Bloomberg Law
Oct. 17, 2022, 10:00 AM

Freshfields Pushes US Expansion, Despite Downturn in Deals Work

Tiana Headley
Tiana Headley

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

The UK-founded firm expects to double the size of its US corporate practice in the next five years, said Paul Tiger, its head of US Transactions. Freshfields has made an aggressive push stateside in recent years, including by recruiting well-known dealmakers away from elite US competitors.

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

Freshfields was among the top legal advisers on M&A deals in the first nine months of this year, working on transactions worth a combined $160.3 billion, according to Bloomberg data. But deals activity has hit a sharp decline after a historic stretch that fueled massive growth at many major law firms over the last two years.

The skid is fueling murmurs of legal work slowdowns and re-calibration of the size and scope of law firm corporate practices.

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

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

The firm this year hosted its largest summer associate class of 62 students in the US—nearly 25% higher than the previous year—and Tiger said he expects to extend full-time offers to all of the participants.

Allison Liff

Freshfields is targeting other revenue streams in the meantime, including related antitrust and litigation work, while also tapping into the uptick in deals involving renewable energy companies, Tiger said.

“There’s a tremendous amount of activity still, it’s just not so much the big headline deals,” Tiger said in an interview. “We’ve built out the US practice thinking about skill sets and capabilities, and we think if we have the right team in place, the work’s gonna find us.”

Liff, who was a Goldman Sachs counsel during the 2008 recession, says firms should prepare for an eventual upswing.

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

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