Linklaters Europe under siege from US vultures

Magic circle firms suffers more key partner defections as Weil and Cleary strike

Linklaters Europe under siege from US vultures” />Linklaters’ European network is growing increasingly vulnerable to predatory US firms after losing two more star partners to stateside rivals.

Weil Gotshal & Manges has scooped Paris private equity partner David Aknin, while Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton’s Frankfurt practice has scored antitrust rainmaker Dirk Schroeder.

The devastating departures compound fears over the ability of Linklaters to hold on to its top partners across Europe after this year losing corporate giant Peter King to Shearman & Sterling and Roberto Christofolini to Latham & Watkins. Although the firm has lost many partners in the last 18 months, most were managed out, with a particular focus on litigation and real estate.

But these four departures, which span the firm’s corporate, private equity, antitrust and capital markets practices, are a particular blow for the firm, which seemed to turn a corner at its last financial year when turnover increased by 14.1 per cent to £720m and average profits per equity partner soared by 12.9 per cent to £734,000.

Rising star Aknin, who counts Candover as a client, joined Linklaters 15 years ago.

But Linklaters, which has struggled to build up a credible private equity practice in the past, has been making huge strides in London since partner Graham White, who also counts Candover as a client, joined from SJ Berwin in 2001.

Schroeder resigned from Linklaters on Friday (31 October) and is Cleary’s second lateral hire in the region, after recruiting Linklaters tax partner Gottfried Breuninger in 2000, although he left for Shearman after less than a year.

Linklaters managing partner Tony Angel said: “We’re sorry to see them go, but wish them both well for the future.”