This week, we continue our theme of looking at the top 100 European independent firms (as published by The Lawyer) and identifying developments and trends of interest.
34 of these top firms (just over one- third) have a London office. This is the most popular location, outside of their own home country, for these firms to open an office. They tend to be the larger firms (ie in the top 50), and so we find there are more Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Irish and German firms among them.
Interestingly, there are only 2 firms from among all the Swiss, Swedish, Danish, Finnish or Portuguese firms (and very few from France) in the top 100 that has a London base. For whatever reason, law firms in these jurisdictions have not found a compelling business rationale to establish permanent bases in London.
This is consistent with the approach of firms in these jurisdictions towards European or global expansion generally: relatively few of them have established any significant international footprint. By way of example, none of the Swiss firms in the list of the top 100 (there are 9 of them) have an office outside Switzerland.
Some of the firms in these countries place their reliance on participating in international law firm networks such as Lex Mundi or Terralex to connect them to referral opportunities from elsewhere in the world.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the second most popular office location after London among these top 100 firms is Brussels, the key centre for EU and competition law. 31 firms have a base here, almost as many as in London.
And the next? New York, with 23 firms, again the legal centre for the world’s largest economy and home of the other legal system – other than English law – widely used for international transactions.
Of centres in Asia, Shanghai is the most popular location for an office, with 12 of the firms locating here – ahead of Singapore and Hong Kong. This reflects the global importance of the Chinese economy and the pre- eminence of its leading trading centre and stock exchange. It will be interesting to see whether Singapore’s popularity as an office location increases over the next few years given the challenges to Hong Kong’s status as an international legal hub.
We continue reporting our analysis next week. In the meantime, we’re interested to hear any of your comments or questions.