The value of mergers and acquisitions in the first nine months of 2014 saw a return to pre-financial crisis levels, producing an interesting set of winners among the legal advisers. With the exception of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, the top-10 places are taken by US-headquartered firms.
M&A league tables do not have a direct read-across to the financial performance of firms, but the fees attached to these transactions are a key determinant of profits and commercial clout. In that regard, 2014’s first three quarters should give our largest firms cause to reflect on their position in the global market.
There is a deeply held assumption that the international firms that grew out of the City naturally punch above the UK’s weight – successful exports which (and yes, people really do speak this way in private) are more culturally adaptable than their brash US counterparts.
That faint light you can see? A pretty smug post-imperial glow hanging over our history as a trading nation.
Make no mistake, our leading law firms are phenomenal success stories with a good export record. But a look in the mirror is no bad thing. The relationships on which adviser status is based, and the ways that global markets change, respect our nicely burnished self-image rather less than we do.