Clifford Chance has overcome the continued slowdown in the M&A markets to dominate Mergermarket's global, European and U.K. rankings by value for the first half of 2012.
The Magic Circle firm took the top spot globally by value ahead of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom with roles on 102 deals worth a total of $143.4 billion (£91.8 billion).
The tally saw it climb from 17th place in the equivalent rankings last year, thanks in part to roles on four of the 10 largest deals of the period, including Glencore's proposed $53.4 billion (£34.2 billion) merger with mining giant Xstrata and Nestle's $11.9 billion (£7.6 billion) acquisition of Pfizer Nutrition.
The firm also topped the European value rankings with roles on 88 deals worth $136.9 billion (£87.7 billion), including seven of the 10 largest deals, placing it second in the volume rankings behind Linklaters and ahead of Freshfields, Allen & Overy and DLA Piper. It also held the same positions in the U.K. value and volume rankings.
Clifford Chance U.K. corporate head Simon Tinkler said: "This shows the results of the investments we have made in long-term relationships with clients, in particular our emphasis on international clients and our renewed sector focus. You can see this through our roles on deals in key sectors and geographies, such as oil and gas and Africa."
But while Clifford Chance fared well in the Mergermarket rankings, the data provider's trend information shows M&A activity plummeted globally in the first half of 2012 compared with the same period in 2011, with the impact of the eurozone crisis affecting activity levels.
The figures show that while deal values increased in Q2 of this year compared with Q1, H1 global deal values slid 21.6 percent to $929.4 billion (£595.3 billion), compared with $1.2 trillion (£759 billion) the previous year, with global volumes also falling by 18.6 percent to 5,487 deals. Europe saw a similar decline in activity with values falling by 15.7 percent against a drop in volume of 21.4 percent.
Asia-Pacific, which U.K. law firms have continued to prioritize for growth, also saw activity levels fall for a second H1, with volumes for the region outside Japan falling by 22.1 percent, along with a 15.1 percent decrease in value.
Linklaters corporate partner Charlie Jacobs said: "Things are tough out there -- it's nosurprise activity is down. Equity markets are battered. Debt remains tight. Western economies are sluggish and recent stories have added to the uncertainty, as have the eurozone concerns over this period.
"Among all this is opportunity for the brave and further consolidation, restructuring and M&A, is inevitable. You need to position yourself for this work, but good mandates will be out there."