contribution of key players such as corporate head Arne Grimme and working with the likes of Slaughter and May on Takeaway.com’s $10bn acquisition of Just Eat.
Mason Hayes & Curran
As the only elite Irish firm to disclose its financial performance, Mason Hayes has doubled turnover in six years to December 2018, with revenue growing 8% to €82m. Evidence of growing market share in Dublin can be seen from eight lateral hires from direct competitors in two years.
A serious challenger to the Spanish legal elite, Pérez-Llorca is recognises by local and international firms in Madrid as an important competitor, not just for Spanish clients. The numbers confirm this: the firm grew revenue by 30% to €52m in 2018, following a 20% growth the previous year.
Cementing its position as the top Spanish independent firm, recent mandates included advising Abertis on the $19bn takeover by Atlantia – the fourth-largest European deal in 2018, contributing to the firm hitting €240m in global revenues in 2018.