Latham & Watkins has overtaken long-term leader Baker McKenzie to become the largest U.S.-centered law firm in London by headcount.
Latham now has around 550 lawyers in its London office, including 122 partners, according to a firm spokesperson, putting it ahead of last year’s leader Baker McKenzie, which has approximately 525.
When trainees are excluded from these figures, Latham currently has 500 lawyers, while Baker McKenzie has 475. The figures are similar to mid-sized U.K. Top 50 law firms.
Baker McKenzie first entered the London market back in 1961, and has consistently ranked top by headcount in the U.K. capital. According to analysis undertaken by ALM Intelligence, Baker McKenzie had the largest London headcount of any U.S.-led firm in 1979, 1989, 1999 and 2009.
Firms are classed as U.S.-based if they have more lawyers in the U.S. than in any other single country.
In its most recent London Market Report, ALM’s analysis showed that even in 2021, the firm still held the top spot for headcount excluding trainees with 455 lawyers, whilst Latham was closely behind in second place with 448.
In comparison to these 2021 figures, Latham has increased its lawyer headcount by 52 to leapfrog into first place, whilst Baker McKenzie has added 20 lawyers over the same period.
Earlier this year, Latham also appeared to dethrone Kirkland & Ellis as the largest U.S. law firm in London by revenue, with the firm’s London turnover reaching an estimated $675 million, ahead of Kirkland’s estimated $633 million. Neither firm provides London revenue figures and both declined to comment on the estimates.
Stephen Kensell, managing partner of Latham’s London office, said: “London is a key strategic market and a central part of Latham’s global strategy. We’ve made significant investments here to establish a broad and diversified practice with a phenomenal bench of talent. There’s plenty more to come.”
Despite Latham’s rapid growth in London over recent years, the firm suffered a setback earlier this month when a four-partner finance team moved to U.S. rival Paul Hastings. The team included the firm’s global co-chair of banking Ross Anderson, as well as Mo Nurmohamed and Karan Chopra, both co-chairs of the firm’s London finance practice.
Latham & Watkins confirmed that over the last five years, the London office has promoted more lawyers than it has hired, with 38 promotions and 34 lateral hires. In addition, during the most recent round of partner promotions, trainees who joined the London office as part of the firm’s graduate scheme became partners for the first time.
ALM Intelligence’s London Market Report 2022 is available to download now on Law.com Compass. The report includes insight and analysis into both the historical entry and present performance of US firms in London alongside an examination of the market’s overall competitive landscape, client base, lateral hiring and promotions trends, and economic and business environment.