It’s no secret that Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has clear U.S. ambitions. Opening a larger Silicon Valley office, a second M&A partner hire from U.S. elite Cravath Swaine & Moore and a serious pay bump for its U.S. associates — and that’s all just within the past six months. Now, it seems that the numbers are catching up, as much of its revenue uplift can be attributed to its U.S. efforts, according to the firm’s management.
Despite slower revenue growth during the financial year 2021/22, the U.S. offering was its saving grace. While the firm did not provide specific revenue breakdown for its jurisdictions, global managing partner Alan Mason told Law.com International that the U.S. drove “a significant portion” of its 10% revenue growth.
The success mirrors that of key rival Allen & Overy, which said that over half of its 10% revenue increase stemmed from its U.S. investment.
Work for Google, AstraZeneca and telecommunications company Ericcson are just some of the “multibillion dollar mandates” alongside notable litigation driving U.S. growth, Mason added, with a recent standout mandate its work on U.S. industrial tools and security systems maker Stanley Black & Decker’s €3 billion sale of its global electronic security solutions and healthcare solutions businesses.
Other notable clients include Universal Music Group and Tesla. “The proof is in the work that the clients are giving us and the people we’re continuing to hire”, Mason added.
Global managing partner Rick van Aerssen echoed this, noting that the quality of the instructions “both for U.S. work but also legacy clients”, validates the firm’s U.S. strategy.
Notable additions in the financial year included a trio of Cravath hires: Nicole Foster, dealmaker Damien Zoubek and most recently Jenny Hochenberg. Despite this, it lost Silicon Valley founding partner Maj Vaseghi, who rejoined Latham & Watkins in May 2022 — after less than two years at Freshfields.
So what’s next? According to van Aerssen, the firm “would not feel uncomfortable” with having over 100 partners in the U.S., highlighting “whether that is something we achieve immediately in two years, three years or more — it depends.”
The firm currently has nearly 300 U.S. lawyers and around 60 partners across its three offices in New York, Washington D.C. and Silicon Valley.
“Lateral hiring takes a lot of things to come together — there’s a lot of push and pull. But we’re very happy with the trajectory and we’re very happy with the roster of partners we have”, he added.
The firm’s U.S. play has gone from strength to strength since the launch of its Silicon Valley office in July 2020, charting quick growth there due to IPO, M&A and SPAC work fueled by technology clients.
Since then, it has doubled the size of its Silicon Valley base and named Sarah Solum as U.S. managing partner.
Until recently, its U.S. fortunes had been fairly mixed in its attempts to scale up in the U.S.. In 2019, it made waves again with the hire of a four-partner team from Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, but suffered a blow to its operations with the departure of U.S. head of M&A and global transactions, Mitchell Presser, in April.
Its U.S. efforts are by no means a short-term goal, with the firm plotting further growth. van Aerssen pointed to the firm’s “slow but steady” growth, particularly in corporate M&A, securities and securities litigation as a success story, while Mason said: “Our objective is to be at the top of the market in the U.S., like we are in Europe and Asia.”
U.S. efforts will also play into the firm’s Asia growth strategy. On Monday, Asia managing partner Tom Ng said that the firm foresees much of its Asia growth to be U.S.-centric: “The linkage between U.S. and Asia practice is going to be very, very critical. Going forward, we foresee a lot of expansion, new partners, and head count growth in Asia with U.S.-qualified partners.”