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This week is the first publication of The Lawyer Court Rankings, a mammoth piece of research in which we examined 5,000 cases in English courts over a two-year period. We tracked not only the parties, judges, forum, law firms, barristers and their chambers, but the sectors in which the clients operate.
The good news for firms and chambers is that we’ve done the legwork that allows you to access a fine-grained analysis of law firms and chambers’ standing within and share of the disputes market, particularly given the confidentiality that surrounds settlements and arbitration. It’s also required reading for in-house lawyers to see exactly which firms are active for whom, and in what types of cases.
We ranked firms by number of cases but also by case days, since the latter can help to indicate the importance and complexity of a piece of litigation. Because we tracked both 2015 and 2016 judgments, the tables can vary dramatically year on year on the basis of one giant hearing, just as a mega-deal can affect a firm’s position in the M&A tables. However, when you combine firms’ court appearances in 2015 and 2016 there is a consistency in terms of firm appearances.
Which are the power brands for disputes? What emerges is the traditional litigation big three – Freshfields, Herbert Smith Freehills and Hogan Lovells – are joined by Allen & Overy to make a neat little quartet that regularly act on big-ticket court work for global financial institutions, plus a spicy line in civil fraud. But the four also have notable sector spread: their cases reveal robust client bases in energy and natural resources, property and construction, life sciences and manufacturing. Similarly broad in terms of client base are DLA Piper, Pinsent Masons and Eversheds, although their clients are less globalised than the big four.
Seven firms have parlayed their insurance and reinsurance heritage into litigation, with varying degrees of internationalisation: Clyde & Co, DAC Beachcroft, Kennedys, RPC, Holman Fenwick Willan, Weightmans and BLM. Of these firms, RPC and Holman Fenwick are particularly impressive in breaking out of their original niches.
Given that London is the centre of global disputes, it will come as some comfort to UK firms that US firms here have made only a slight dent in the market. I speak here of the US start-ups, since Reed Smith and Squire Patton Boggs had existing UK practices through Richards Butler and Hammonds. Some firms will loftily proclaim that they’re more interested in an arbitration or investigations practice in London. Cleary, Jones Day, Quinn Emanuel, Debevoise, Boies Schiller and a handful of others make a showing in the English courts, but it’s clear that building a visible disputes practice here isn’t a wholesale American success. (Yet.) For the moment, the UK firms can bask in a home advantage.
The Lawyer Court Rankings and Litigation Tracker is available for purchase. Contact Richard Edwards on 020 7970 4672 or Richard.email@example.com for more details.
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