Conjoined twins are like beautiful unicorns, the way they dazzle and baffle us. They are a kind of 'human merger'. And when it comes to global law, two heads - or three, or four, or thousands, speaking different languages and specialising in different legal locales - are better than one.
That's what the results of The Lawyer's annual Top 200 UK Firms list seems to suggest, anyway. Obviously, the Magic Circle firms are all up near the top, but a chasing pack of firms who have been absorbed as part of a global merger (or vice versa) are making real inroads into their dominance, posting huge turnover numbers compared to the British-only arms of yore.
An example, to explain: Cameron McKenna, the British element of CMS, has a revenue stream around the £227.6 million mark - enough to put it 17th on the Top 100 list. However, as a single head on the Siamese twin that is CMS, the firm's turnover peaks around the £692 million area, putting the combined company at 8th on the list, ahead of Magic Circle firm Slaughter and May. Norton Rose, through dealings in Canada, South Africa and Australia, pulled a similar trick, sitting one place ahead of CMS with an astonishing 68.5 per cent boost in turnover.
"We believe that eventually the top-tier global law firms will have to be equally strong in UK and New York law, and that is unlikely to be achieved without a merger," says Ashurst partner Charlie Geffen, speaking to The Lawyer. The underlying message here? In a not-too-distant future, firms are going to need a global presence just to stay in the game, let alone get ahead. So, twin up.