Global London – Part of the game

It’s been a challenging period for European firms, but a growing band of players see a substantive City presence as core to their future prospects

Top-tier French outfit Gide Loyrette Nouel is the only continental European firm ever to have made our list of the 50 largest foreign firms in London and its fortunes in the Capital in recent years tell the story of many international firms post-Lehman. In 2008, it had 45 lawyers in the City. By 2013, this had fallen to 34. This is against a backdrop of poor financial performance in recent years, with turnover dropping 30% from £7.8m to £5.5m in the 2011/12 financial year, alongside a gross profit drop of 63% from £3.8m to £1.4m.

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Converging in on an end game for Global London

Remember convergence? In the 1990s’ tech boom the concept was all the rage. It was the simple idea that rapidly-advancing communications would see once-discrete platforms and information systems like TV, the printed word and telephones merge and dynamically share data in an economically seismic fashion.

What happened next says a lot about human nature, business and the whimsy of prediction. The internet bubble burst and such utopian visions were suddenly crazy. One received wisdom replaced another. Except convergence was one of the most accurate forecasts ever made about industry – it just took technology another three years to catch up with the hype. The fundamentals prevailed.

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Positional play

Legal Business looks at five US firms that have recently made strategic moves in the City

With the collapse of Dewey & LeBoeuf, for many US law firms in London 2012 was about opportunism and securing what few advances a turbulent market offered. Nonetheless, a growing band of US-bred advisers are making their mark in the Square Mile. While overall numbers tend to obscure the progress of US practices in London as a whole, recent years have seen a growing band of firms make significant tactical inroads in areas as diverse as funds, litigation and debt securities.

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US firms on the march as Global London headcount rises

Foreign firms in London made bulking up their senior ranks their key priority in 2012, with average partner headcount hitting an all time high, according to the 11th annual Legal Business Global London survey.

The overall number of partners at Global London firms climbed from 1,296 in 2011 to 1,325, proving that the Capital is still one of the most vital legal markets in the world. The top 50 foreign firms in London by headcount added an extra 29 partners to their respective firms compared to last year, with lateral hiring as the main reason for growth.

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End games

The 11th annual Legal Business Global London survey shows that US firms in the City are playing to win. UK rivals should watch every move.

Lock up your associates. Chain down your partners. The Americans still want to take your lawyers (and lunch). This year’s Global London survey emphatically confirms that leading US law firms are firmly back in growth mode in the City. Fifteen firms have seen headcount rise by more than 10% compared to 2011, while overall headcount across the 50 firms is up 2.6% on last year to 4,382.

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Global London – No stone unturned

LB ventures beyond the established elite to highlight five practices blazing a trail in the City.

The need to differentiate in the market is paramount. Some firms have always been good at it, while others have struggled and floundered.

There is a group of US firms in the City that has now established its strengths. Using the benefit of large US platforms, these firms have, over time, built impressive offerings in the City, be it in IP, energy, regulation or litigation.

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Global London – London Broncos

While generally international law firms in London have remained static, there have been a handful of US firms that have continued to shine. LB tracks the most aggressive performers in London in the past 12 months.

There must be a lot of empty desks over at Hunton & Williams’ office in London’s Gherkin. Over the course of a few short weeks in April and May last year the US firm lost virtually its entire transactional team, after a partner exodus saw the 35-strong office dwindle to just 13 lawyers (although insiders say that the number is closer to eight) by the close of 2011.

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