White & Case was the standout performer in this year’s Global London survey after topping the charts in headcount but also posting a strong year with revenues touching £185m ($266m), placing the firm ahead of last year’s star performer Latham, which is only slightly behind with £183m ($263m).
Despite flat growth globally, White & Case was up 22% in City revenue and increased headcount by almost a fifth in just a year, making it the largest international firm in London with 420 fee-earners.
The majority of the firm’s recent growth in the capital has come from boosting its associate ranks, in line with the firm’s 2020 strategy, which aims to have over 500 lawyers in London in four years. However, the firm also made up eight London associates to partner in its latest promotion round.
White & Case also bumped up the number of training contracts it offers, which is set to increase its trainee intake from 30 a few years ago to 50. Lawyer numbers at the firm now sit ahead of the sizeable Baker & McKenzie and Dentons, which comprise the largest teams in the City.
‘It remains a tough market for midmarket UK firms,’ says London executive partner Oliver Brettle (pictured). ‘High yield was challenging in the back end of 2015, but it remains an important area for us. We are growing our links across the white-collar practice in the UK, France, Germany and the US. Global investigations is a growth area – this is not going to decline any time soon.’
Latham – currently the world’s largest law firm by revenue – increased London headcount by just 5% in 2015 compared to 16% in 2014.
Such a deceleration in fee-earner growth was inevitable given Latham’s tendency to set the pace for London growth among US firms in recent years. But the firm’s City figures reveal that rivals can far from relax as the firm posted a 12% turnover rise last year bringing in £183m. This was despite the firm seeing a slowdown in capital markets work.
Latham London head Jay Sadanandan said: ‘The volume of work may have slowed in capital markets and banking, but litigation was busy. There is a fair amount of uncertainty and this has led to a slower start this year but the quality of our mandates is increasing.’
Last year was a slow year for Latham firmwide, as its global revenues came in more or less flat, growing just 2% to $2.65bn (£1.84bn) after surging 14% in 2014.