Americans may now export the English language to the world, but English commercial law, exported by British lawyers, remains a world-beater. The two biggest global law firms, Clifford Chance and Linklaters, are closely followed by Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Allen & Overy. Individually, they dwarf most US rivals; their combined force — 11,000 lawyers and £3.6 billion in revenue — makes them dominant players in Europe and Asia.
The top brass at London’s “magic circle” — Guy Beringer _(Allen & Overy), David Childs (Clifford Chance), Konstantin Mettenheimer (Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer), Tony Angel (Linklaters), Tim Clark (Slaughter and May) — are justifiably proud men. “These very successful businesses are vital for the future of the City: a big story that’s never told,” Beringer says.
After an excellent year, several hundred City lawyers have secured a place in the £1 million-a- year-club. “We’re uncomfortable with media interest in our profits,” Angel admits. “Too much focus on fat-cat lawyers rather than what we bring to the economy as huge earnings generators.”