English Firms Ripe For International Mergers – Survey

Global business still prefers English law – and needs English-qualified solicitors – as confirmed recently by leading lights in the international legal profession.

Reinforcing English law’s continued status as the preferred jurisdiction – and London as a major hub – for global business, nearly two thirds of international firms with a presence in London would consider merging with an English firm. The figures come from Legal Week as part of its annual survey of international firms in London.

Oliver Brettle, head of the London office of White & Case, said: “The importance of English law in cross-border transactions as well as disputes continues to grow. To service this work you need English law-qualified lawyers. London also continues to be an important hub for financial services, while the UK remains one of the world’s largest economies, meaning that to be a credible global law firm you need to have a substantial presence in London.”

The sophistication and quality of English solicitors – a testament to the rigorous training and regulatory standards expected of the profession – was also highlighted in the survey.

Hungry for growth

In increasingly volatile economic conditions, parties more than ever want the protections afforded by a robust, certain jurisdiction renowned for its integrity: all hallmarks of English law. Therefore, for serious law firms seeking to expand their offering or reach a wider client base, the ability to operate in and advise on areas of English law is essential, rather than a nice-to-have added offering.

But English law can only be practiced by suitably qualified and regulated solicitors. In order to offer this expertise to clients, therefore, law firms must turn to English-qualified solicitors as the only authorised practitioners in the jurisdiction.

The survey figures appear to show that, in contrast to the cautious growth strategy preferred by international firms in the years after the 2008 financial crisis, there is now a preference for expansion by merger or partner hire in order to establish a presence in the London legal market. English law firms and solicitors with clients and/or experience in the demands of international business are especially well-placed to profit from this renewed appetite for growth.

A New World

Some new entrants to the London market are launching a London office through partner hires, and there is a 7% rise in London partner count and firmwide UK-qualified partners. This represents greater potential both for promotion to partnership – either within a firm or transferring to a new firm as a partner – as well as international opportunities for UK-qualified solicitors/partners.

These exciting survey results show not only the increasingly international nature of business, but also the shift in focus in the international legal market. Whilst English-based law firms continue to be market leaders – with offices or operations in most countries across the world – the unrivalled confidence placed by global business in English law and the gold-standard quality of English solicitors means that more than ever before, international law firms consider an office or presence in England an essential part of their business and offering to clients.