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Here at EC Towers we’ve long believed that the influence of US law firms was going to play a massive part in shaping the UK legal market.  And this week’s UK200 report, by The Lawyer, has just proven our beliefs right.  Not only are all of the top 200 firms reviewed, benchmarked and ranked, but the clever bods at The Lawyer have analysed the percentage of this marketplace made up of firms headquartered outside of the UK.  This allows them to compare this to domestic growth and assess the impact of change.

In this new ranking (The UK Market Register) we can see that whilst the top 20 is still very much the domain of UK-based firms, the 21-40 ranking is a veritable battleground, with just over half of the £2.25bn revenue being attributed to overseas (primarily US) firms.

mkt-reg_660From The Lawyer’s report

As has been widely reported, the focused hiring of UK partners, by US firms in London (especially over 2014) demonstrates that they’re here to stay… and dominate.

Not only do they appear to be moving up the rankings but they’re taking an innovate approach to integration.  So, how have they done it?  It’s no secret that US firms have, in the past, struggled to integrate themselves successfully into London.  We may speak the same language but they’re very different cultures.  Firms such as Kirkland & Ellis and Latham & Watkins have taken a new and focused approach, however. Rather than setting themselves up with London ‘branches’ they have created UK firms under the banner of the US brand.  They have recruited partners with existing client relationships and filled their London desks with large numbers of UK-qualified lawyers.

Of course this isn’t true for all and only half those listed in the 21-40 ranking of this report have taken this approach.  Only time will tell what’s going to work.  However, in our work with both US and UK firms, understanding the people is the crucial success factor.  Success comes from not only adapting messages and processes to local markets but being prepared to do this on the correct brand grounding. It’s not about throwing the baby out with the bath water but taking the things that make the firm great and then working out the best way to communicate these to the chosen market.  That’s why this ‘US:UK firms’ are clearly making such an impact… they’re getting it right and are really worth a look for any ambitious firm thinking of international expansion… or even for a UK firm looking to hang on to its top 50 ranking!

Morning meetings in This post was written from Boston, where Helen is currently working and just heading off for a LMA meeting at Brown Rudnick (who are brave enough to describe themselves as ‘200 high-octane lawyers’).