The headline of the last lengthy piece Legal Business carried on Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer said it all: The Last Champions. While there is no doubt that the Magic Circle has faced huge challenges asserting itself since the banking crisis, for many Freshfields was the member of the club with the best prospect of securing its place in the global elite.
But the City giant will be faring much worse on the profession’s saloon bar test if it keeps generating headlines like this summer, notably the news in July that co-managing partner Chris Pugh was stepping down less than halfway through his term. This surprise announcement came in the same month as financial results showed Freshfields being comprehensively outclassed by its City peers. Freshfields’ revenues have grown by just 17% in five years and the firm has been a fitful performer for nearly a decade now. While the metrics look better in profitability and revenue-per-lawyer terms, Freshfields has certainly not outpaced London rivals even on its core targets.