'Hard' IP drive sees magic circle firm trim lawyer numbers by a fifth; six months tax-free pay reward
Linklaters is pushing ahead with a cost-cutting drive after offering up to 20 per cent of its London-based intellectual property (IP) department a tax-free payment to resign immediately. The move is part of a strategic overhaul to push the firm into 'hard', and away from 'soft', IP. The Lawyer has been informed that around seven associates from the IP department, which had contained 28 lawyers, including nine partners and one junior partner, have left the firm so far. It is believed that Linklaters has told its IP lawyers that it intends to focus on 'hard' IP, which covers patents work, and requires its solicitors to have a 'scientific' degree. However, this means that those lawyers practising 'soft' IP, including trademark and copyright work, have been deemed surplus to requirements. As part of their departure package, which includes six months pay, lawyers are understood to have been offered a choice: either they can resign straight away and gain a tax benefit on the six months salary, since employers can offer £30,000 tax-free as compensation for loss of employment; or they can opt to carry on working through a three-month period of gardening leave, but be subject to taxation. The move follows last month's decision to forge ahead with a dual push in corporate and finance at the expense of future investment in its real estate and litigation departments. This was part of a refocusing of the firm's business on a number of core clients (The Lawyer, 9 September). Linklaters refused to comment at the time of going to press.