Skadden tops global M&A ranking in first quarter as deal-making hits $1tr despite activity dip

New York firm narrowly beats Simpson Thacher to global number one as tech M&A continues to drive market
Wall Street

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Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom led the global M&A legal advisor league table by deal value in the opening three months of the year as the value of transactions worldwide hit the $1tr mark for the seventh quarter in a row, according to Refinitiv.

The New York firm advised on 49 deals worth almost $146bn to top the pack, up from fifth spot during the same period in 2021 and narrowly pipping second-placed Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, which worked on 55 deals worth a whisker short of $145bn. Chicago-based Kirkland & Ellis took third place, advising on 207 deals worth $119bn.

Despite hitting $1tr in the first quarter, deal value was down by more than a fifth on the same period a year ago when M&A activity was surging as deal-making bounced back from a pandemic-induced slowdown. The number of deals also fell by 17% to just short of 13,000. Even so, by deal value and deal volume, that is still the third highest opening quarter since at least 2012, Refinitiv data show.

Sidley Austin jumped from 21st in the opening quarter last year to rank fourth by deal value, working on 112 deals worth just under $119bn, while Latham & Watkins – which was ranked first at the end of Q1 in 2021 – was fifth, advising on 182 deals with $98bn. Sullivan & Cromwell, the number one ranked firm for the whole of 2021, was sixth having worked on 46 deals worth $93.6bn. 

Further down the table, firms that stood out for recording particularly strong starts to the year included: Weil (up eight spots to seventh); Canada's Osler Hoskin & Harcourt (up 16 to ninth) and the only non-US firm in the top 10; and Los Angeles giant Gibson Dunn, which jumped 20 spaces to 10th.

Magic circle firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer was the top ranked  UK firm by deal value, coming in at 13th – three spots lower than at this stage in the calendar last year. The UK firm worked on 42 deals worth $51.6bn. 

Meantime, Goodwin Procter led the league table by number of deals, working on 294 transactions – 87 more than second-placed Kirkland & Ellis. Latham & Watkins' 182 deals secured it third spot, meaning the top three was unchanged from the opening quarter of last year and mirrors how all three ranked for the whole of 2021.

Technology M&A accounted for a quarter of total deal-making in the first quarter, the highest share on record. That helps to explain why US firms – as well as elite UK outfits Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Allen & Overy – continue to invest in their West Coast practices, the latest being Eversheds Sutherland, which last week hired a partner from US rival Morgan Lewis & Bockius to launch an office in San Francisco

Private equity-backed M&A, meanwhile, rose 18% to almost $291bn, also a record, helping to propel an array of US firms, including Latham & Watkins, to record steller 2021 financial performances. 

Refinitiv: Global Announced Deals by Value Q1 2022.  

20222021FirmValue ($bn)Deals
15Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom145.649
211Simpson Thacher & Bartlett14553
36Kirkland & Ellis119207
421Sidley & Austin118.7112
51Latham & Watkins98182
64Sullivan & Cromwell93.646
715Weil Gotshal & Manges85.738
83Davis Polk & Wardwell80.843
921Osler Hoskin & Harcourt74.753
1030Gibson Dunn & Crutcher62.145

Refinitiv: Global Announced Deals by Volume Q1 2022

20222021FirmValue ($bn)Deals
12Goodwin Procter51.8294
21Kirkland & Ellis 119207
33Latham & Watkins98182
49Sidley & Austin118.7112
5 =7Jones Day6.7101
5 =8Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati50.4101
75White & Case59.578
812Willkie Farr & Gallagher38.377


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