The top firms for tax: The Legal 500 United Kingdom rankings analysis

Tax lawyers across the country have been on high alert in recent months amid the chaos caused by the disastrous mini-budget unveiled by now-former Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng at the end of September.

That so-called ‘growth plan’ set in motion a rapid-fire series of events that led to the downfall of Prime Minister Liz Truss, after the markets rejected radical proposals including the abolition of the 45p income tax rate.

All of this has made for an interesting few weeks for the lawyers advising clients on the front lines, and so they could be forgiven for having missed the recent publication of the new UK Legal 500 rankings, given other distractions.

So for this rankings analysis, we’ve taken a look at the historical data for The Legal 500’s three largest UK tax rankings – corporate tax, tax litigation and investigations, and VAT and income tax – to pull out the marketing-leading firms over the last decade.

There have been a number of eye-catching moves in the tax market over the last 18 months, with Pinsent Masons duo Stuart Walsh and Clara Boyd recently joining DLA Piper on the back of tax disputes head Jason Collins’ move in the same direction last year. Latham & Watkins continued its onslaught on the magic circle with the hire of experienced practitioner Helen Lethaby from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer last year, while in October Macfarlanes bolstered its top-tier team with former Akin Gump London practice head Sophie Donnithorne-Tait.

Such moves will continue to reshape the City market, but as our data shows, a core group of elite firms have consistently dominated the London market for many years, and with lawyers at those firms now in more demand than, that only looks set to continue.

Across The Legal 500 United Kingdom’s main three tax rankings, only four firms have spent the entirety of the last ten years in tier 1:

  • Slaughter and May – 10 years in tier 1 for corporate tax and tax litigation.
  • Herbert Smith Freehills – 10 years in tier 1 for tax litigation.
  • Joseph Hage Aaronson – 10 years in tier 1 for tax litigation.
  • Baker McKenzie – 10 years in tier 1 for VAT and income tax.