The most international of the NY elite
The elite law firms in New York, the ‘white-shoes’, were traditionally slow to go global, especially compared to the magic circle. But Shearman & Sterling (“Shearman”) was one of the few exceptions. The firm was the envy of many for its strategic expansion into Europe. It built one of the best corporate practices in Germany, a market-leading arbitration practice in France, and gained a foothold in the London market before many realised it was possible. And this early global presence helped to attract big clients. In 1998, Shearman, with the help of star partner Georg Thoma, advised on the world’s largest industrial merger and the biggest cross-border deal at the time: the merger between German giant Daimler-Benz and US car manufacturer Chrysler.
During the 2000s, Shearman’s German practice boasted one of the highest revenue per lawyer ratios in the market and secured many publicly listed German companies as clients. With four offices and a significantly bigger practice than its rivals, Shearman was widely seen as the most successful US law firm to enter the German market, successfully competing against rivals Freshfields and Hengeler Mueller for large M&A deals. In 2004, the firm acted on Germany’s largest ever public-to-private deal as counsel to Blackstone on its acquisition of Celanese.
By 2010, Shearman’s London practice began to outperform its US practice by revenue growth, and the firm regularly went up against the magic circle on M&A deals. The firm had a habit of picking up lawyers to launch its international practices. In 2011, Shearman picked up a team of 17 anti-trust and competition lawyers for its Brussels operations and in 2013, Shearman hired of a team from Weil Gotshal & Manges to effectively launch its private equity practice.
Today, almost half of Shearman’s partners are outside the US; a higher ratio than many in the New York elite and The Lawyer ranks the firm as having one of the most international practices within its turnover bracket.