London continues to exert a gravitational pull on top US law firms

In July 2010, Legal Week‘s annual US law firms in London survey revealed that 86% of those firms were planning to increase their recruitment over 18 months. Well, Legal Week‘s latest US law firms in London survey shows that, despite the current economic uncertainty, top US law firms are making good on their pledges to expand their London offices.

The latest increase in the recruitment and penetration of US law firms in London is revealed in Legal Week’s survey of 45 US and transatlantic firms. In the year up to January 2012, the number of partners, at those firms that responded, increased by 91 to almost 1,200. Of all the US law firms in London, Reed Smith has the largest partnership presence at 108, followed by Mayer Brown at 96 and Baker & McKenzie at 85. While White & Case has a partnership of 74, the firm employs the largest overall number of lawyers in the City, at 374.

It is not only their resolve to increase recruitment through lateral hires at a senior level that top US law firms are displaying their public commitment to London. By 2010, two-thirds US of law firms ran their own trainee programmes and this figure has since risen.

Why are US law firms increasingly attracted to the City?

Firstly, London provides a global platform for US law firms, and is an important staging-point for investment banks doing business throughout Europe and into the

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Middle East.

Secondly, London remains US law firms’ overriding priority. Despite the lure of emerging markets in China, Russia and the Middle East, US law firms realise they need a strong and credible presence in London, as it is such a major business and financial hub.

Thirdly, it’s quite simple to register as a foreign lawyer in London, since there are relatively few barriers for overseas lawyers to practise in England and Wales. A look at the number of foreign registered lawyers on the Law Society’s website will confirm this.

Fourthly, because it attracts dynamic lawyers from a host of countries eager to work for local and international firms of solicitors, London has a standing pool of international and domestic talent,.

US law firms seem to be taking full advantage of the opportunities the City has to offer. The steady growth of US law firms based in the City is reflected in their increasing participation in a variety of non-contentious work, such as structuring deals, negotiating contracts (finance, acquisitions etc…) and advising on tax and regulatory issues.

London appears ideally placed to address the existing demand from US firms and to anticipate further growth in the sector. Legal recruiter Siobhan Lewington from Fox Rodney Search told Legal Week that the London legal market has “…seen strong hiring from US firms in the City over the last year as part of their globalisation strategy and as they look to capitalise on London as an access point for European and other international growth…”

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