The number of deals law firms have been working on is woefully down from the 2007 peak, a recent MergerMarket report (.pdf) shows.
But even though there’s half as much work, the big deals firms are hanging on to their market share. And some interesting news is that Cooley Godward is moving up in the rankings, despite the recent loss of star rainmakers.
Latham & Watkins, Jones Day, Cooley, and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati lead the pack in the number of deals completed on the West Coast in 2009.
Cooley’s surge, and the deal landscape, after the jump
The report tracked the number and value of public deals firms worked on through the first three quarters of the year. Compared to the first three quarters of last year (.pdf), overall deal volume and value continued to slide. Quarter to quarter, deal volume has recovered slightly from a low in the first quarter of 2009.
Nationwide, Jones Day; Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom; Kirkland & Ellis and Latham led the pack for volume. But those firms saw a drop in volume of 30 to 50 percent from 2008.
Most firms didn’t move around in the rankings much. But Cooley jumped up in a couple. It came in seventh nationwide, after ranking 19th last year. For West Coast deals, it jumped from ninth to second.
Barbara Borden, head of Cooley’s M&A practice, attributed that to the firm’s strength representing companies rather than the institutional investors New York firms often represent. The San Diego partner also said her firm may represent more companies in sectors that buyers are interested in nowadays, like technology and life sciences.
“The venture capital model now is to try to sell their portfolio companies, rather than take them public,” Borden noted.
In terms of the value of deals completed in the United States, Skadden; Sullivan & Cromwell and Cravath, Swaine & Moore led the pack.
Now, before you get too jealous of Skadden’s $227 billion worth of deals, note that firms don’t always make more money on larger deals.
The money earned often depends on the complexity of the deal, whether it involves public or private companies, or how many buyers were consulted, Borden said.
“There are a lot of factors that drive how much time a deal takes that are not connected to the value of the deal,” Borden said. “When you are charging by the hour, deal size really doesn’t tell you what the fees are going to be.”
— Amanda Royal
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