Freshfields pushes US expansion, despite slowdown in deals | Jobi Cool

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer continues its US expansion strategy, despite headwinds in one of the law firm’s key businesses: mergers and acquisitions.

The U.K.-based company expects to double the size of its U.S. corporate operations over the next five years, said Paul Tiger, head of U.S. business. Freshfields has made an aggressive foray into the state in recent years, including hiring well-known vendors from elite US competitors.

“We’re still trying to expand, because we think there’s a big opportunity in the U.S. market,” Tiger said in an interview. “We plan to continue to make strategic lateral hires.” We’re also bringing people through the pipeline organically.”

Freshfields was among the top legal advisors in M&A deals in the first nine months of this year, working on deals worth a total of $160.3 billion, according to Bloomberg data. But deal activity has slowed significantly after a historic period that fueled strong growth for many major law firms over the past two years.

The slide is fueling grumblings about a slowdown in legal work and a recalibration of the size and scope of the law firm’s corporate practices.

Freshfields is moving ahead with its expansion plans, Tiger said.

The firm announced Monday that it has hired leveraged finance attorney Allison Liff as a partner in New York. Liff was previously a banking and finance partner at the Wall Street firm Weil, Gotshal & Manges and served as in-house counsel at Goldman Sachs for nearly seven years.

The company this year hosted its largest summer class of 62 students in the U.S. — nearly 25% more than the previous year — and Tiger said it expects to extend full-time positions to all participants.

Freshfields is targeting other revenue streams in the meantime, including related antitrust and litigation matters, but is also using a surge in deals related to renewable energy companies, Tiger said.

“There’s still tremendous activity, it’s just not the big headliners,” Tiger said in an interview. “We’ve built the US practice thinking about talent and ability, and we believe that if we have the right team in place, the work will find us.”

Liff, who advised Goldman Sachs during the 2008 recession, says companies should brace themselves for an eventual boom.

“We have customer needs to serve now, but we want to grow and be ready to continue serving them as the volume increases,” she said.

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