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Law firms of the year in private equity

Kirkland & Ellis and Debevoise & Plimpton put in strong showings in the awards for sister publication Private Equity International.

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Law firm of the year in Europe (fund formation)

  1. Debevoise & Plimpton
  2. Goodwin Procter
  3. Simpson Thacher & Bartlett

Some of the firm’s highlights in the region last year include advising London-based Metric Capital Partners on the first and final close of its Fund III on its €850 million hard-cap, and the hire of King & Wood Mallesons’ co-head of funds team Simon Witney in January.One of the law firms in Europe spearheading the surge in fundraising towards pre-crisis highs is Debevoise & Plimpton. This is the first time the firm has won in this category in Europe, having clinched top place for fund formation in Asia in 2013 and North America in 2012.

“Fundraising levels reached a high [since 2008] against a backdrop of ongoing regulatory change, both for funds and their investors,” said Geoffrey Kittredge, a partner who leads Debevoise’s fund formation group. “In that context, it is perhaps more important than ever for funds and their advisors to stay engaged with industry associations, regulators, and government bodies to help chart a forward path for private funds in Europe.”

Law firm of the year in Europe (transactions)

  1. Clifford Chance
  2. Latham & Watkins
  3. Debevoise & Plimpton

With the exception of 2015 when King & Wood Mallesons usurped its stronghold on the title, Clifford Chance has won in this category every year since the PEI Awards began in 2001. The reason? It works with some of the biggest names in private equity and on some of the largest deals. In 2017 the law firm advised private equity clients on more than 40 deals representing a value of over £28 billion ($38.9 billion; €31.9 billion) and worked with stalwarts of the industry including Advent, Apax Partners, Blackstone, Carlyle, CD&R, Cinven, CVC Capital Partners, EQT, KKR, Partners Group and Permira, to name just a few.

With deals including CVC and Cinven’s acquisition of NewDay as well as Permira, Cinven and Mid Europa’s $3.3 billion purchase of Poland’s largest online marketplace Allegro as some of its headline transactions last year, Clifford Chance has much to boast about. Will they clinch the title again next year? A betting person would say yes.

Law firm of the year in Europe (secondaries)

  1. Kirkland & Ellis
  2. Clifford Chance
  3. Macfarlanes

In September 2016 Kirkland promoted Ted Cardos to partner and charged him with leading the firm’s secondaries operation in Europe. The firm had won that year’s award for best secondaries law firm in Europe, so the pressure was on to keep up the good work. The numbers speak for themselves.  In 2017, Kirkland & Ellis advised on $963 million of European secondaries portfolio trades and more than €1 billion-worth of GP-led processes. Among the many deals it worked on was our European Secondaries Deal of the Year, the €750 million recapitalization of Investindustrial’s 2008-vintage fund, which was backed by AlpInvest and Landmark. Kirkland has 250 dedicated investment funds lawyers, including 86 partners, across North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific.

Law firm of the year in North America (fund formation)

  1. Debevoise & Plimpton
  2. Simpson Thacher & Bartlett
  3. Linklaters

Debevoise & Plimpton knocked last year’s winner Proskauer off the top spot to claim the crown for fund formation law firm of the year on the back of a string of impressive fundraisings.

The jewel in the crown on the private equity side was the $10 billion Clayton, Dubilier & Rice Fund X, which attracted more than $20 billion in investor demand. The firm also worked with Stone Point Capital in the formation of the $5.5 billion Trident VII buyout fund, advised HarbourVest Partners on its $1.9 billion Global Investment Program and $1.75 billion co-investment fund, mid-market firm One Equity Partners on its $1.65 billion Fund VI, and Morgan Stanley Investment Management with the formation of North Haven Capital Partners VI, which raised more than $1.5 billion.

Law firm of the year in North America (transactions)

  1. Kirkland & Ellis
  2. Simpson Thacher & Bartlett
  3. Dechert

Kirkland & Ellis worked on more than 200 deals and on some of the largest transactions in the region last year, including Blackstone’s $6.1 billion acquisition of TeamHealth Holdings, a physician services organisation, and Pamplona Capital Management’s acquisition of global biopharmaceutical provider Parexel International for about $5 billion. It also advised on one of the most contrarian transactions of 2017: Sycamore Partners’ acquisition of Staples, for $6.7 billion.

“Dealflow in 2017 remained very robust, which required us to utilise both our depth and breadth of experience – which is unique given the size of our practice and the number of deals we handle – to help both long-term clients and new clients execute important transactions,” said Jon Ballis, a corporate partner and member of Kirkland’s global management executive committee.

Law firm of the year in North America (secondaries)

  1. Kirkland & Ellis
  2. Proskauer
  3. Simpson Thacher & Bartlett

In North America, Kirkland & Ellis’s name pops up on many of the most prominent secondaries deals to have taken place last year. It worked on our American Deal of the Year, Clearlake’s acquisition, using preferred equity financing, of a stake in its own GP. It also dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s of the Warburg Pincus strip sale and the fund recapitalisations carried out by tech-focused PE firm Vector Capital. Michael Belsley, who leads Kirkland’s secondaries practice, said: “With respect to secondary transactions, Kirkland’s goal is not only to provide high-quality legal services to our clients, but to be a thought-leader in this market segment.”

In 2017, across all markets, Kirkland was involved in more than $12.9 billion of secondaries transactions, including 61 secondaries portfolio sales for an aggregate of $6.1 billion of transaction value.

Law firm of the year in Asia (fund formation)

  1. Weil, Gotshal & Manges
  2. Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton
  3. Shearman & Sterling

PEI is delighted to welcome Weil, Gotshal & Manges to its awards with its debut win, clinching the top spot in this competitive category. In the past 12 months the firm advised on close to 10 funds including CLSA Capital Partners’ $400 million Japan mid-cap buyout vehicle, CMC Capital’s $600 million China buyout fund and CITIC Capital’s third Japan fund and third China fund which between them raised more than $1.8 billion. The group’s expertise is deep and wide, acting as fund counsel across asset classes spanning private equity, real estate, special situations, credit opportunity and infrastructure. And to top it off, Weil also has expertise advising on co-investments as well as carried interest plans and management platforms. With Asia the next private equity hotspot, expect to find the team – including Hong Kong-based partners John Fadley and Albert Cho – at  Weil behind many of the headline funds over the coming year.

Law firm of the year in Asia (transactions)

  1. Clifford Chance
  2. Morrison & Foerster
  3. Weil, Gotshal & Manges

Clifford Chance is taking home the gong for transactions law firm of the year for the seventh year in a row thanks to its involvement in a slew of the region’s most high-profile deals. Its Asia team – based out of offices in Beijing, Hong Kong, Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore, Sydney and Tokyo – worked with the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board on its acquisition together with KKR of a stake in India’s Bharti Infratel, a telecom tower infrastructures provider, with Navis Capital on the merger of the Celebrity Fitness chain of gyms with Fitness First, with CVC on the $330 million sale of its stake in the content solutions business of SPi Global, and with Actis on its acquisition of a majority stake in China-based textile company Zheijiang RGB Textile Group, to name a few.

Law firm of the year in Asia (secondaries)

  1. Kirkland & Ellis
  2. Debevoise & Plimpton
  3. Simpson Thacher & Bartlett

Kirkland & Ellis has done a clean sweep of the secondaries categories, picking up the award for best in North America, best in Europe and best in Asia, for the second year in a row. The firm worked on one of the most interesting deals to take place in 2017, the $1.2 billion sale of a strip of Asian assets from Warburg Pincus XI, an $11.2 billion, 2012-vintage buyout fund. The deal, which involved the sale of 29 separate stakes, many of which were in venture capital funds, was backed by a group of investors led by Goldman Sachs and Lexington Partners. As well as being one of the largest secondaries transactions to take place last year, the structure highlighted the growing range of possibilities that the market can offer.