Cheyne: There’s no room for complacency at Linklaters

Linklaters senior partner-elect David Cheyne has pledged to drive forward the firm’s current strategy in the wake of his high-profile election.

Although the former corporate head is widely viewed as leading the most hawkish constituency in the firm, he insisted he was fully behind the route espoused by managing partner Tony Angel of targeting top-end work allied to cautious global expansion.

Speaking to The Lawyer just hours after the result was published, Cheyne said: “I buy into the current strategy, and always have done. We’ll continue straight down the current path.”

This year Linklaters posted record profits, with partners on top of equity on £1.3m and average profit per equity partner increasing by 26 per cent to £1.06m. Turnover was up 16 per cent to £935m, putting Linklaters within touching distance of Clifford Chance.

However, Cheyne warned against too much complacency. He said: “The market will have a downturn. I don’t know when, but we’re a cyclical business. This may turn out to be a peak year.

“But because we’ve been so much better run, we’ll manage a downturn better.”

Although partners are not informed of the winning margin, Linklaters sources speculate that the speed of the announcement meant that Cheyne won comfortably.

He is known to have been strongly supported within the most politically significant group of the firm, the London corporate department.

The Lawyer can reveal that Linklaters’ global corporate group turned over £374m in 2005-06 – up from £322m the previous year. Of that, the London corporate team represented half of that figure, with revenues of £160.3m.

Cheyne, who holds a number of senior client relationships within the firm, also vowed that he would continue to fee-earn.

In the past year he has advised on Deutsche Post’s takeover of Exel, Allied Domecq’s takeover by Pernod Ricard and Dubai Ports World’s takeover of P&O.

Current senior partner Anthony Cann steps down on September 30. Cheyne praised his predecessor for his judgement. “Anthony has always been extremely willing to address difficult issues,” he said.

Cheyne also praised his rival candidates, finance head Giles White and banking partner Robert Elliott. He said: “It’s much more difficult to have an aggressive campaign against people you personally like.”