Clifford Chance has world at its feet as merger with Rogers & Wells pays off

The top 100 law firms around the world grossed $36 billion (25 billion) last year, with Clifford Chance rising to the top of the pile for the first time.Also for the first time, five of the ten highest-grossing global firms are based in London: Clifford Chance ($1.4 billion gross revenues in 2000-2001), Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer (fourth with $938 million), Linklaters (fifth with $750 million), Allen & Overy (sixth with $741 million) and Andersen Legal (ninth equal with $590 million).'The British firms' decision to be pan-European and now global has paid off,' the survey decided.By virtue of its merger with New York firm Rogers & Wells, Clifford Chance has toppled US firm Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom ($1.2 billion) as the top firm; however, the City firm has almost twice as many lawyers.The list is dominated by US firms.

Outside of the top ten, the next City firm is Lovells at 25th ($443 million), while the first non-US or UK firm is Australia's Mallesons Stephen Jaques at 85th ($210 million).Slaughter and May - with an average of $1.6 million - was the only non-US practice in the top ten of the table of most profits per equity partner.

New York's Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz was clear at the top with a whopping $3.3 million per equity partner.The survey, conducted by American Lawyer and Legal Business magazines, found the top 50 firms' head count has increased 39% over the past four years, and revenue by 61% over the past three.The success of Clifford Chance in using the Rogers & Wells merger to skip 'two generations of plodding client development' meant the challenge is now facing Allen & Overy, Linklaters and Freshfields, it said.'Can fielding a handful of splendid lateral partners get them into the American game?' the survey asked.'For the moment, those firms insist that they only want cross-border business.

And for the moment that's all they have a prayer of pursuing.

But how long will these global players be satisfied with tasty crumbs from the American table?'Neil Rose