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Listing the Ten Most Renown Law Firms

By Yann, published on 25/09/2018 We Love Prof - IN > Academia > Law > The Ten Most Prestigious Law Firms

To inspire, motivate and perhaps help law students set their sights on where they would most like to intern associate and partner, we thought we’d give a glance at firms most renown.

Listing the type(s) of law practised at these firms, the potential for advancement and whether it has partnered with non-lawyer owners should all be considerations that the soon-to-graduate law student must ponder.

‘What do you hope to achieve in your law career?’ should also be a pertinent question.

Perhaps you envision working in another country, which would suggest that you include international law firms in your future employment goals.sync

How about we just list them and you decide for yourself where you would like to make your mark!

DLA Piper

By all accounts, this firm ranks #1. Not only is it the top-ranked firm in the UK but it takes the title of the largest law firm in the world, as measured by revenue.

In spite of its musical sounding name, its more than 250 years in the business of law gives it substantial gravitas.

After qualifying as a lawyer in 1829, Thomas Townsend Dibb joined the already-renowned firm of Atkinson Bolland & Atkinson, soon becoming a full partner.

Charles Lupton, educated at Trinity College, qualified as a solicitor in 1881 and went on to a firm in which he eventually became a full partner. In 1920, the two firms merged, later linking up with Alsop Wilkinson.

The cumbersome Dibb, Lupton, Alsop was streamlined to DLA in the new millennium; the name Piper is a nod to the merger with American firms Gray Carey and Piper Rudnick that took place in 2005.

Major practice areas include:

  • Banking

  • Trade

  • Corporate finance

    • also corporate crime!

  • Government affairs

  • Intellectual property

  • Mergers and acquisitions (they certainly have experience here!)

  • Private equity

  • Energy

  • Real estate

They are further well-versed in tax law for multiple countries, as well as employment law and pensions.

With more than 4000 attorneys scattered throughout the world, no matter where you find yourself, legal help from DLA Piper is only a web search away!

Clifford Chance, LLP

Based in London and considered one of the world’s largest law firms both by revenue and by their number of lawyers, it also takes first place among the Magic Circle of law firms in the UK.

Don’t let the single name fool you; their moniker is a composite of Clifford Turner and Howard Chance, both brilliant attorneys with their own firms.

They merged in 1987, and went international twelve years later through a merger with a prominent German firm, followed by a partnership with a lucrative American one.

Today, this limited liability partnership has offices in 26 countries across the globe!

Their main practice areas include:

  • banking and finance

  • capital markets

  • tax, pensions and employment

  • real estate

  • corporate law

  • mergers and acquisitions

So, should you find yourself in the Middle East or Africa and wish to consolidate your assets or plan for your retirement, you may find a Clifford Chance office nearby to advocate on your behalf.

The Magic Circle is about money, not magic! The Magic Circle in question is not mystical but lucrative! Source: Pixabay Credit: Pexels

Allen & Overy LLP

Not surprisingly, this international law firm is also a member of the Magic Circle.

Founded in London in 1930, this firm managed the abdication crisis of King Edward VIII, effectively establishing their sterling reputation. By the time WWII broke out, A&O, as it is informally known, was known as the city’s leading law firm.

Today, active throughout Europe, Africa, America and Asia Pacific, they have undertaken litigation in fields as diverse as antitrust and environmental law; international trade and dispute resolution.

They even have attorneys who specialise in Islamic finance!

One remarkable feature of this firm is its firm commitment to diversity. It was the first law firm to offer equity partners the opportunity to work only part-time, and it keeps their staff active in the community, to raise awareness of gender issues and inclusion.

Linklaters LLP

This multinational law firm, headquartered in London is also a part of the fabled Magic Circle.

Initially known as Dods & Linklaters, it began as a small corporate law practice. However, it soon made its mark on its home city by advising on the creation of the Metropolitan Water Board.

Another name change soon came about through a partnership with Paines, Plythe & Huxtable. Nevertheless, it appeared that the firm would remain domestic, concerning itself primarily with corporate law.

All of that changed in 1998 when the firm started reaching out to European law offices.

Now they have a presence in 20 countries, litigating and addressing matters concerning banking and finance, restructuring and insolvency, antitrust and capital markets.

Freshfields, Bruckhaus Deringer

This is the fourth and last law firm to complete London’s Magic Circle of prestigious law firms.

Like, DLA Piper, it brings centuries of law experience to its clients and is reputed to be the oldest international law firm in the world.

Among the many awards bestowed upon it, Fairfields is ranked as a world expert in Antitrust and Competition law.

Other areas of competence include litigation, international arbitration, corporate M&A (merger and acquisition), private equity and tax law.

You may find Freshfields’ offices in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and North America.

Most of the lawyers working at these firms are licensed to practice law in Europe Many of these firms are well-versed and licenced to practice law in Europe Source: Pixabay Credit: Mohammad Hassan

Norton Rose Fulbright

With more than 4000 lawyers and other legal staff based in 33 countries, this firm is ranked third-largest by their number of employees.

Rather than being born of a partnership, this firm started as a one-man office in 1794, only later forming partnerships.

In the 1960s, through a partnership with a shipping company, the firm became an expert in international trade, establishing its first overseas office in Hong Kong in 1976.

From then on, they vigorously pursued international expansion, shortening their name in the process.

Their most recent merger was in December 2017, when they combined forces with the leading Australian firm.

All of the firms mentioned so far are headquartered in London; this next is jointly headquartered in the UK and America.

Hogan Lovells

This is a relatively young cooperation, dating back only eight years.

The American firm Hogan & Hartson initially served clients with issues regarding tax law. British firm Lovells, a smidge older than its American counterpart, started out as a one-man account on Octavia Hill.

Soon came a clerk, and then a partner. Through several subsequent mergers (and name changes) the firm came to prominence because of their diversity of high society clients, most notably the Treasury Solicitor.

Today, the firm has a presence in Europe, Latin America, the United States and in Asia.

It is the second-largest foreign firm in China!

Herbert Smith Freehills, LLP

Globally, their primary focus is on litigation and corporate finance, a take-off from the areas that Herbert Smith initially targeted when he started his practice in 1882.

He initially specialised in stock market launches – what we know today as IPOs, and in advising mining companies.

Freehills, based in Australia, was a commercial law firm that, through several mergers, starting taking on corporate cases.

The merger of the two firms was completed in October 2012, resulting in it being consistently ranked as one of the most prestigious law firms in the world.

There is some debate about them being a member of the Silver Circle because of their international representation.

Whichever circle they qualify for, this firm has distinguished itself by representing more clients listed on the London Stock Exchange than any other law firm.

the combined total years of experience these firms represent is in the thousands of years! The collective law experience of these firms totals up in the thousands of years! Source: Pixabay Credit Witwiccan

CMS Cameron McKenna

This amalgamation is so far reaching it is hard to consider where to begin to explore it!

CMS, the name it trades by, is considered one of the ten largest law firms in the world, active in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and South America. It has an especially strong presence in Scotland through a merger with Dundas & Wilson, a firm headquartered in Edinburgh.

Their more than 3500 lawyers provide advice on all manner of commercial law, as well as corporate and M & A, employment and pensions, and immigration among other specialities.

They have represented such high-profile companies as Deutsche Bank, Nestle, Johnson&Johnson and have even advised the Department for Transport.

Ashurst LLP

With a presence in North America, Asia, Australia, the Middle East and Europe, this London-based firm is ranked the 11th largest law firm by revenue.

Globally, its more than 1700 lawyers manage and advise on matters pertaining to M&A, corporate law, employment, taxation, real estate and dispute resolution.

The firm itself was founded in 1822 and led by three partners: liquidator John Morris, corporate specialist Sir Frank Crisp, and political activist John Ashurst, for whom the firm is named.

Although it struggled during the 2008 financial crisis, it emerged stronger and more profitable than ever under the guidance of corporate partner Charlie Geffen.

Nevertheless, the firm had to substantially modify its business model because of that global financial event; the firm’s core practice lines suffered considerably!

The history, the people, the cases they argued and the clients they represented: all of these firms denote a substantial portion of jurisprudence and legal precedent that has shaped the world of finance and law.

Much as we’d have liked to delve deeper into the history and financial track records of each firm, we’ll have to content ourselves with presenting them in this table.

NameRevenue (2014/2015)Number of Employees
(2014/2015)
Headquarters
DLA Piper£1,626 million
3981London and Chicago
Clifford Chance£1,350 million2992London
Allen & Overy£1,281 million2523London
Linklaters£1,270 million2601London
Freshfields, Bruckhaus Deringer£1,245 million2322London
Norton Rose Fulbright£1,118 million3405London
Hogan Lovells£1,098 million2593London/Washington, D.C.
Herbert Smith Freehills£815 million2294London/Sydney
CMS Cameron McKenna£753.3 million2776London/Frankfurt
Ashurst£561 million1633London

Does this help to shape your decision on which firm to join when you graduate law school?

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