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U.S. firms are strengthening their grip on the European merger market, making up seven of the top 12 legal advisors in London. American firms now account for more than half the $846 billion of transactions carried out by the “Big 12,” according to Bloomberg data released today. Shearman & Sterling of New York– which advised on $162.8 billion worth of deals last year — and New York-based Sullivan & Cromwell ($133.2 billion) lead the European offensive. Headline deals for Sullivan & Cromwell included advising Vodafone on its $166 billion takeover of Mannesman AG and advising Axa Financial on the $13.4 billion sale to Credit Suisse Group of Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette. Meanwhile, Shearman & Sterling was retained by France Telecom for its $36 billion takeover of Orange in one of the highest value transactions last year. The remaining top U.S. firms were New York-based firms Cleary, Gottlieb; Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue; Cravath Swaine & Moore; Weil Gotshal & Manges; and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett. Daljit Singh, corporate partner at Jones Day, says, “The key issue is that U.S. law firms are treated differently by clients who go to their lawyers first, before the investment banks. “It is also the strength of the U.S. securities market. Most major IPOs now have a U.S. component so if you don’t have a U.S. capability you have a problem.” London lawyers also pinpoint the increasing tendency for European corporations to seek capital from the U.S. market as being key to a U.S. firm’s success in London. It is well known that close links to U.S. investment banks Goldman Sachs Inc and Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co. — the largest securities firms advising in European mergers — are allowing American lawyers to compete fiercely for M&A work.

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