Skadden tops M&A league rankings in first half as deal value rebounds

Paul Weiss and Latham & Watkins follow closely behind as megadeals contribute to 18% rise in global deal value

Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom led the global M&A legal advisor rankings by deal value in the first six months of the year as overall deal values rose by nearly one fifth compared to the first half of 2023, though activity slumped to a four-year low, according to the London Stock Exchange Group.

Skadden worked on 98 deals worth $230bn, including repping Ansys on its $35bn sale to Synopsys and Squarespace on its $6.9bn take-private acquisition by Permira, propelling it to first place in the rankings. Skadden finished the same period in 2023 in sixth spot, eventually placing sixth in the final rankings. 

Paul Weiss followed narrowly behind in second, working on 79 deal worth just short of $212bn, including advising investor General Atlantic on the Squarespace deal and repping Endeavour Energy Partners on its $26bn sale to Diamondback Energy. Latham was third, working on deals worth almost $199.3bn, including advising Equitrans Midstream on its $35bn acquisition by top US natural gas producer EQT. 

Kirkland & Ellis – last year's leading firm – and Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz completed the H1 top five, working on $197.7bn and $188.5bn of deals respectively. 

The value of global M&A deals jumped 18% to $1.5trn in the first half compared to a year earlier, marking the strongest opening six-month period for deal making since 2022. The second quarter decreased 12% compared to the first quarter of the year.

However, the rise in value was from a smaller tally of deals – 23,200 – a 25% decrease on the same period in 2023 and a four-year low. This dynamic of increasing value but falling volumes signalled a resurgence in megadeals, with transactions worth at least $10bn up 70% in H1 compared to year-ago levels to $363.4bn – the strongest opening period for megadeals, by value, since 2022. 

Twenty deals greater US$10 billion totaled US$363.4 billion during the first half of 2024, an increase of 70% compared to 2023 levels and marking the strongest opening period for mega deals, by value, since 2022. The value of worldwide M&A below US$500 million totaled US$354.3 billion during the first half of 2024, a decrease of 13%, by value and a 28% decrease, by number of deals, compared to 2023 levels.

Activity was driven by a buoyant US-targeted market, which jumped 39% to $813.1bn. US deal making accounted for 53% of overall worldwide M&A during the first half, up from 45% a year ago, and the largest percentage for US deal making since the first half of 2019. Meantime European target M&A totaled $342.9bn up 39% compared to H1 2023 levels and a two-year high, while Asia Pacific deal making dropped 24% to $225.9bn, marking the slowest opening half since 2013. 

Technology and energy and power led activity by sector, each accounting for 17% of overall deals. Tech deals totaled $264.6bn, up 42% compared to H1 2023 levels, while the energy sector totaled 259.6bn, up 28%.  

Private equity-backed M&A was up 36% to $369.5bn – the fourth largest opening period for PE-backed M&A since records began in 1980. 

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer was the highest ranked UK firm, ending the first half in eighth spot having worked on 97 deals worth just short of $126.7bn. Linklaters (11), A&O Shearman (16) and Australian firm Allens (23) were the only other non-US firms in the top 25.

Meantime, Goodwin Procter led the league table rankings by deal volume, working on 363 deals worth $110bn. Kirkland was second with 322 deals and Latham & Watkins was third with 316 deals.

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