Exclusive: Linklaters to axe up to 70 partners in massive shake-up

Exclusive: <a class=Linklaters to axe up to 70 partners in massive shake-up” class=”inline_image inline_image_left” src=”/pictures/web/images/15828_links-office.jpg” />Linklaters’ top management is to drastically overhaul the firm’s structure, slashing up to 70 partners and 10 per cent of associates in a bid to become a smaller, more profitable operation.

The programme, understood to be called Linklaters New World, will also see redundancies among support staff. The firm’s offices in Western Europe are thought to be most vulnerable to cuts.

The plans are in their early stages, with managing partner Simon Davies and senior partner David Cheyne still working out the details.

A source close to the firm said: “We’re in a very difficult market and the rational thing is to ensure things are on a firm financial footing. There’s a high degree of consensus [within Linklaters]. I’ve not seen any dissent or sense of unhappiness about this.”

The source added: “The approach is to ensure that the firm remains the market leader and do whatever it takes. You’re not going to maintain profitability at boom levels but you can maintain relative profitability. It’s a directed business. The job of the management of this business is to manage the f***ing thing.”

But some observers of the programme said that it could endanger the collegiate culture of the partnership.

One source said: “The culture of the firm is really under threat. The intention is to spend a lot of money on this. It’s a very expensive move. I think they’ll be fairly generous with their severance pay. They’ll try to do this very soon and they want to do it in one shot.”

Another source said that the firm could start moving on the scheme as soon as mid-February.

The source added: “The programme is more than just a way of dealing with the economic crisis, it’s an opportunistic effort by the senior management to reshape the firm. It’s a big risk.”

Last year Linklaters started slashing its client base in an attempt to reduce conflicts and focus its business on large global entities.

At the time it was understood that the firm had trimmed its client base from 11,000 to 6,000, with the expectation that the list will number 3,000 by the time the scheme ends. The initiative saw the firm get rid of small clients that could conflict it out of acting for larger players.

Linklaters declined to comment.

For more on this story, see the Freshfields-Linklaters arms race and the leader.

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