Law Firms

London Firms Earn #1 Billing in World

Record profits for the biggest London law firms reportedly make them the dominant players in the world legal market.

Three London firms, headed by Clifford Chance, are at the top of the earnings list, with annual billings close to or exceeding $2 billion. For each, that represents an increase of 20 percent or more from the previous year, according to a survey done by Legal Business magazine. That puts the triumvirate ahead of the biggest-billing American firm, New York City-based Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom, which had a mere $1.85 billion in billings, representing a 15 percent increase, reports the London Times.

Adding insult to injury, it also appears that American lawyers are working harder than their British counterparts–revenue per lawyer is much higher at U.S. firms, the article says. The top-earning attorneys are at New York City-based Sullivan & Cromwell, at which, the Times says, each firm lawyer bills an average of $1.45 million annually.

The big boost in London law firm profits is attributed to bold bets on emerging legal markets; a boom in European mergers and acquisitions; the city’s huge growth in recent years as a capital markets center; and a strong British currency. “U.K. firms have invested heavily over the past decade building solid global capabilities, and it is now paying off,” James Baxter, editor of Legal Business, tells the Times. “Together with the strength of the pound, it has never been a better time to be a global law firm billing in pounds.”

Of course, big profits for big firms also translates to big bucks for the lawyers in charge, he notes. “Partners at the world’s top 50 law firms share staggering profits with individuals regularly earning well in excess of £1 million.”

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