Size of practice
|Firm||No. of competition specialists|
|Baker & McKenzie||315|
|Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer||261|
|Gibson Dunn & Crutcher||201|
|Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton||200|
|White & Case||177|
|Latham & Watkins||145|
|Allen & Overy||109|
|Arnold & Porter||103|
Continuing on its post-merger expansion, Hogan Lovells grew by 27 per cent this year. The firm added 36 competition lawyers to its headcount and is now in sixth position, not far from fifth-placed White & Case. Linklaters also grew by 17 per cent over the past year. The firm now has a similar competition headcount to Clifford Chance, Jones Day and Latham & Watkins: all are between 140 and 150.
Discussions often arise about whether size and growth matter at all to a competition practice. Some competition matters simply require a lot of manpower. Although the total number of lawyers is not everything, it is a helpful indicator to understand whether a firm is equipped to take on large international assignments that require significant resources, says Susan Bright, global antitrust co-chair of Hogan Lovell.
“Size does matter, but it is not just about size,” she says. “You need enough people in different jurisdictions, so you have the right geographic reach. And of course, you need excellent lawyers. In order to attract cross-border deals or cross-border behavioural work, you need to have strength and depth. As well as advising on strategy, you need a large team to handle document reviews, interviews, responding to information requests and so forth.”
Samantha Mobley, who co-heads GCR Global Elite’s largest antitrust team at Baker & McKenzie, says that in today’s globalised economy, companies and law firms cannot ignore emerging jurisdictions such as Brazil, South Africa, Australia and China, nor the smaller countries whose antitrust authorities are gaining teeth.
“What’s important is the depth of your geographic coverage,” she says. “Multinational clients that operate in 60-70 countries are interested in a service which is offered in the same places they operate. One of our clients is very interested in the fact that we have a team in Vietnam, for example, because it is investing heavily in that country and the regulator there is increasingly active.”
Having a critical mass in sectors such as US litigation is crucial, says Michael Egge, global antitrust co-chair of Latham & Watkins. Plus companies often like to rely on one-stop shop firms – hence the importance of fielding large teams.
“An increasing number of clients value being able to go to one place and get the highest quality service across several jurisdictions,” he says. “You absolutely need significant expertise in Washington and Brussels. From a US perspective you also need to have a critical mass in litigation because that is a mainstay of antitrust practice – demand is high, the stakes are high, and usually doing it right requires fielding multiple strong teams.”
What’s more, one needs to choose carefully where to place its key players. Egge says: “In Europe you need Brussels, but you also need to cover the member states. The key is having a mix of EU and member state capability in Brussels, and then having top talent on the ground in the most prominent enforcement jurisdictions, which include Germany, the UK, France and, increasingly, Spain and Italy.”
Size, however, could prove dangerous to a law firm, as Dewey & LeBoeuf painfully discovered this year. The firm made it into GCR’s Global Elite last year, partly thanks to its acquisition of key ex-Howrey antitrust lawyers and overall growth. But many say this was also the main reason of its undoing, as the firm grew too much, too fast. The market impact of Dewey’s collapse is likely to be more diluted than the consequences of Howrey’s implosion, as key lawyers dispersed across many firms.
“My opinion is that [Dewey’s exit] doesn’t change a lot, even though it means there is very good talent moving around,” says Egge. “We are in a service market where practices can contract and expand very quickly. There’s a lot of competition. Talent is always going to find a home.”
Who’s Who Legal nominees
|Firm||No. of Who’s Who Legal nominees||Proportion of competition partners in Who’s Who Legal|
|Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer||40||77%|
|Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton||19||76%|
|Allen & Overy||18||75%|
|Arnold & Porter||12||41%|
|Latham & Watkins||12||22%|
|Gibson Dunn & Crutcher||11||15%|
|Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr||10||43%|
|Shearman & Sterling||9||60%|
|White & Case||9||26%|
|Baker & McKenzie||9||8%|
|Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom||8||36%|
|Herbert Smith Freehills||8||44%|
|Covington & Burling||7||25%|
|Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati||7||54%|
|McDermott Will & Emery||7||23%|
|Slaughter and May||5||83%|
In competition law, talent is defined by experience and skills that are difficult to convey through a figure, but that are immediately recognised by peers and represent the basis upon which The Who’s Who of Competition Lawyers & Economists is built. This is why the number of Who’s Who Legal nominees fielded by each firm is of paramount importance to the definition of GCR’s Global Elite.
Quality and talent is crucial in the world of antitrust law. Competition matters may require lawyers to fill in huge forms and wade through vast amounts of data, but the outcome of a merger review or behavioural investigation may heavily depend on a practitioner’s advice. Companies may decide to hire a particular lawyer because they trust he or she is able to assess the antitrust risk of a particular business decision – how far can a company push in its dealings with competition authorities, and how will the enforcers react?
A firm’s overall quality is largely determined by the quality of its individuals, rather than just by its numbers, says John Davies, global antitrust co-head of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, the firm with the most Who’s Who Legal nominees. But having a high level of talent spread across the team is what matters most.
“I don’t think you can attract complex antitrust work just by being a brand name,” says Davies. “You attract that sort of work by having talented individuals or talented teams. People would go to an individual even if the firm doesn’t have a reputation for antitrust, but if you have both things the client is normally happier. To put it bluntly, the client knows that if that person ‘goes under a bus’ they know there will be a strong bench helping out.”
So how do you make sure talent is recognised? “It’s a complex thing to achieve,” Davies says. “The best marketing is on the job, but the fact that you have done a good job on a matter may be known only to a few people. On the contrary, it doesn’t mean that if you speak at lots of conferences you are good. It’s a cocktail of things.”
The Who’s Who Legal nominee status is a clear indicator of a lawyer’s quality. It is the result of a far-reaching peer review, at the end of which only the very best make it into the directory. Impressing enough competition experts to gain a place in Who’s Who Legal is no easy task. Market visibility alone is not enough – one needs to prove he or she has the expertise, creativity and judgement necessary to be considered among the top practitioners. Each year, Who’s Who Legal interviews and sends questionnaires to hundreds of competition experts, asking for a qualitative opinion of their peers’ calibre. The participants’ votes are weighted against their own results, so that the preferences of the best practitioners have a greater role in determining the final list.
In turn, these numbers are weighted against other factors to shape the GCR Global Elite. Some firms have a small but very focused and talent-rich practice. Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati and Sherman & Sterling count on about 50 competition lawyers each, but more than half of their partners are nominated to Who’s Who Legal. This feature is even more marked in the case of Slaughter and May. The firm has a team almost entirely based in London and Brussels, but five out of its six partners are Who’s Who Legal nominees – the highest percentage in the GCR Global Elite.
“Clients go to individuals,” says Philippe Chappatte, Slaughter & May’s antitrust co-head. “Individuals can be helped by the reputation of a firm, but a firm is only as good as the sum of its individuals. A firm can be very large and not have great lawyers – it will not be likely to attract a lot of business, or it can be smaller and have very good people and attract a lot of business.”
So what does it take to make a good competition lawyer? “Above all, [it is important] to have good analytical skills,” continues Chappatte. “Then having a good understanding of economics and many years of experience. Clients won’t use very clever people that don’t have good experience. It’s also important to have a good understanding of business and substantial experience of dealing with regulators, both at national and European level.”
Other firms may count on larger groups of practitioners and have a relatively smaller number of nominees, but their leading lawyers may be among the top of the top in a few key jurisdictions.
The firms at the top of the table combine large teams with widespread talent. Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, Linklaters and Allen & Overy have large global practices and – crucially – about three-quarters of the firms’ partners are nominated to Who’s Who Legal. Freshfields tops the list with more than twice the number of nominees of any other firm – that’s 77 per cent of its total number of partners.
Geographic spread (in GCR 100)
|Firm||No. of jurisdictions featured in GCR 100|
|Baker & McKenzie||17|
|Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer||12|
|Allen & Overy||10|
|White & Case||10|
With more countries enacting competition laws and greater cooperation between agencies on multi-jurisdictional matters than ever before, having an antitrust practice with a large global footprint can be a significant asset. A one-stop shop for far-reaching competition issues such as global cartels can be more appealing than dealing with several local firms that each have different processes and fee structures.
Baker & McKenzie once again tops the charts with its competition teams in 17 jurisdictions. With 12 jurisdictions, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer also clearly sees the value in having its own teams on the ground in several countries, while Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance and White & Case also hit double figures. Linklaters has significantly expanded its global footprint, with three more jurisdictions than last year, while Hogan Lovells and Jones Day have gained by two.
Of particular interest to many firms is the growing implementation of competition law in the Asia-Pacific region. Singapore’s Competition Commission is going from strength to strength, Malaysia’s enforcer began its mandate this year, and the remaining Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries are required to have a functioning antitrust law by 2015. Progress is being made – Indonesia recently updated its merger control regime and Vietnam’s Competition Authority recommended a radical overhaul of its existing law. Several of the Global Elite now have established competition practices in China, which observers say is an increasingly significant jurisdiction.
Things are also developing in Africa, where for many years South Africa has been the only recognised competition jurisdiction. Countries such as Zambia, Namibia, the Gambia and Botswana are establishing themselves as serious enforcers of antitrust law, and many firms are keeping an eye on how these fledgling operations develop given the wealth of business potential across the continent.
Lateral partner hires
|Firm||Lateral partner hires|
|McDermott Will & Emery||3|
|Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati||3|
|Baker & McKenzie||2|
|Gibson Dunn & Crutcher||2|
On the Global Elite lateral hires table, McDermott Will & Emery and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati lead the way with three new partners apiece. McDermott scooped Allan Van Fleet from Greenberg Traurig in Houston and Sabine Naugès from Weil in Paris, while Warren Rosborough re-joined the firm after a stint at the US Department of Justice (DoJ). Wilson Sonsini recruited three partners to its new Brussels office – Hunton & Williams partners Michael Rosenthal and Paul McGeown, and Götz Drauz of Shearman & Sterling and Howrey.
Roxann Henry, at Morrison Foerster in Washington, DC, says that a lot of recent moves have been from antitrust agencies into the private sector.
“This contributes a steady stream of lateral activity and avoids the conflicts issue because these folks are looking to develop clients, not bring them,” she says.
The statistics for this year’s lateral partner hires are less dramatic than in our previous edition, when Howrey’s disbandment sent waves of some of the world’s most talented antitrust practitioners into the marketplace. The collapse of Dewey & LeBoeuf is not born out in these statistics as most Dewey antitrust partners have relocated to firms not included in the Global Elite – Winston & Strawn attracted an impressive nine antitrust partners, including New York heavyweights Jeffrey Kessler and Paul Victor. Two former Dewey partners joined Cooley Godward Kronish, while MJ Moltenbrey chose Paul Hastings. In Italy, all of Dewey’s lawyers left the firm to revive dissolving law firm Grimaldi & Associati under the new name of Grimaldi Studio Legale. All of this may portend a shift in overall rankings in the future.
Henry, who joined Morrison & Foerster after Dewey, says the list demonstrates how Howrey’s collapse has “spurred de-concentration of the antitrust services market”.
“It’s hard for real players with business to move in groups because of conflicts,” she says. “The Dewey antitrust practice wanted to stay together, but when you need to move quickly, as we did, the conflicts made a full group move virtually impossible.”