The sold-out event at the prestigious University Club marked the 10th anniversary of Who’s Who Legal’s Awards in which we recognise the firms and individuals who have excelled in our research over the course of the past year. The night was an unprecedented success with more than 250 attendees, including some of the best-known private practitioners and in-house counsel worldwide.
Commencing the proceedings, Sebastian O’Meara, one of the directors of Who’s Who Legal’s publisher Law Business Research and the master of ceremonies, explained how the proceeds from the event will benefit the Swawou School in Sierra Leone, which provides free education to disadvantaged girls. Monies raised from the generosity of attendees at our award dinners will entirely fund a new building (currently under construction) for the school.
Tom Barnes, Who’s Who Legal’s editor, then took to the stage to shed light on our research method which involves collecting recommendations from hundreds of thousands of private practitioners and in-house counsel. He emphasised that, “without the integrity of those we canvass and their willingness to acknowledge the professional abilities of their competitors”, we could not put together our books. He further acknowledged the “mutual respect” among lawyers around the world that enables them to set aside their wider feelings about a person to objectively acknowledge one’s work; this triggered a ripple of laughter among the crowd. He concluded by stressing that the night’s winners were not picked at our discretion; they are those lawyers and firms most widely recognised for their achievements by the global legal market, paving the way for the main event: the reveal of the 2014 Who’s Who Legal Award winners.
The first awards to be unveiled were the practice area firm winners: those fielding the highest number of lawyers in our research. Bird & Bird excelled in this category, picking up four awards: information technology, life sciences, patents, and telecoms and media. Two firms received three awards apiece: DLA Piper stood out for its “dominance” of the franchise, real estate, and sports and entertainment fields, while Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer was lauded for its “unrivalled practice” in arbitration, competition, and mergers and acquisitions. Furthermore, Clifford Chance was recognised as the “finance law firm of choice”, picking up the awards for banking and project finance. Norton Rose Fulbright also impressed, earning the awards for energy and mining.
Next was the presentation of the Lawyer of the Year awards, including “standouts” David Katz of Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz, winner of our mergers and acquisitions award for the sixth time and the top-ranking lawyer in our corporate governance research, and Colin Long of Bird & Bird, who was presented with the telecoms and media award for the fourth time. Also stepping up on to the stage to receive his award was Joseph Warin of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, who was awarded the inaugural investigations lawyer of the year award for his “sensational practice” in the field.
The category of country awards recognised the firms achieving the largest number of lawyers selected for inclusion in their country overall. Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer demonstrated its “market dominance” in England and Germany, while Lenz & Staehelin reclaimed its title as “Switzerland Firm of the Year”, bringing its total number of wins in this category to seven. Further winners included Uria Menendez for Spain, Mannheimer Swartling Advokatbyrå for Sweden and Pinheiro Neto Advogados in Brazil — each continuing their unbroken runs of success in their respective categories.
The award for Pro Bono Law Firm of the Year was decided from a shortlist of 10 firms following careful study of the submissions made in our 2013 global pro bono survey. In selecting the award winner we considered the percentage of the firm’s total billed hours dedicated to this work, the steps taken to institutionalise pro bono, the percentage of participation throughout all levels of the firm and the firm’s proudest moment of 2012. We were pleased to announce Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe as the winners of this award in recognition of their “tremendous contribution” and “forward-thinking” practice.
Rene Kathawala, coordinator of Orrick’s pro bono practice took to the stage to discuss the firm’s practice highlighting its focus on achieving “maximum impact” in all its projects. Along with its involvement in litigation cases, the firm is active in international public law matters and has a “superb” impact finance initiative. Kathawala then welcomed to the stage pro bono client Morris Cox, chief investment officer of BlocPower. The company, which uses energy efficiency technology and solar power to help underserved communities dramatically reduce their energy bills, said it would “not have been able to launch without the hard work of Orrick’s lawyers” and is “thankful for their involvement which in turn has enabled BlocPower to improve energy efficiency and lives in general”.
The evening concluded with the Law Firm of the Year: 2014 award, which was presented to Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer for the eighth time in recognition of its leading presence in our worldwide research. The firm achieves a total of 223 listings this year – more than any other firm – and is also recognised for its outstanding performance in the arbitration, competition and M&A sectors. With lawyers representing 23 of the firm’s offices, Freshfields’ global dominance is “undisputed” yet it remains particularly strong in its home jurisdictions of England and Germany. Frank Montag at the firm was also recognised for his antitrust law practice, earning the title of Competition Lawyer of the Year for the fifth consecutive time.
Who’s Who Legal’s editor, Tom Barnes, said “This award is in recognition of the unrivalled breadth and depth of the firm’s expertise. Freshfields is home to more market leading lawyers than any other firm, and is respected across the globe for the quality of its service to clients.”
To view pictures from the night please click here.
The full list of winners can be viewed here.