This article reveals the results of the 2012 Investment Funds Super League. The Super League showcases the law firms with the widest breadth and depth of recommendations worldwide according to our research. The table is based on the most recent rankings by PLC Which lawyer? for investment funds and is correct as of 23 December 2011.
Number of recommended lawyers
England & Wales, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Luxembourg and USA
England & Wales, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, The Netherlands and United Arab Emirates
England & Wales, Hong Kong, Japan and USA
Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Singapore and United Arab Emirates
England & Wales and USA
England & Wales, France, Germany and Luxembourg
Australia, England & Wales, France, Germany, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Poland, Spain and United Arab Emirates
England & Wales and United Arab Emirates
Australia, Canada, England & Wales, Germany, Italy and United Arab Emirates
Austria, England & Wales, Germany and Italy
The asset management industry experienced much volatility in 2011. Following on from a poor performance in the previous year, 2011 began well with new fundraisings picking up significantly in the first half of the year. However, the effects of the worsening eurozone crisis halfway through the year eventually slowed down activity.
The year also saw the continuing dominance of the larger asset management players in the fundraising market, with start-up funds still finding it difficult to compete in a wary market. This led to some consolidation among the mid- to smaller-sized asset managers.
Although clichéd, the market's outlook remained one of 'flight to quality', with investors focusing on strong track records. This applied equally to law firms, as investors and funds alike were keen to ensure that only firms and individuals with a longstanding focus on the industry were advising them. This made 2010 and 2011 incredibly difficult years for new practices to enter this industry, while the more established players cemented their market positions.
Regulatory advice continued to generate instructions for firms on both sides of the Atlantic. Advisory work around the European Union's Alternative Investment Funds Managers Directive (AIFMD) continued apace, although much of the initial concern about its impact on the hedge fund and private equity industry abated in 2011, as the detailed provisions of the draft Directive continued to be debated ahead of its 2013 implementation. In the US, the impending implementation in mid-2012 of the Dodd-Frank Act's Volcker Rule provisions, restricting the proprietary trading activities of commercial banks, kept most funds' practices very busy. Consequently, spin-outs from financial institutions of their funds' arms picked up pace significantly, and look likely to continue into the early part of 2012.
Finally, the hybridisation of strategies adopted by investment funds continued to grow, as both alternative and registered funds looked to adopt one another's strategies to diversify their exposure. This benefitted firms with expertise across the key areas of the asset management industry.
Against this background, the inaugural PLC Which lawyer? Investment Funds Super League 2011 identifies the top ten firms that have most successfully displayed their global capabilities in fund formation, regulatory and transactional advice for the leading asset management players.
Topping the Super League is Dechert. The breadth of its recommendations across the key markets of the US, Europe and Asia cements its position at the top. Like many of the firms in the Super League, it places a heavy emphasis on having strong trans-Atlantic capability, and has market-leading practices in both the US and London. It is best known in the US for its excellent registered funds practice, with practitioners across its East Coast offices coming together to form one of the largest practices in the country. In the UK, it excels in the hedge funds space, but is also present in the closed-ended and open-ended retail space. Unlike many of its competitors, it also has offices in two key EU jurisdictions for UCITS funds advice: Luxembourg and Dublin, the latter having only been opened in the last year to take advantage of the growing popularity of Ireland as a funds jurisdiction.
Simmons & Simmons comes in at second place, thanks to the strength and size of its London-based team. While it is present across the close and open-ended funds space, it is its hedge funds practice where the firm has built up its brand so strongly in the asset management industry. The practice handles an incredible volume of work for some of the world's largest hedge funds, while the expertise of its partners, such as Iain Cullen, ensures it remains at the forefront of industry developments. In the Middle East, the small but well-respected team has a solid track record on Shariah funds, while its Hong Kong office has carved an excellent niche for itself on ETF-related work.
In third place is Sidley Austin. Globally, it has one of the strongest brand names in the hedge funds sector, leading in the US and Hong Kong markets. Its UK operation continues to be prominent in the competitive London hedge funds market, where many other firms have tried and failed to compete. It is also one of a handful of firms with a strong Japanese client base. Also notable is the firm's excellent registered funds practice in the US, where its breadth of expertise across the key areas of asset management is a major strength.
In fourth place is Clifford Chance. Perhaps best known for its private equity fund formation work in London, its position in the Super League, unusually for a Magic Circle firm, is down to its strength outside the UK. Its German and Hong Kong practices stand out, the latter office for its breadth across the hedge and retail spaces, while in Luxembourg its strength in real estate funds with German clients is particularly notable.
Rounding off the top five is Schulte Roth & Zabel. Its position in the top half of the Super League is impressive considering that only its US and London hedge funds practices are recommended. In the US, it has a broader asset management practice than in London, which is dedicated purely to hedge funds, with private and venture fund formation capabilities adding to its reputation. Its funds practice is supplemented by excellent tax structuring capabilities on both sides of the Atlantic, while its Washington DC office offers support on regulatory and enforcement issues.
Linklaters, with its excellent close-ended practice in London, comes in at sixth. It is also notable for its strength in Luxembourg, where it competes with the two other leading local practices for a range of funds work. Its Luxembourg practice also supports the firm's wider network for UCITS-related matters. The firm's German practice is also highly recommended for its cross-border capabilities, regulatory advice and strong links with institutional clients.
Allen & Overy comes in at seventh and is one to watch in the coming years as it invests in its funds practice globally. It added Frank Herring to its team in Germany earlier this year, to build a practice in Frankfurt; while in Spain it brought in well-regarded lawyer Salvador Ruiz Bachs to kick start its funds practice there. With established practices in London, Luxembourg, Paris and Warsaw, the firm is well on its way in building a credible pan-European funds offering. Outside Europe, its Middle East practice, centred around Dubai, is also notable.
Herbert Smith takes eighth place thanks to its market-leading practices in London and Dubai. In London, it has long been seen as one of the best closed-ended listed funds practices in the UK, with one of the market's largest team of partners focusing on this space. In recent years, it has been pushing into the competitive hedge fund sector, where it is has had some success. From its Dubai office, the firm dominates the Middle Eastern funds market across the board.
Norton Rose is in ninth place. London and Frankfurt stand out as the key hubs for investment funds work, with the London practice commanding an exceptionally strong position among close-ended investment trusts. The firm's Australian and Canadian mergers over the last couple of years have given it added breadth around the world, and have supplemented its already respected position in the Middle East.
Rounding off the top ten is Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. The two key hubs for its international funds practice are London and Germany. Its London team is highly experienced in the closed-ended funds space, where the practice has held a solid reputation for a number of years. However, it is also recognised for its breadth of expertise across the funds industry, which is complemented by a strong regulatory component to its practice. In Germany, the firm has excellent synergies with its tax and transactional practices, as well as benefitting from its strong international network.
The Investment Funds Super League is based on the PLC Which lawyer? research conducted for the PLC Investment Funds Multi-jurisdictional Guide 2012 (see www.practicallaw.com/investmentfunds-mjg). The rankings in this article are based on the position online as at 23 December 2011.
Basis of the PLC Which lawyer? research: our team of researchers speak to leading legal practices throughout the year, as well as with clients who have recently instructed lawyers, to identify the best known specialists/practices across the key corporate and commercial areas globally. We monitor and analyse recent deal/case information across these areas to identify the firms most active in the market, as well as conducting peer review exercises among the leading practices. On the basis of this research, we rank lawyers and law firms for their expertise in investment funds. For a full explanation of the research and practice areas/subcategories covered, please visit www.practicallaw.com/whichlawyer.
For the purposes of the PLC Which lawyer? investment funds research, firms with strong hedge, mutual/registered/retail and listed closed-ended funds practices are considered. Private equity and venture capital fund formation recommendations are covered separately in the private equity research and are not included in these calculations.
Law firms are ranked in each practice area as "leading", "highly recommended", "recommended" or "recognised" in the jurisdictions in which they have relevant capability. Individual lawyers with strong reputations in this sector are singled out as "endorsed".
The Investment Funds Super League results are calculated by aggregating the results of law firm and lawyer recommendations in all of the above practice areas across 30 jurisdictions, with different points allocated to the level of recommendation. Firm recommendations are given more weighting than individual rankings. Firm and lawyer recommendations received in England & Wales and the United States are given more weighting than other jurisdictions. To qualify for inclusion in the Super League, a firm must receive recommendations in a minimum of two countries.
Firms are ranked by total score and then by number of recommended lawyers. Therefore if firms receive identical scores they are ranked in accordance with which firm has the most recommended lawyers.
Policy on mergers: points are aggregated if a full merger has been implemented before the calculations for the Super League commences. Correspondent and alliance firms are not included.
Firm names are abbreviated to those used in the home jurisdiction.