Chambers Global UK International Capabilities

UK: International & Cross Border Capabilities

In the International & Cross Border Capabilities sections, Chambers highlights the law firms which are identified by clients as the best and most user-friendly to work with when matters involve international aspects, that require the lawyers to consider, manage and advise on issues which are going on across different countries and jurisdictions.

All the firms listed in the UK offer strong abilities to serve clients who are seeking a legal team with significant resources in the UK, but also the ability to excel in international work.

Frequently, the firm’s specified have been picked out by clients for their strengths in some or all of the below:

• coordinating advice on connected transactions, court procedures or regulatory issues in different countries as a lead counsel;
• providing global reach and giving clients access to top quality legal advice in all the markets they need help;
• providing seamless and integrated legal services to clients, which create a user-friendly experience across borders; and
• helping clients in international matters through specific knowledge or experience of sector or industry practices worldwide.

International Capability Quadrants

The international capability quadrants compare the different key strengths firms in the UK offer international clients and what key advantages might influence a client to work with different firms in cross-border work.

The horizontal axis displays the number of different locations in which firms have achieved a ranking in the Chambers Global Guide, showing the extent of the firm’s global reach and the number of markets where the firm can work with clients directly or provide on the ground presence. Firms which are furthest to the right on the graph, may appeal most to clients with large global businesses, which require a ‘one-stop-shop’ to cover their needs in as many markets as possible.

The vertical axis displays a score based on the firm’s UK rankings giving particular weighting and consideration to the areas which most often involve international issues across either transactional or contentious matters. The score also includes points based on the quality of feedback firms receive about their overall ability to serve clients internationally, across practice areas. The firms nearest the top of the graph have the most elite presence in the market and have typically achieved top rankings across the broadest range of services considered. These firms may appeal most to clients looking for the strongest possible UK-centred team to act as lead counsel, typically on global matters which have a significant UK law component. This often includes independent firms that will be able to expand their international reach through close partnerships with foreign law firms.

In the UK market, there are also a significant number of highly specialised practices which excel in particular areas of international work. While these firms may not match the breadth of global presence or the breadth of international expertise provided by some firms in the UK, they are often considered the leading practices for cross-border matters in the specialist areas they focus on, which are detailed in the ranking tables and editorial in this section.

The quadrant only compares firm’s which have been recommended in the UK for their international and cross-border capabilities and does not include all firms in the market.

View the UK: International & Cross Border Capabilities video

Chambers Global UK Comparing Strengths: International Contentious Work

Chambers Global Comparing Strengths: International Transactions

The Different Approaches to International Work:

Across all jurisdictions, the firms highlighted in the International & Cross-Border Capabilities sections are diverse in approach, with many different models of serving clients in international work proving effective.
This includes international firms, which often provide expansive global reach under one roof, with offices around the globe to serve clients across continents.

It also includes independent firms, which often have a limited presence in a few key jurisdictions but are chosen by clients simply for the high quality of the firm’s services in the primary location of the matter, coupled with the firm’s ability to provide an international team through close partnerships with leading firms in jurisdictions where the firm cannot provide direct legal counsel.

Given that there is currently no firm that can comprehensively cover every jurisdiction in the world, in most cases, firms adopt a hybrid approach which combines some elements of both the different models above.

Clients have reported that all different approaches can have an advantage depending on preferences and the various demands of the international matter. Where there are intricate and inter-connected issues across a huge range of jurisdictions, or a need for quick answers on day-to-day issues across a wide geographic area, client often see an advantage in using the most expansive international firms. Where the most significant issues in a matter are in one particular country, or where the deal-making skills and cultural understanding of a client’s business is of greater importance, clients can often see an advantage in the independent model.

Global Trends in the UK Market:

As one of the most developed legal markets internationally and a key global hub for multinational businesses, the UK and London in particular hosts some of the most expansive, capable and experienced law firms in relation to international and cross-border work. Large global matters across sectors and practice areas are frequently led and coordinated from London, which means that clients are frequently putting faith in their London-based teams to navigate them through foreign law issues and business cultures and to cooperate efficiently with lawyers in other jurisdictions. The fact that English law continues to govern a significant proportion of the financing agreements used worldwide is particularly influential in ensuring that a strong London practice can secure a key role in international work.

Most large business law firms in the UK have developed some international elements to their practices and are advising on cross-border issues and international ventures to some degree.

One notable trend amongst the top firms includes the distinction between the broader full-service approach taken by most of the largest practices in the UK, contrasted with the more specialised approach adopted by several firms, which have chosen to focus on key areas of strength in order to provide an international platform tailored towards specific groups of clients.

The full-service approach

Many firms in the UK offer expansive full-service practices at the international level as well as domestically.  While not all of the practices featured in the full-service group offer comprehensive capability across every practice area and sector, they do have a significant practice in a range of transactional and contentious issues and are set up to assist clients with a broad range of issues.

Within this group, there are also firms which are particularly chosen for their stronger focus towards either transactional or contentious work. For example, Herbert Smith and Hogan Lovells are particularly regarded as market leaders on the strengths of their litigation and contentious practices, whereas Slaughter & May is generally perceived as an excellent M&A driven practice.

All the full-service firms are also often able to handle many of the specialist areas mentioned below, and attract clients due to their overall strength, breadth and experience across sectors and areas.

Specialised firms: Corporate, Finance & Funds

There are a large number of firms which are heavily geared towards transactional work in the UK. This particularly includes many of the US-centred firms which have established practices in London. Many of these firms have been having a significant impact in the UK market due to their ability to attract talent and their focus on executing the most complex and high-end work, despite in many cases having a smaller pool of resources than their UK-oriented competitors. Included in this group are firms such as Proskauer Rose, which is heavily focused on investment fund structuring in London, but with a very international flavour to the practice. Many of the US-centred firms use their London office as a hub for European work, leveraging their US law expertise for global issuances.

Coupled with this group, are firms such as Macfarlanes and Travers Smith, which are extremely UK-centred, independent practices, but which have a similar focus on M&A, finance and transactional work in the international space. Both are highly regarded teams, which appeal for their ability to serve clients well in mid-market cross-border M&A as well as high-end work.

Specialised firms: Litigation & Arbitration

London remains a key centre for international disputes and the firms listed in this category have a strong focus towards representing international clients in disputes going through the UK and international courts. This includes a mixture of global leaders such as Debevoise & Plimpton and Quinn Emanuel, UK-centred specialists such as RPC and arbitration specialists such as Three Crowns and WilmerHale.

Specialised firms: Insurance

The insurance sector drives a great deal of international work from the UK, with many of the world’s international insurance corporations listed on the Lloyds of London exchange and centred in London. There are several firms which excel in serving insurers across the jurisdictions in which they write business. These firms handle a range of issues include regulatory and transactional work but are mostly geared towards contentious matters such as defending insurance litigation.

Specialised firms: Shipping & Aviation

A number of UK firms specialise heavily on particular sectors in their international work. The transportation sector is one key area, with shipping a particularly significant portion of international work. All these firms represent transportation companies on a mix of litigation or financing matters and typically have strong links to key Asian jurisdictions such as Singapore and Hong Kong.

Specialised firms: Technology, IT & Life Sciences

A major growth area in the UK, several firms have made significant efforts to develop a European or global practice geared towards helping fast-growing businesses in the technology and other development industries. Firms which have succeeded in this area tend to have strong IP and regulatory capabilities to help clients navigate the complex regulatory environment around developing and commercialising new products. Bird & Bird is regarded as having the most expansive international platform, while Taylor Wessing, Osborne Clarke and Fieldfisher are currently more centred in Europe, but expanding further afield.