Law firms continue hot streaks in PEI Awards

Clifford Chance and SJ Berwin have retained their crowns as Europe’s premier private equity legal advisors, but in North America Simpson Thacher & Bartlett was knocked from its perch as preferred law firm for deal work.

The votes have been tallied for the 2012 Private Equity International awards, revealing Clifford Chance was voted as Europe’s top deal adviser for the 12th year running.

Likewise, peer London-based law firm SJ Berwin celebrates its 12th year as best in the region for fund formation work. In another typically busy year, SJ Berwin advised on nine fund closings in Europe – more than any other law firm – with a total worth of almost $2.5 billion.

A similar story played out across the Atlantic, where Debevoise & Plimpton continued its streak as the top choice for GPs raising capital in North America. Debevoise’s fund formation practice helped GPs secure an impressive $22 billion in commitments for North America funds that held a final close in 2012 (factor in money raised last year for funds yet to announce a final close, and that number jumps to $35 billion). 

However, not all law firms were able to keep hold of their titles in this year’s awards. Kirkland & Ellis was able to depose rival firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett as the top-rated firm for transactions in North America. Stateside, its team of M&A lawyers could boast of advising a handful of GPs on $1 billion-plus deals, at a time when most law firms were happy to settle for mid-market transactions. Mega deals in which Kirkland took part last year included Permira’s $1.6 billion buyout of genealogy website and Bain Capital’s purchase of tools manufacturer Apex Tool Group, also for $1.6 billion.

In the increasingly important Asia markets, O’Melveny & Myers took the fund formation award for the third year running. The firm has seven offices in Asia and was one of the earliest global firms involved in Asia fund formation, advising on its first in 2004. 

However, Debevoise & Plimpton’s two year run as top law firm for deal work in Asia has come to an end. Clifford Chance has retaken the title by advising on more than 20 complex transactions in Asia last year. Some of the highlights include CVC Asia Pacific’s $105 million acquisition of Venturepharma Group (China) and CVC Capital Partners’ $641 million acquisition of Hong Kong Broadband Network.

A full breakdown of the Private Equity International awards can be found HERE, where you can find which fund managers, investors, advisers and transactions took top honors and why.