Linklaters & Alliance has already identified four US firms with which it could do a transatlantic deal - just as former Alliance chief executive Terence Kyle steps into his new role of managing partner of the Americas.
"We've done a fairly intensive analysis," said Kyle. "They're very different organisations in many different ways." Kyle declined to reveal the identity of the firms, but an insider said that Linklaters was most interested in Davis Polk & Wardwell, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett. However, Debevoise & Plimpton and Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson - firms courted by UK practices such as Freshfields and Ashurst Morris Crisp - were unlikely to be on the list, according to another source close to the firm. Linklaters' US plans date back nearly two years. Director of strategy and planning Giles Pugh has been heading a project to analyse opportunities in the US; the research stage of the project is due to end this autumn. So far, discussions with top US firms have been on an exploratory basis, but Kyle stressed that Linklaters was very early on in the process. "We're still at the discussion phase," he said. "Nothing is ruled out." Linklaters announced last week that Kyle would be taking over the management of the Americas practice. Former US managing partner Caird Forbes-Cockell is returning to fee-earning, while Marianne Rosenberg will continue to head the New York office. Kyle said: "I'm still going to be based in London, but I'll be spending half my time [in the US]. We have more US lawyers outside the States."