Legal Business

‘Investments have come home’: City branches stand out in big year for US players

‘Investments have come home’: City branches stand out in big year for US players

Marco Cillario finds City offices outpacing worldwide growth at many Global London firms

2017 was a boom year for many of the London outposts of US law firms, with several convincingly outpacing their firm’s global performance financially and two passing the $300m mark. And it was not just a frenetic private equity market that boosted the London coffers: many UK teams also picked up headline mandates in areas including disputes and financial restructuring.

White & Case remains the highest-grossing US firm in London thanks to a 13% hike to its top line to $328m in 2017 – a faster growth than its 10% global revenue rise to $1.8bn.

Legal Business

Reborn supremacy – inside the unlikely White & Case revolution

Reborn supremacy – inside the unlikely White & Case revolution

‘Stick that in your pipe and smoke it!’ exclaims Oliver Brettle, White & Case’s London executive partner, before getting up and heading for the door.

Given an amicable discussion of the considerable recent growth of White & Case’s City arm, the reaction to a question about the firm’s disputes practice seems a little abrupt.

Legal Business

Brexit looms yet City law tilts further towards US leaders

Brexit looms yet City law tilts further towards US leaders

Striking numbers abound in this year’s Global London table, if you are into that kind of thing. The three pace-setting US brands in London – Latham & Watkins, Kirkland & Ellis and White & Case – are all generating in the $300m region in the Square Mile, last year saw the first $10m lateral and my back-of-the-envelope scribbling indicates that the top 50 US firms are comfortably pulling in over $5bn in the UK.

The market is increasingly now defined by this trio, predictably so in the case of Latham, though City lawyers are still trying to get their heads around the idea of Kirkland and White & Case as mounting a frontal challenge. A few years ago, I’d have been equally sceptical, particularly in the latter’s case, but if there is a glaring hole in the game plan of these two outfits, they are hiding it well. With all three making ground in mainstream transactional work through 2017 and securing significant hires – the idea that certain kinds of M&A will remain the preserve of City advisers over the next three years looks fanciful.

Legal Business

Freshfields trounces rivals as Global 100 firms release gender pay stats

Freshfields trounces rivals as Global 100 firms release gender pay stats

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has become the penultimate Magic Circle firm to publish statistics on the disparity between male and female employee earnings, performing well ahead of its peers to date.

The firm today (22 March) revealed it pays male staff on average 13.9% more than female fee-earners, a gap which closes to 13.3% when the median figure is taken into account.

While more women than men received a bonus – 64.5% of women compared with 58.9% of men, by value men received 41% on average over the past 12 months, with the median figure standing at 33.3%.

‘There is still a significant amount of work to be done in relation to gender balance’, the firm said in a statement.

But Freshfields has done significantly better than the Magic Circle rivals that have filed their figures so far ahead of the statutory 4 April deadline.

Linklaters did not fare so well, revealing that it paid its male staff members nearly 60% more in bonuses than women. The firm’s female employees were paid on average 23.2% less than male colleagues. The gap widened to 39.1% when the median figure was considered.

Allen & Overy did better, revealing that the firm’s female employees were paid on average 19.8% less per hour than their male counterparts, a gap which widened to 27.4% when the median figure was calculated. Male A&O staff were paid on average more than 42% in bonuses than women for the 12 months to 5 April 2017, with the median bonus figure standing at 23%.

Meanwhile Slaughter and May paid male employees almost 55% more in bonuses compared to women. Men also earned 14% more than women on average, with the gap widening to 38.5% when the figures were considered on a median basis.

Freshfields’ figures for trainee pay show that males receive 6% more than females, with the median figure at 7.39%. For business services roles, men have a 6.23% advantage in pay while women overtake by a 7.77% margin when calculated on a median basis.

Taking into account the upper quartile of fee-earners at Freshfields, men earn 10.4% than female counterparts, while the gap shrinks to 3.6% for the upper-mid quartile. Men in the lower-mid quartile have a 2.7% pay advantage while women have a slight 1.7% advantage in the lower quartile pay band.

It will be interesting to see how Clifford Chance – the remaining Magic Circle firm to file its gender pay statistics before the deadline – compares.

Meanwhile, White & Case has revealed one of the largest gaps in bonus payments to men and women so far – 71%, however the mean figure narrows the gap to 45%. This comes despite a similar number of women and men receiving bonuses at the firm, with 44% of female employees receiving a bonus compared to 46% of men.

The median overall pay gap between men and women stands at 31%, before dropping to 24% when the mean figure is considered. As with many other law firms, White & Case maintains the discrepancy can be explained by the distribution of men and women across different roles at the firm.

Elsewhere, Reed Smith has put additional pressure on rivals by including partners in its pay gap report. The data signals progress at the highest level of the firm, with the mean pay gap between partners standing at 0.83%, with the median figure rising to 8%.

However, the bonus gap between male and female partners stands at 21.5% with the median figure rising to 31% and the overall gender imbalance at Reed Smith shows there is still work to be done, with 77% of partners at the firm being men.

The general statutory data reveals a mean pay gap of 14.8% between men and women across all staff, which rises to 37.1% on a median basis, while the mean bonus gap stands at 27.1%, but drops to 13.2% on a median basis. This gap exists despite 76.9% of female employees receiving bonuses compared to 71.9% of men.

The move from Reed Smith to publish partner data is a rare step and not required under The Equality Act 2010 (Gender Pay Gap Information) Regulations 2017. It follows the move, revealed earlier this week, by the Big Four accountancy firms to reveal their pay gaps for equity partners.

Legal Business

US moves: Freshfields hires DoJ heavyweight while White & Case opens Houston office

US moves: Freshfields hires DoJ heavyweight while White & Case opens Houston office

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has enhanced its US antitrust bench with the hire of veteran Eric Mahr from the Department of Justice (DoJ), while White & Case has established its seventh American office in Houston.

Mahr, who joins Freshfields after serving as director of the well-respected antitrust division at the DoJ, has multiple decades’ worth of experience in antitrust litigation, including cartel follow-on litigation and merger disputes.

Prior to his tenure with the DoJ, Mahr spent 16 years in the antitrust practice of WilmerHale, during which he spent a significant amount of time based in Brussels doing merger review and cartel work before the European Commission. Mahr will be based in Freshfields’ Washington DC office.

US regional managing partner Peter Lyons commented: ‘When it comes to US antitrust litigators, there’s quite simply nobody else who offers the track record that Eric has, and nobody else who can offer our clients in the US and around the world as deep a level of hands-on knowledge.’

Mahr added: ‘Throughout my career, my two greatest interests – international antitrust and US litigation – have always been in some tension with one another; Freshfields provides the unique opportunity to finally bring them together.’

Elsewhere in the US, White & Case (W&C) has launched a four-partner oil and gas office in Houston. Three of the new Houston partners, James Cuclis, Christopher Richardson and Charlie Ofner, have joined W&C from rival firms while the fourth, Saul Daniel, has relocated to the new outpost.

Cuclis joins from US firm Vinson & Elkins and will lead the new office. Richardson and Ofner both arrive from local Houston outfit Andrews Kurth Kenyon, while Daniel will relocate from W&C’s London office.

Philip Stopford, co-head of W&C’s oil and gas group, described Houston as ‘the global capital of the oil and gas industry, with more than 5,000 energy firms doing business in the metropolitan region.’

Dave Koschik, head of W&C’s US growth team, said the firm’s goal is to have at least 15 partners and 50 total lawyers in Houston across the core transactional practices of corporate, finance and projects.

Legal Business

US firms continue City growth as White & Case and Cooley see double-digit revenue spike

US firms continue City growth as White & Case and Cooley see double-digit revenue spike

White & Case’s City office posted revenue of $328m for 2017, a 13% increase on last year’s $290m figure, while Cooley has reached $57.5m in its third year in London. Globally, Sidley Austin has also posted significant revenue and profit growth for 2017.

2017 global revenues for White & Case also saw a substantial boost, standing at $1.8bn, a 10% increase from $1.63bn last year. Profits per equity partner also leapt 10.2% to $2.26m, a 10% rise on $2.05m last year. The number of total equity partners grew by 7% to 319 from 299 the previous year.

London executive partner Oliver Brettle told Legal Business: ‘These results show significant percentage increases, building on already excellent figures. We’ve successfully achieved quality, strong, sustainable growth in 2017 across the board for the firm’s key practice areas, reflecting our investment across those practices.’

‘The results point to the increasing attractiveness of the firm to clients who want to place significant transactions and matters with White & Case’, Brettle added.

Brettle said that among the London office’s standout matters was the £1bn Alfa Financial Software IPO from May 2017, the $10bn refinancing of Wind Tre in November and the $2.73bn Nacala Corridor project in Africa, which was led out of London.

In January last year, White & Case also advised Harbour Energy, the energy investment vehicle managed by EIG Global Energy Partners, on a deal to lead the $3bn acquisition by Chrysaor of a portfolio of oil and gas assets in the North Sea from Shell UK.

Meanwhile 2017 saw three high-profile London hires for the firm in the form of Clifford Chance’s M&A partner Patrick Sarch, capital markets partner Chris McGarry from Ropes & Gray and antitrust partner Marc Israel from Mcafarlanes.

The lateral hiring spree in the City has continued in 2018, including disputes partner Hannah Field-Lowes, who joined on 1 February from Weil, Gotshal & Manges where she was co-head of international dispute resolution. Daniel Turgel joined the firm’s global M&A practice in January from Linklaters and corporate partner Dominic Ross is due shortly to join from Ashurst.

Meanwhile, Cooley’s London outpost recorded an eye-catching 22% revenue growth to $57.5m in its third year of life as the firm’s global turnover passed the $1bn mark.

The Palo Alto-bred firm saw profits per equity partner jump 6% to $2.08m in 2017, while global revenue grew 10% to $1.07bn from $974m  and revenue per lawyer hit $1.2m.

Its London outpost grew revenue by almost a quarter on last year’s $47m despite a relatively quiet 2017 on the lateral market, with the firm adding only one London partner.

‘It was a very busy year, we had some very nice matters both in the transactional and litigation space that kept the office really busy, particularly in the second half of the year,’ London managing partner Justin Stock told Legal Business.

The firm’s capital markets practice was particularly active and the firm claims it did more than 50% of UK companies’ listings on Nasdaq in 2017.

US clients generated about 25% of the firm’s London revenue and Stock said the office had made a contribution to a number of US mandates: ‘It is an advantage to have both the UK and US expertise.’

The firm’s UK and US teams worked together on the $1.1bn acquisition of Apollo Education Group by investors including The Vistria Group, which closed in February last year. Stock said its office had also made a contribution on the Snapchat IPO .

The firm’s only European base, Cooley made a dramatic entrance in London in 2015 with a team of 55 lawyers including 20 partners from Edwards Wildman and Morrison & Foerster.

It has since grown its City headcount to 28 partners and 52 other lawyers through a number of headline hires from global rivals. Stock said he aimed at bringing the headcount to over 100 lawyers in 2018 and to 150 in the next three years.

Cooley recently recruited cross-border deals specialist Michal Berkner from Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and Hogan Lovells head of international products Rod Freeman.

It previously recruited Mayer Brown senior finance partner John Clark and prominent Sullivan & Cromwell litigator Louise Delahunty .

Elsewhere, Sidley Austin has grown both global revenue and PEP for the seventh consecutive year. Global fee income at the US giant rose to $2.04bn, a 6% increase on last year’s $1.93bn.

PEP was up 6% to $2.26m and headcount rose 2% to 1,873 lawyers in a year marked by headline deals such as the recruitment of seven partners from Kirkland & Ellis in Munich last February.

Legal Business

NYLon focus continues as Kirkland and White & Case announce promotion rounds

NYLon focus continues as Kirkland and White & Case announce promotion rounds

Elite US firms ramped up their London partner headcounts in October, with Kirkland & Ellis making up a record 97 new partners – equal to more than 10% of its existing partnership – 13 of them in its fast-growing London base, while White & Case’s more modest 31 included seven in its City arm.

The number of London promotions at Kirkland more than doubled last year’s round and its total tally is up on last year’s 81. The 2,000-lawyer US firm has an unusual model in that it makes up large ranks of salaried partners before considering promotions to its tightly-held equity, which at the end of 2016 totalled 359 of its 820 partners.

Legal Business

Partner promotions: White & Case latest round down almost a third as it continues NYLon focus

Partner promotions: White & Case latest round down almost a third as it continues NYLon focus

White & Case has promoted 31 lawyers to partner, three quarters of them in London and the US, as the firm continues its investment in the City and New York.

Evenly spread between US and EMEA, the promotions – effective on 1 January 2018 – represent a 29% drop on last year’s round, when the firm made up 40 .

Seven of the new partners will be based in London, making up 22% of the promotions, slightly up from last year’s 20%.

‘New York and London are the focus of our 2020 strategy,’ London executive partner Oliver Brettle told Legal Business. He cited the promotions of James Greene and James Hardy as part of the ongoing strengthening of the firm’s capital markets and banking capabilities in the City, and Steven Worthington as an addition to the firm’s ‘phenomenal’ private equity London practice.

Together with Greene, newly appointed M&A partner James Johnson first joined the firm as a London trainee. Kamilla Azamat was named partner in the firm’s City project finance practice, Tim Hickman in IP and Rebecca Shorter in international arbitration.

Brettle added that there was a ‘strong link to London’ with some of the other promotions as well, with new Abu Dhabi project finance partner Alexander Malahias also a former London trainee. Claire Matheson Kirton and Ali Shaikley also joined the UAE partnership in Dubai’s banking and M&A practices respectively.

‘Notwithstanding Brexit, for a global firm having English-qualified lawyers continues to be crucially important,’ said Brettle.

White & Case has the largest City office among US-originated firms for fee-earner headcount according to our Global London 2017 report, the firm will have around 110 partners in London when the promotions take effect.

The 360-lawyer London office recorded 4% revenue growth last year to $290m, a weaker performance compared to the 22% bump in 2015. Globally, turnover grew 7% to $1.63bn, with profits per equity partner up 2% to $2.05m.

This year, the London office acted for PPF Investments on establishing ClearBank and advised Alfa Financial Software on its flotation on the London Stock Exchange (LSE).

And, despite losing its PE co-head Richard Youle to Skadden, Arps, Slate Meagher & Flom, the firm hired Ropes & Gray capital markets partner Chris McGarry this year.

Another Global London firm, Kirkland & Ellis, this month made one of the largest promotion rounds ever, with 13 of its 97 new partners based in the City.

White & Case London promotions in full:

Kamilla Azamat, project finance

James Greene, capital markets

James Hardy, banking

Tim Hickman, IP

James Johnson, M&A (real estate)

Rebecca Shorter, international arbitration

Steven Worthington, M&A (private equity)

Legal Business

As the City elite gets coy on associate salaries, US rivals are winning the battle for young talent

As the City elite gets coy on associate salaries, US rivals are winning the battle for young talent

Madeleine Farman assesses the impact of another round of pay rises on the City market

As US firms continue to hike associate pay for UK lawyers, members of the City’s legal elite are getting increasingly coy over what they are offering their junior ranks… but are such tactics sustainable in the long run?

Legal Business

Life during law: Patrick Sarch, White & Case

Life during law: Patrick Sarch, White & Case

I started at Paisner and then on qualification went off to Norton Rose. I joined Clifford Chance in 2000, which was the big global merger. They were a challenger in M&A. That’s why I chose them.

I started off at Midland Bank in Fleet Street opposite Freshfields. One of six trainees. Later I sent out 86 applications for articles. Four interviews and only one offer would pay my law school. That’s why I went to Paisner.