Linklaters’ Asia partnership slims down further as three partners retire

Three Asia-based partners are retiring from Linklaters’ partnership, with two from its Hong Kong office and one in Singapore.

The firm made the announcement internally earlier today, The Lawyer can reveal. The three retiring partners are Hong Kong-based capital markets partner Jeremy Webb and corporate partner Christopher Kelly, and Singapore-based capital markets partner Dean Lockhart.

Webb and Lockhart are believed to be returning home to the UK to live in the West Country and Scotland respectively. Kelly is pursuing other opportunities in Hong Kong.

All three partners have been with the magic circle firm for over 20 years, starting in London but having spent the majority of their career in Asia.

It is understood that a number of new partners will be made up in Asia as part of the firm’s annual global promotion round in April. The firm is also relocating banking partner Davide Mencacci from Milan to Hong Kong in a bid to reinforce the banking practice, which has see a number of partner exits in 2015 including David Irvine who left for Kirkland & Ellis and Thomas Ng who joined Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.

While the recent retirements are largely seen as a natural process of renewal within Linklaters’ partnership in Asia, the number of partners who have exited the firm in the past year was considerable.

Since the beginning of 2015, at least seven Asia-based partners, of whom six were in Hong Kong, have moved to other firms. In addition, a similar, if not larger, number of managing associates and counsel are also known to have left to take up partnership or in-house roles elsewhere. For example counsel Kyungseok Kim who has become a partner of White & Case and finance managing associate Jini Lee who joined Ashurst as a partner in October 2015.

Linklaters’ Asia managing partner Marc Harvey previously told The Lawyer: “There is no link between them. The reasons for each departure are different.”

A former Linklaters partner confirmed that although there was no one unified reason behind the recent partner exodus and Linklaters’ Asian profitability is generally in line with the global average, a couple of issues have likely promoted some of the exits.

“Linklaters has developed a hard-nose approach to managing performance. The heavily managed lockstep has taken away the collegial bond between partners,” said the source.

“The market has become much more competitive and dynamic. Although Linklaters is one of the most established and best performing firms in the market, there’s a sense that it is not where it used to be and not as quite as entrepreneurial and aggressive as it was before,” the source added.

Following the retirement of the three partners, Linklaters will have 23 partners in Hong Kong, and seven in Singapore.

Linklaters declined to comment.