The criticism comes from all angles: the firm is outrageously untransparent; it’s selling its staff down the river; the payouts aren’t enough; Simon Davies and David Cheyne are greedy and money-obsessed; Linklaters’ culture has become more unpleasant than the most aggressive investment banks’; if Linklaters is doing it to get a US merger, it’s deluded, because no US firm would touch it.
I think that’s covered it – except for internal partner dissatisfaction, that is. There are plenty of senior figures in the firm who are unhappy about New World, but my guess is that they’re too institutionalised to revolt.
And yet, if Linklaters leads, you can be sure much of the legal market will follow. Clifford Chance has clearly been thinking along the same lines. When we ran the Linklaters story, David Childs was happy to be quoted as saying that every firm would have to examine its partnership. And lo! Just 10 days later Clifford Chance announces its own restructure (see story).
Linklaters and Clifford Chance will not be alone. Simmons & Simmons is clearly on the Linklaters Euro-diet, having slimmed down in the Netherlands and – as we report this week – now shedding Portugal, including its highly mysterious, not to say bizarre, Madeira outpost (see story).
In fact, Linklaters’ move has been met with quiet awe by many other City partners. This is what an equity partner at a prominent mid-size firm said last week: “We’re going to be looking at our management. Linklaters and Clifford Chance have managed to keep the [profit] numbers up by being ruthless. Why haven’t we been equally ruthless?”
Meanwhile, amid all the cuts at the richest firms, can we applaud a regional firm for a rather different approach. Mills & Reeve (average PEP £295,000) has saved some 25 full-time jobs through a mixture of reduced hours and internal flexibility (see story). This is because its staff have a real sense of solidarity, not the fake collegiality that many managing partners spout about in values statements. Hats off to them.