White & Case takes the most ground in London

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Nov 17, 2017
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For years American firms have been more successful in Britain than vice versa

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White & Case, one of New York’s elite breed of old “white shoe” law firms, has been the most aggressive US legal practice in London over the last 17 years in terms of headcount.

The firm – which grew its UK revenue by 3.6 per cent last year – has added 323 lawyers to its Square Mile office since 2000. The firm is currently home to 384 lawyers in the capital.

That figure was nearly was about 50 per cent larger than its nearest US rival, Los Angeles-based Latham & Watkins, which has added 225 lawyers in London since 2000. Latham has a total of 270 lawyers in the city. 

The top five was rounded out by: Kirkland & Ellis, with the Chicago firm adding 133 to its London tally, taking it to 152 in total; Ropes & Gray, of Boston, which added all of its current 122 in that period; and New York’s Skadden, which added 93, taking it to 137.

The figures were compiled by the American website Law.com, which tackled the sensitive issue of whether American law firms had been successful in the UK, while City firms struggled to make it big Stateside. “The US firms that have done well in London fit a specific profile,” the website’s analyst said. “They are highly profitable, have been active in London for decades, and focus on high value transactions work.”

The figures will not be welcome reading for Baker McKenzie’s London outpost. The firm battles against two perceptions: that it is effectively a global franchise and that it is American, pointing out that its biggest office is in London. Law.com does not address either point head on, claiming instead that the figures show that while “Baker McKenzie is among the top ten fastest growing firms in London ... and is the 5th largest US firm in the market [it] is not highly profitable”. 

The report goes on to say that Baker McKenzie “breaks the mould of other US firms that have done well in London”.

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