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When a downturn hits the economy, elite U.S. firms are better hedged than the U.K.'s -- or so says conventional wisdom. In the past New York's rainmakers haven't felt the effects as sharply as the London locals. But today, with financial markets in crisis and recession looming, how will American firms, with their diversity of practices, stack up against Brits and their superior geographic reach? "I would rather be a lawyer in a U.S. firm in a downturn," says David Lakhdir, a London partner at Paul Weiss.

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