Slaughter and May

The Scoop

Definitive member of the Magic Circle and one of the 10 largest firms in the UK by revenue, Slaughters is something of an anomaly. It does not have the gigantic international footprint one might expect from a Magic Circle firm, it is not a member of the UK Big Four and it gathers its impressive yearly takings from just four offices. A mere 750 lawyers do the firm's bidding worldwide, and yet it remains one of the most profitable and respected firms in the world.

Small footprint, large impact

Today's Slaughters grew out of the firm founded in 1889 by William Slaughter and William May, two associates who had departed Ashurst to launch their own practice. The duo benefited from top clients right from the outset, with Schroder and Company, the Home and Colonial stores and Baron Emile d'Erlanger on their roster. Alfred Nobel and Joseph Pulitzer were added to the books at the start of the 20th century, while by the 1930s, Slaughter and May had gathered a greater number of merchant banking clients than any other firm. Barings, Rothschilds and Morgan Grenfell were among the leading banks and brought a considerable amount of business.

Responding to growth in its international business, in 1974, Slaughters became the first firm to set up shop in Hong Kong. (The firm also opened an office in Paris that year; it was shuttered in 2010.) By the 1980s, Slaughters was an undisputed leader, with immense activity advising on the privatisations of British Airways, British Telecom, British Aerospace, British Gas, BP, Jaguar and British Steel that were carried out under the government of Margaret Thatcher. The firm continues to serve many of these clients, as well as the British Government, today. Slaughters regularly appears at the top of the Hemscott Law Firms Rankings, which lists firms by number of FTSE 100 clients. Slaughter and May opened a Brussels office in 1989 and set up shop in Beijing in 2009.

Can't slow this firm down

Slaughter and May boasts strength across the board, particularly in competition and tax matters, but when it comes down to brass tacks, big-ticket corporate work is the firm's mainstay. Dividing its corporate work into three divisions-mergers and acquisitions, corporate and commercial, and finance-the firm advises buyers and sellers on high-value deals, often with a cross-border component. More recently, during the downturn of 2007-09, Slaughters shifted focus to finance, with restructurings and capital markets work compensating for the relative drought in M&A activity.

In some respects, in fact, the recession proved a boon to the firm's bottom line, as Slaughters got in on the credit-crunch feeding frenzy, counselling the UK Government on several high-profile matters, including the nationalisation of Northern Rock, the Treasury's £37 billion bailout of the banking system and bailout deal with Lloyds, and the Government's efforts to reduce the pension payout of former RBS chief executive, Fred Goodwin. The firm also advised Morgan Stanley in connection with Royal Bank of Scotland's $2.34 billion sale of its stake in Bank of China, and Castle Holdco, the holding company for Countrywide, in connection with Countrywide's restructuring. As Christopher Saul, the firm's senior partner, acknowledged in a January 2009 interview with The Times, "Last year was actually busy for us. In some ways, the financial crisis played to the firm's strengths."

Recent News

High price for high tech

Slaughter and May advised software company Autonomy on its $11.7 billion takeover by Hewlett-Packard in August 2011-a deal touted as the largest-ever in the technology sector, which pulled in teams from a number of top firms in both the UK and the US. The acquisition is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Among other large-scale M&A deals in 2011, the firm acted for the John Wood Group on the $2.8 billion sale of its Well Support Division to General Electric in April 2011, just months after the firm had advised GE on its £800 million offer for Wellstream Holdings plc. The acquisition of Well Support Division's businesses expands GE's drilling and logging capabilities.

Wash, dry and fold

Slaughter and May has handled a number of matters for Unilever in recent months, including the €672 million sale of its Sanex personal care business to Colgate-Palmolive; the $215 million purchase from Colgate-Palmolive of its Fab, Lavomatic and Val laundry detergent brands; and the settlement of an investigation by the European Commission into the consumer detergents sector.

Slaughters has also been helping long-time client Aviva in the disposition of its non-core assets, including the sale of its roadside rescue business, RAC, to The Carlyle Group for £1 billion in June 2011. The firm was also on hand when the insurance giant sold off a 15 per cent stake in Dutch subsidiary Delta Lloyd for £381 million earlier in the year.

Pitch perfect

In April 2011, Slaughter and May advised long-time client Arsenal in connection with American businessman Stan Kroenke's £731 million bid to buy the football club. A few months later, Arsenal called on Slaughters again to advise on the transfers of two top players: the £29 million sale of captain Cesc Fàbregas to FC Barcelona and the move of midfielder Samir Nasri to Manchester City, a deal reportedly worth £25 million. The firm had also advised the Board of Liverpool Football Club on that club's controversial sale to the owners of the Boston Red Sox in 2010.

Island hopping

In 2011, the private M&A side seemed to come alive, with a plethora of deals reported in the first two quarters, including the privatisation of Bahamas' national telecom company, in which Slaughter and May advised Cable & Wireless Communications on its acquisition of a majority interest in Bahamas Telecommunications Company Limited for $210 million.

Lawyers for lawyers

In dispute resolution, fellow Magic Circle firm Linklaters has turned to Slaughters to advise it in connection with a negligence action brought by Credit Suisse; the investment bank's claims stems from advice given by a Linklaters partner with respect to a transaction with the now-bankrupt Italian dairy giant Parmalat.

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Slaughter and May

One Bunhill Row
London EC2V 5DB
Phone: +44(0)20 7600 1200
Fax: +44 (0)171 600 0289


  • Employer Type: Private
  • Senior Partner: Chris Saul
  • Total No. Attorneys 2011: 700

Major Office Locations

  • Brussels, Belgium
  • London, United Kingdom
  • Paris, France
  • Hong Kong, Hong Kong

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