Links Sweden negates doom-mongers with hire of Hannes Snellman partner

The announcement that Linklaters Sweden has sealed its first lateral hire signals the start of a reversal in the office’s dwindling partnership headcount.

The firm has netted a Hannes Snellman partner in the shape of private equity specialist Roger Johnson, who will join Linklaters in Stockholm as a partner at the beginning of next year. His arrival will increase the partner headcount in the office to eight.

Johnson has been a ­partner at Hannes Snellman since 2009, having previously worked at Linklaters’ Stockholm office between 2002 and 2009.

For local managing ­partner Per Nyberg, the arrival of Johnson is an ­affirmation of the firm’s belief in private equity. 

“It’s a good opportunity in the right market,” he said.

The news follows a ­number of departures from the office. Last year The Lawyer reported (17 May 2010) that the partner ­headcount in Stockholm had dropped from 35 to nine partners since the firm entered Sweden in 2000.

In the first few months of 2010 partner Martin Börresen and former managing partner Peter Högström left for Ashurst and Lindahl respectively. Then in April 2010 Roschier recruited counsel Björn Winströ from Linklaters.

Speculation regarding the possible closure of the office has been circulating around the Swedish market for some time, but Nyberg refutes these claims.

“I know those rumours,” he said. “They’ve come and they’ve gone, and then they’ve come back again. This [hire] is evidence that the rumours aren’t true.”

According to one partner at a rival firm, the local view is that Linklaters Sweden has a clear vision.

“What’s noteworthy is that Linklaters has a superior profit per partner [PPP] level on the Swedish market,” the partner said. “Linklaters Sweden, as opposed to most other Swedish firms, appears to have a clear strategy and business model. You may like it or not, but [at least] there’s a plan. Linklaters stands out in the Swedish market.”
Despite this the office has seen revenue halve in the past four years.

According to financial data provided by Swedish business magazine Affärsvärlden, revenue at the firm’s Nordic practice stood at SEK422m (£40m) in 2007-08, dropping to SEK332m in 2008-09, SEK252m in 2009-10 and SEK213m in 2010-11.

“I don’t see it as a negative that our revenue’s come down,” added Nyberg. “I see it as natural when focusing on core business.”

Despite the downward trend the office has ­managed to maintain ­relatively consistent PPP levels, coming in at SEK3.6m in 2007-08, SEK3.7m in 2008-09, SEK2.8m in 2009-10 and climbing back to SEK3.6m in 2010-11.

To put this into context, Linklaters had the fourth-highest PPP of the top 50 firms by revenue operating in Sweden in 2010-11. The average PPP in 2010-11 was SEK2.6m.

eanwhile, the firm came in at 11th place on revenue. Mannheimer Swartling had the highest revenue with SEK1.2bn.

Nyberg said the firm will remain committed to its strategy of specialising in cross-border transactions.

“We’ve seen over the years that we have, since the merger in 2001, developed the strategy for our office,” he said. “We’ve focused our business.“If you look at our partner base, I expect us to increase by two or three in five years. A good size for this office in the longer term would be 10-12 partners.”