Davies to Linklaters: it’s good to talk

Chief puts internal communication at top of agenda ahead of major shake-up

Linklaters managing partner Simon Davies has urged his partners to voice any dissent personally to him as the magic circle firm prepares to go through its second major partnership restructure in a decade.

Speaking at the firm’s annual retreat at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco last week, Davies acknowledged that internal communication would be vital in the coming year.

As exclusively revealed by TheLawyer.com (23 January), Linklaters has embarked on Project New World, cutting its partner numbers by up to 70 in response to systemic changes in the financial markets. The news subsequently made headlines in the world’s business press but many insiders were ­disconcerted that such a shift in strategy had not been fully disseminated to
partners.

Davies also warned his partners that, even after Project New World, the firm would have to keep adapting, and although Linklaters had a strong showing in first-quarter deals in 2009, bank bailout work and rights issues would not be sustainable in the medium term. As one partner said: “It was a rallying cry.”

Linklaters is expected to show underlying growth in the business, despite the costs of redundancies and the spin-off of the Central and Eastern European practice.

Linklaters partners will be watching Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s numbers closely. Freshfields is understood to be on course to record more growth this year, with profit projected to rise by 5 per cent.

This year Freshfields made up 14 partners, of whom nine were in corporate. Linklaters is understood to be offering partnership to a similar number, within a broad spread of practice areas. One of Davies’s stated management aims is to make the equity more available to the non-equity partners.

It is also understood that China head Zili Shao will be confirmed as Asia head after the conference and will replace Giles White.