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You have to laugh when a New York lawyer says of John Tucker’s move at Linklaters: “It might help stop them being perceived as an outpost of a London firm”.
Even Tucker, Linklaters’ global head of finance and projects, admits it will take a lot more than his relocation to convince the market that his firm means business. But it does.
This is the first time one of Linklaters’ divisional global practice heads has been based in New York. From tomorrow (27 September), Tucker will increase the time he spends in New York from a few days a month to two weeks. The rest of his time will be split between London, Europe and Asia.
All of its jurisdictions are important, but New York is where it’s at for Linklaters. The timing, however, is interesting: all the evidence points to New York’s lessening as a financial centre in favour of London. But Tucker is ready for that one.
“The debate about New York losing out to London and its relative strengths is a valid one, but it will continue for the rest of my career and most probably for the rest of my natural life,” he argues. “The important thing is that New York is a fundamentally important world centre for a whole range of activities, not least financial institutions. Having strength in New York is key.”
As Linklaters’ marketing machine is only too happy to point out, the past few years have seen it target significant growth in New York with some success. The press release trumpeting Tucker’s move points out that the firm has “tripled the size of its New York-based practice”, which now boasts more than 130 lawyers, including 29 partners, “19 of whom have joined laterally from leading New York firms in the past four years, and five of whom have been promoted internally”. Great stuff. But there have been exits too.
“Linklaters has never really accumulated critical mass in New York,” argues Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe corporate partner Burt Haimes. “There have been lots of ins and out, so this looks like a commitment to get serious about New York. This will be interesting to see.”
Tucker’s move coincides – I’m guessing it’s not entirely coincidental – with Linklaters’ broader strategic aim of adding capacity in New York. He is quick to play down the significance of his move, claiming that “there is a danger in overstating one specific move or step”.
That’s all this is: one individual (on paper, at least). In the longer term, what matters is resource. Gain that and New Yorkers’ perceptions might change.
To read the last Byrne in the USA blog, click here.