City offices of UK’s top law firms have less of deal pie

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Dec 14, 2017
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Deals handled by the City offices of the UK’s 50 largest firms have fallen from 68 per cent in 2009 to 46 per cent in 2016

Times Photographer Jack Hill

Britain’s largest law firms have dramatically reduced the amount of work handled in their domestic offices over the past seven years, according to the Law Society. 

Figures from the Law Society published today show that deals handled by the domestic offices, predominantly in the City, of the UK’s 50 largest firms have tumbled from 68 per cent in 2009 to 46 per cent in 2016. 

The proportion of transactions dealt with by the firms’ overseas offices rose over the same period from 32 per cent in 2009 to 54 per cent last year.

Deals handled by the European offices of UK law firms rose from 17 per cent in 2009 to 25 per cent last year, while the number of transactions conducted by their offices in Asia-Pacific more than doubled from 7 per cent to 19 per cent.

“There has been a steady increase in the number of deals conducted by the top-50 UK law firms,” said Joe Egan, the president of the society, which represents solicitors in England and Wales.

The society pointed out that over the past year, law firm involvement in mergers and acquisitions and other transactional deals fluctuated after the UK’s vote to leave the EU.

The number and average value of deals declined in the first half of this year, following a spike in the preceding six months. That pattern, said the society’s research, occurred in most sectors and transaction types, “although it has been particularly marked for mergers and acquisitions”.

Meanwhile, a City of London “magic circle” law firm claimed that global M&A markets “continue to prove highly resilient despite the growth of geopolitical risks”.

Research from Allen & Overy showed that while deal values dropped this year, volumes rose steadily with a proliferation of deals valued between $1 billion and $5 billion.

There was a 19 per cent increase in deals in that bracket compared with the figure for 2016. The firm claimed that the number of “megadeals” declined, with a 13 per cent drop in the number of deals valued at more than $5 billion compared with the previous year.

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