UK LITIGATION 50 SAMPLE
Last year’s UK Litigation 50 revealed for the first time the surprising lack of consolidation within the UK litigation market. When we map the...
UK Litigation 50 2020 sample
UK Litigation 50 2020
Sample content vs the full report
UK Litigation Top 50 by revenue sample
UK Litigation 50 2020
UK Litigation 50 by revenue
Last year’s UK Litigation 50 revealed for the first time the surprising lack of consolidation within the UK litigation market. When we map the distribution of revenue in litigation for the top 50 firms compared to the distribution of general UK revenues for the top 50 firms across the UK, the difference is notable.
While there are clear leaders in the disputes revenue table with a good book of repeat business, the gap between highest and lowest is by no means as marked as it is in transactional work.
There are plenty of challengers within the high-end restructuring, fraud and competition litigation sphere; Hausfeld, Boies Schiller, Akin Gump, or pure UK boutiques such as Signature or Enyo. However, mid-sized firms have also flourished in the disputes arena and have managed to capture complex, high-end work for international clients, usually involving a fraud or investigation element: these include Mishcon de Reya, Stephenson Harwood, Simmons & Simmons, Macfarlanes, Travers Smith, Fieldfisher and Withers.
The top 50 litigation firms in the UK generated £4.23bn from disputes in 2019/20, up 7 per cent from the previous year’s total of £3.95bn, with 16 firms making over £100m compared to 17 last year.
As in 2019, the UK’s largest litigation practice is Clyde & Co, where 75 per cent of UK revenue was derived from contentious work in the 2019/20 financial year, and whose leading presence in insurance, shipping, trade and energy has yielded a rich diet of court work and arbitration Second in the ranking was Irwin Mitchell, the UK’s biggest claimant-focused practice, with revenues of £175m.
Third was Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, the UK’s largest pure commercial litigation-focused practice, with estimated revenues of £169.3m. Just behind Freshfields was CMS, whose litigation weight has benefited from its 2017 three-way domestic merger. Bringing up the top five is DAC Beachcroft, which like Clyde & Co has a deep hinterland of insurance-generated disputes. Eversheds Sutherland was the sixth firm to pass the £150m mark.
A further 10 firms make over £100m in revenues from their UK disputes practice: Pinsent Masons, Herbert Smith Freehills, DLA Piper, Hogan Lovells, Clifford Chance, Mishcon de Reya, Slater & Gordon, Linklaters, Allen & Overy and Quinn Emanuel.
Although the UK Litigation 50 is not nearly as consolidated as the UK200, the firms at the top end outweigh their smaller competitors by some margin. The average amount of revenue derived from litigation among the top 50 firms was £84.6m, and 20 of the top 50 was larger than average.
The UK Litigation 50 shows that unless you are a firm with an insurance litigation, claimant or have EC3 heritage, it is difficult to get corporate litigation up to a high percentage of overall UK revenues. Hogan Lovells (10th-largest firm, with £133m) and Herbert Smith Freehills (eighth largest firm, at £144.4m) are the clear leaders here, with respectively 40 per cent and 38 per cent of their UK practice dedicated to contentious work – although it is also important to note that both firms have benefited from top-end insurance and reinsurance work over the years.
Mid-sized firms have flourished in the disputes arena
Talent Pipeline sample
UK Litigation 50 2020
We have analysed promotions data on 47 of the 50 firms over the last five years – information is unavailable for Slater & Gordon, Thompsons and Penningtons Manches Cooper – to see trends in the growth of the UK’s largest litigation practices.
Between 2016 and 2020, of the 1,430 total UK promotions made by these firms, 636 (44 per cent) have been litigators. For the purpose of this analysis, we have counted any lawyer with a contentious practice – whether that be in commercial litigation, real estate, employment, or so on – as a litigator.
Based on promotions, this year has been one of consolidation. In 2016, 117 disputes promotions were made across all the firms. This grew to 109 in both 2017 and 2018, before jumping up to 188 last year. It then slowed in 2020, with just 113 promotions, but this figure must be caveated by the fact that BLM delayed its promotions round, having made 16 the year before. But compared to the 2019, 2020 has certainly been a more modest 12 months.
For most firms, the percentage of UK disputes promotions is usually closely in line with the amount of revenue they generate from litigation. The firms that promote the majority of their partners in contentious practices are usually specialists in that area. Stewarts, a boutique firm, has promoted 16 disputes partners in the last five years, which accounts for 100 per cent of its total (the highest proportion in the 50) but this is expected given that almost all its revenue is generated from litigation.
The few outliers from this rule tend to be full service firms that are attempting to grow their disputes practice. Eversheds Sutherland have been the most active promoter in the last few years. Since 2016 it has promoted 41 UK disputes partners, with 9 of those promotions coming this year. For Eversheds, litigators accounted for 58 per cent of its UK promotions. Interestingly, only 35 per cent of its UK revenue came from litigation, which suggests it is targeting this as a growth area within the firm.
Fieldfisher, Shoosmiths and Gowling have promoted the largest proportion of litigators in the UK for non-specialist firms. Fieldfisher made 21 disputes promotions since 2016, making up 64 per cent of its total UK promotions. Shoosmiths also made 21 promotions (58 per cent of total) and Gowling made 16 promotions (59 per cent of total). Given that all these firms made only between 25 and 30 per cent of their UK revenue from litigation this year, like Eversheds, it shows they are trying to expand their practice.
DAC Beachcroft made 41 promotions in the past five years, making it the biggest promoter alongside Eversheds. 17 of these promotions came in claims solutions, six were in real estate and five in commercial litigation. It was the most prolific promoter in Bristol, making 12 promotions there. It also made 11 promotions in London and six in Leeds. Injury and disputes specialists BLM, made 37 UK disputes promotions, making it the third biggest promoter in the last five years and if it hadn’t delayed promotions in 2020 it would likely have been top of the list.
15. Allen & Overy
A&O continues to maintain a strong practice in financial litigation, aligned to its transactional lending and financial products practice.
Allen & Overy’s mix of court work in 2019-20 was largely split between heavyweight IP and a variety of fraud, competition and banking litigation. Philip Mansfield and Arnondo Chakrabarti acted for Citibank on the long-running Forex litigation, which has involved separate proceedings in the High Court (where the claimants are advised by Quinn Emanuel) and the Competition Appeal Tribunal.
A&O has a strong vein of multi-jurisdictional and high-value fraud disputes. Mona Vaswani – who has since departed to set up Milbank’s litigation practice in London – acted for the claimant group of Kazakhstani companies in their successful action against former directors in Kazakhstan Kagazy Plc & Ors v Baglan Abdullayevich Zhunus & Ors. On Federal Republic of Nigeria v Royal Dutch Shell Plc & Anor the firm advised the ENI defendants alongside Shell (Debevoise & Plimpton).
The firm’s two dominant IP cases were also its longest in terms of days in court. Eli Lilly v Genentech is an example of a continuing presence in life sciences, as evidenced by its continuing work for Eli Lilly as co-counsel with former A&O partner Nicola Dagg, now at Kirkland & Ellis. Other IP cases had a strong tech flavour, in which Chinese clients were prominent. In Conversant Wireless Licensing v Huawei Technologies – one of The Lawyer’s Top 20 Cases for 2020 – Mark Heaney and Mark Ridgway led for Chinese telecoms behemoth Huawei, which along with fellow Chinese co-defendant ZTE unsuccessfully challenged US marketing company Conversant on jurisdictional grounds over the essentiality of a range of patents. It was the second major case for A&O and the Chinese telecoms giant in just two years.
On Illumina Cambridge Ltd v Latvia MGI Tech, A&O advised defendants associated with Chinese genomics company MGI on a dispute relating to DNA sequencing. A client closer to home was Manchester United, which was advised by trade mark litigation partner David Stone on its dispute with Sega and Sports Interactive.
Use of counsel
Allen & Overy instructed 59 barristers from 18 sets of chambers. Three New Square was the most frequently instructed set, winning five instructions. 8 New Square, Blackstone Chambers and Fountain Court Chambers followed with four instructions each. Brick Court Chambers and One Essex Court Chambers were instructed three times.
South Square, and 4 New Square Chambers were each instructed twice. The remaining 10 sets each received one instruction.
In terms of counsel instructions, of the 59 barristers instructed by Allen & Overy only 11 were female. Data puts the overall gender ratio at approximately 5:1 in favour of male barristers.
Some 28 junior barristers received at least one instruction from Allen & Overy; of these 28 juniors, only eight were female, putting the gender ratio at 3.5:1 in favour of their male counterparts.
Only three female silks were instructed (out of 31 silks). This
puts the gender ratio at approximately 10:1 in favour of their male counterparts.
The most frequently instructed barristers included Daniel Alexander QC and Richard Handyside QC. Both men were instructed twice by Allen & Overy. The remaining barristers were each instructed once.
Use of chambers:
Three New Square – the firm’s most instructed set – was exclusively instructed on patent and trademarks disputes. For example, the set was called on to represent Manchester United in a patent and trademark dispute and represented Regeneron Pharmaceuticals in the Supreme Court (at the behest of Dagg and Neville Cordell). In that case, Three New Square worked alongside 8 New Square.
8 New Square was Allen & Overy’s next most frequently instructed set in 2019/2020. This set was also called upon to work on patents and trademark disputes exclusively.
Fountain Court Chambers also received multiple instructions from Allen & Overy in 2019-2020. The set was instructed to act on a variety of cases involving commercial contracts, anti-trust and competition, finance and patents law. Recently, Fountain Court was instructed by A&O in The Federal Republic of Nigeria v Royal Dutch Shell Plc & Anor. The set was instructed by partner Jonathan Hitchin and represented the Eni Spa defendants in the mammoth commercial court case.
Comparison with last year:
When the data is compared, in 2019/2020 Allen & Overy instructed seven more barristers than in 2018/2019. In terms of overall gender diversity, Allen & Overy remained the same, with an approximate ratio of 5:1 in favour of male barristers during both years.
Looking back at the split in instructions between juniors and QCs: in 2019/2020 Allen & Overy handed down instructions to 31 silks, as opposed to 28 juniors; meaning the ratio falls at approximately 2:1 – silks received approximately twice as many instructions as juniors.
Whereas in 2018/2019 Allen & Overy instructed 22 QCs and 30 juniors, putting the ratio at approximately 2:1 (1.7:1) in favour of juniors, who received approximately twice as many instructions from the magic circle firm.