2015 League Tables: Slicing and Dicing Law Firm Performances

The Thomson Reuters 2015 Law Firm League Tables show which firms had the largest presence on Canadian debt, equity and M&A deals


If the Thomson Reuters 2015 Law Firm League Tables makes one thing clear, it’s that Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP had an outstanding year.

The rankings show the firm at the head of the pack for legal work in two of three categories — Canadian equity offerings and mergers and acquisitions. In the third, advising Canadian companies on debt offerings, Osler came second only to Borden Ladner Gervais LLP.

The annual law firm rankings, which are based on the dollar value of the underlying deals, show several things: McCarthy Tétrault LLP stepped up its game in 2015 with significant gains in the equity and M&A categories; Torys LLP and Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP were steady as she goes, holding strong positions across the three ranked areas.

Among US firms with a consistent presence in Canada, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP made a strong showing on the US end of cross-border equity and debt deals, while Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP dominated on the US portion of cross-border M&A.

Here are a few of the highlights:


Law Firms by Equity Issuances

Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP led the pack on equity offerings for Canadian issuers, providing advice on 12 stock offerings with combined proceeds of $6.4-billion.

That won the firm a 15.5 per cent share of the global equity work generated by Canadian companies last year.

It was a sharp bump up for Osler, which ranked 6th among Canadian law firms in 2014 with a 6.3 per cent share of the market.  

 “We had the good fortune to get more than our fair share of the marquee transactions in 2015,” says Jeremy Fraiberg, co-chair of Osler’s mergers and acquisitions group. The firm advised on five of Lexpert’s Top Ten Deals of 2015 including the top deal, the massive Hydro One IPO, he said.

Torys LLP moved up from fourth to take the second position in equity work in 2015, advising on 14 stock offerings worth $6.1-billion for a 14.8 per cent market share.

Blake Cassels & Graydon LLP was in third spot among Canadian firms on equity work, advising on 16 share offerings with an aggregate value of $5.7-billion, for 13.9 per cent of the available work in the area.

McCarthy Tétrault LLP came fourth among Canadian firms with mandates on 16 offerings valued at $3.8 billion. Its market share of 9.1 per cent spiked from 5.5 per cent in 2014.

Stikeman Elliott LLP was fifth among Canadian firms, working on 16 equity deals with a combined value of $3.6-billion for an 8.6 per cent market share.

Among US-based firms working the American side of cross-border offerings for Canadian issuers, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP maintained a firm grip on the top spot.
Paul Weiss worked on eight Canadian cross-border offerings valued at $5.7 billion, for 13.9% of the global legal work generated by Canadian issuers in 2015.  Christopher Cummings, a partner in the firm’s Toronto, office, says the US equity market has been quite robust “and Canadian companies have looked to take advantage of that.” 

Sullivan & Cromwell LLP had the next largest presence, providing advice on a $1.8-billion Canadian share offering.

AZB & Partners was the sole Indian law firm to be ranked. It worked on just one Canadian-generated equity deal but the value, $696 million, was enough to earn it 21st spot overall.

The rankings are based on an industry total of $41-billion in global equity offerings by Canadian issuers in 2015, with $1.4 billion of that total done without outside legal advisors.


Law Firms by Debt Issuances

When it comes to the legal work on debt by Canadian issuers, Borden Ladner Gervais LLP crushed its rivals again in 2015, maintaining its stranglehold on the top spot in 2015. Boasting a 15.2 market share, BLG outstripped its closest competitor by 245 per cent.

The firm, which does debt work for various levels of government as well as corporate issuers, advised on just seven offerings worth $26 billion.

 “We had some enormously large transactions,” acknowledges Alfred Page, national leader of BLG’s securities and capital markets group, adding the team “works very hard to deliver on time and on budget and exceed service expectations. We’re gratified that the market has recognized we can achieve that.‎”

Osler Hoskin & Harcourt LLP moved up a place from 2014 to come in second for debt issues in 2015. The firm provided legal counsel on 18 issues with a cumulative value of $7.7-billion, winning it a 4.4 per cent market share in the area.

McCarthy Tétrault LLP was in third position working on 11 issues which raised a total of $7.3-billion, for a 4.2 per cent share of the market.

Torys LLP held on to the number four spot, working on 14 debt issues valued at $5.8 billion for a 3.4 per cent share of the ranked work.

It was followed by Blake Cassels & Graydon LLP which jumped five places to come fifth among Canadian firms last year. Blakes provided advice on seven debt issues valued at $3.2 billion. Deal sizes were up sharply from the three issues totalling $550 million it advised on a year earlier.

Among American-based firms doing US debt work for Canadian issuers in 2015, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP had the lead, counselling on two deals valued at $2.1 billion.

Chicago-based Kirkland & Ellis LLP worked on a $1-billion issue, while New York-based Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP worked on a $250-million offering.

 Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP (which also maintains a Toronto office), and Philadelphia-based Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP also worked on one debt deal a piece.

London-based Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP was ranked on the Canadian debt table in 2015, doing the legal work on a debt deal valued at $496 million.

Only 76 out of 455 debt deals considered for the 2015 rankings involved an outside legal advisor, representing $59 billion out of $173 billion in total issuances.


Law Firms by M&A Work:

When it came to doing the Canadian legal work for mergers and acquisitions, Osler Hoskin & Harcourt LLP held its grip on to the number one spot in 2015. The firm worked on 87 announced deals with an aggregate value of US$77-billion – representing 27.7 per cent of all the legal work in M&A involving a Canadian company.

Osler also held the top spot in 2014, advising on 33 deals worth US$53 billion.

“We have a first-rate M&A practice and we’re strong across the country,” says Fraiberg. “We’re grateful, we had some good fortune in 2015. We work hard, we try to position ourselves, and the puck bounced our way on some of the bigger deals.”

McCarthy Tétrault LLP also had a strong showing, advising on 100 mergers or acquisitions with an aggregate value of US$59 billion for 21 per cent of the available work. That’s a significant jump from the seventh spot among Canadian law firms in the category in 2014, and represents a 10 per cent gain in market share.

Torys LLP was close behind in the third spot with a 20.4 per cent market share, counselling on 44 transactions valued at US$57 billion. It’s also a move up the table for the Toronto-based firm, which was fifth last year among Canadian firms.

Blake Cassels & Graydon LLP had the number four spot among Canadian law firms for M&A work in 2015, counselling on 74 deals worth a total of US$33 billion for 11.9 per cent of the market. It was followed by Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP which worked on 32 deals with an aggregate value of US$36 billion.

Stikeman Elliott LLP led the pack in the sheer volume working on 155 deals last year but smaller deal sizes totalling US$25 billion had it sixth among Canadian law firms in the category.

On the US side, five firms dominated among those working on transactions with a Canadian component.

 Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP had a 19.9 per cent share of the overall market, working on 11 deals with a cumulative value of US$55 billion. Sullivan & Cromwell LLP had 15.5 per cent of the work in the category advising on 15 deals worth US$43-billion, and Morrison & Foerster LLP had 13.5 per cent of the market share – jumping 12.8 per cent from the year before – counselling on the US end of five of 2015’s ranked M&A transactions.

Hunton & Williams LLP had 13.1 per cent market share for its work on a single US$37-billion deal, while New York-based Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP advised on the US end of nine deals valued at US$35 billion.

The 2015 M&A table was based on a total of US$279 billion in mergers or acquisitions that had a Canadian component, almost US$20-billion of that done without outside legal advisers.