The antitrust group at Hogan Lovells - formerly Hogan & Hartson – has grown from a large, but wholly Washington-based practice in the 1970s to one of the largest global antitrust groups in the world today. It grew through both incremental practice construction – office openings, lateral hires, smaller takeovers and so on – and a Biglaw mega-merger. It’s 2010 tie-up with London-based Lovells remains one of the largest legal mergers in history, combining the 1,400-lawyer Lovells group with Hogan & Hartson’s 1,100 legal advisors.
As we wrote in the 2011 edition of our annual GCR 100 survey, the merger between Hogan & Hartson and Lovells had catapulted the practice up our rankings of the world’s top antitrust shops. “The merger was a great fit both for Lovells and for Hogan and Hartson, and the merged firm boasts standout teams in Washington, London and Brussels, as well as numerous other jurisdictions worldwide.” The merged firm also attracted major talent that year, including a team from Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr that included Suyong Kim, who now leads the practice.
The timeline above captures many of the major acquisitions, office openings and tie-ups that created the modern Hogan Lovells group. For context, GCR data reporter Denise Nzeyimana spoke with the firm’s current and former practice heads, Kim and Janet McDavid, about the firm’s history and growth.
McDavid on the firm’s growth since she joined Hogan & Hartson in 1974:
The firm at the time was one of the largest firms in Washington, but it only was in Washington. Over the time that I was at the firm and prior to our merger with Lovells, which was really transformative, we had offices around the US and a handful of offices outside the US with antitrust practices. But we just had one antitrust partner in London, Paris, Brussels, Germany, China - nothing more than that - and it was in fact our sense that we needed a truly global platform, not just for antitrust but for across the many practices that led us to merge with Lovells.
McDavid and Kim on the different between the practice of antitrust law, then and now:
McDavid: I think globalization is the critical thing. When I started practising antitrust law I was purely an American antitrust lawyer. If you go back to the 1970s and 1980s, while there were antitrust laws outside the US, there were blocking statutes in European countries, for example, that prevented European firms from being forced to comply with document production demand by the American antitrust agencies. And in fact there was a sense among a lot of European governments that the extraterritorial enforcement of the American antitrust laws was really quite problematic. But it was starting to change, and Soyoung was on the ground for the change.
Kim: If we look on the European side, clearly there have been competition rules in place basically since the original Treaty of Rome. As for the legacy of Lovells, we established a presence in Brussels in 1973 or 74, so we were there as a firm right from the beginning. We were doing some of the really, really historic cases that even now are precedent for some of the key questions under European competition law.
We were very a much a behavioural practice when we started out in Brussels in the 1970s. And there were at that point, frankly, no US firms in Brussels – that wasn't when they appeared. It was only really with the advent of the merger regulations when European competition law started to impact mergers. You had real growth – sort of second spurt of growth after the community adopting behavioral supervision. On mergers, that suddenly attracted a lot of the deal firms, including some from the US and the UK magic circle. They started to crowd into Brussels to do merger control work. That was a big historical moment, when the firms who were practising European Competition law, the kind of work they did and the kinds of clients they were serving changed enormously.
You were no longer dealing with firms who were caught in a cartel or the big companies who were found to be abusing dominance. All of a sudden it was mergers, it was size that would capture US companies.
McDavid on the motivation behind the Hogan & Hartson/Lovells merger:
We had a European and Chinese presence, but we discovered that it was very difficult to build further capacity through individual lawyer acquisitions. I’ll never forget: During the time I was involved in firm management, on our executive committee. We spent a great deal of time recruiting a partner in London, and after years of recruitment, he decided to give it all up, move to Yorkshire with his wife who was a small animal vet or something. We spent enormous time and resources trying to recruit this guy. How were we going to build to the kind of scale and capability that was necessary if we had to do it through individual partner acquisitions?
I think everyone realised that there was a need for much bigger global capacity but how to get there was the problem. And then we had the opportunity to talk to the folks at Lovells. who had been a firm that we had been familiar with for a long time.