UK CORPORATE 50 SAMPLE
UK CORPORATE 50 - FULL REPORT
UK Corporate 50 2020
Sample content vs the full report
UK Corporate 50 2020 sample
Together, the top 50 corporate practices in the UK turn over £2.79bn in fees. This is a group of firms that, despite the pandemic, is set to be in growth mode for the next decade. What is at stake is understanding where that growth is going to come from: first, the client sectors; secondly, the talent pool that can serve them.
It is universally acknowledged that the sectors that will be in hottest demand will be in life sciences, healthcare and tech. Those sectors had already been vibrant in the past few years, but the pandemic has underlined their centrality to civil society and business; investment and expansion of ownership within these sectors will dominate deal-making in the coming decade.
These numbers therefore underpin the thinking behind so many law firms’ own investment decisions in the next decade. Tech, telecoms and healthcare represent 21 per cent of the total and also represent many of the most high-stakes strategic game-playing. The importance of tech – accelerated by the global pandemic – means that it is not just a vertical sector but it has long-term ripple effects across all sectors.
The status of the legal players within the corporate market of the 2000s and 2010s could be easily segmented by deal size. While it is clear that there are still only a certain (and small) number of firms that regularly appear on hostile public takeover bids, say, or billion-dollar private equity investments, the new decade has all the signs of a profound shift in what clients are asking of their legal advisers, whether it be regulatory change and technological revolution following a global health crisis, or the remaking of global corporate ownership and its access to public or private capital.
With increasing scepticism over ROI in the blockbuster mergers, there is now more acknowledgement that the strategically important deals are as much in the mid-market – whether through PE roll-ups for certain clients, or the acquisition of related services, audiences or customer bases of the core product.
According to Deloitte in its 2020 report on M&A trends, dealmakers are showing considerably more interest in transactions in the $100-500m bracket; the demarcation between large-cap and medium-cap firms is increasingly fluid. The smartest firms will, therefore, be those that are not deal machines but which can anticipate issues at boardroom level, particularly on financial and climate regulation, competition and privacy.
How imaginative will the firms in the UK Corporate 50 need to be to maintain or expand their positions? On one level, not at all; after all, US firms are not, on the whole, imaginative in their market offering. They arguably do not need to be; the top six firms for revenue per partner are all US ones
UK Corporate 50 2020 sample
Avid readers of The Lawyer may remember a Friday story in April 2018 in which we revealed that the most common name for a law firm partner was David. The most likely name for a female partner was Sarah, but that was still beaten by 22 other male names, revealing very clearly the male nature of the law.
But what’s this got to do with corporate? As one of the City’s most conservative practice areas, corporate and M&A is not known for being particularly progressive. Yet the past five promotions rounds put forward by The Lawyer’s UK Corporate 50 suggests that a very small change is happening. True, the seven most common names of promoted partners since 2016 are male and not wholly unexpected – Tom, David, James, Matthew, Nick, Jonathan and Richard. But in eighth spot, we see four Claires – Norton Rose Fulbright’s Claire O’Donnell, Shoosmiths’ Claire Checketts, Slaughter and May’s Claire Jackson and Allen & Overy’s Claire Coppel. Rebecca is not far behind, tying with corporate Johns and Michaels.
This means we are starting to see some kind of a gender balance emerging in firms’ corporate teams, particularly in the junior ranks. Progress is gradual, especially given that nearly three quarters of the 186 promotions tracked over the past five years have been male. Discounting the (mostly US) firms that have promoted two or less during that time frame, a few patterns emerge. Herbert Smith Freehills and Latham & Watkins are the only firms in the list to have promoted an equal number of male and female lawyers in corporate, making up four and six in London respectively (the US firms’ most recent promotions rounds for 2021 have not been included).
Claire Coppel, Allen & Overy
UK Corporate 50 2020 sample
For years, corporate dealmakers at Silk Street have been muscling their way in to the world’s largest transactions and, based on the rankings, been doing pretty well. In the past 18 months, the magic circle firm has made the most of this country’s penchant for convenience food, which was accelerated by the nation’s lockdown. In the summer of 2019, corporate veteran Iain Fenn led for Just Eat on its £9bn merger with Takeaway.com, with the deal getting clearance nearly a year later. Just Eat has been a steady client of Linklaters since 2014 when the magic circle firm advised the underwriters on its London listing. While Herbert Smith Freehills got the gig for the company at the time, it is Linklaters that has made the most of that relationship since.
Another company that has benefitted (in some ways) from a heightened need for cleanliness is Unilever. The FTSE 100 giant switched allegiances a couple of years ago in a move that gave Linklaters more of a seat at the table. As a result, partners Paul McNicholl and Charles Turner led for Unilever on its reunification pre-Brexit and break away from its dual-parent structure. Slaughter and May, once vaunted as Unilever’s firm of choice, remains in the loop though, having acted on its acquisition of Pukka Herbs in 2017, while Baker McKenzie too remains in its good books.
There have been other noteworthy matters involving UK plcs, including the ongoing rebuff from G4S towards US bidder GardaWorld. Corporate chief Aedamar Comiskey is leading on the defence and has been preoccupied with G4S matters all year, advising in April along with Kanyaka Ramamurthi on the sale of its cash-handling businesses to The Brink’s Company. Linklaters doesn’t just act for UK plcs though, as Nick Rumsby got the mandate from US business Ceasars Entertainment on its purchase of UK-listed William Hill. Rumsby is one of four City leads, along with Simon Branigan, James Inglis and David Martin.
There is nothing too out of the ordinary about these deals, although the Caesars instruction coupled with the firm’s £46bn deal for Takeda in 2018 suggests it is winning an increasing number of international instructions compared with five years ago. But what next? Its magic circle rivals have been developing their practices in different ways, with Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer jetting off to California, Clifford Chance investing in new laterals, while Allen & Overy has attempted both a US play and increased partner numbers. Though the market still bunches Clifford Chance and A&O together in a level below Freshfields, Linklaters and Slaughter and May, those two firms have boosted their corporate credentials in the past decade. Who’s to say they won’t expand further given time?
A component of Linklaters’ corporate offering that could be expanded upon is its private equity grouping. Led by partner Alex Woodward, the financial sponsors group is well-thought of and has won mandates over the past year for Carlyle, Advent and Hg Capital, advising the latter on its £12.2bn sale of Visma. The add-ons are there, with Linklaters’ regulatory and competition expertise able to aid clients on cross-border and complex matters. But given the size of Linklaters’ overall corporate group (more than 40 partners), the number of partners specialising in private equity work is few and far between. It would be a dent in its ambitions if it lost anyone else now.
A component of Linklaters’ corporate offering that could be expanded upon is its private equity grouping