De Brauw’s wholesale rejection of Linklaters stuns Dutch market

Linklaters’ relationship with De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek has been damaged almost beyond repair after the Dutch giant voted against a merger with the magic circle firm

The Lawyer can reveal that the vote was almost unanimous, a move which is being seen as a wholesale rejection of Anglo-Saxon global management style.
Linklaters senior partner Anthony Cann told The Lawyer that he suspects the long-time Dutch ally now wants to go independent by pulling out of the old Linklaters & Alliance arrangement.
Speculation is also rife that Linklaters will now seek to open its own corporate practice in Amsterdam and will poach those partners who were pro-merger. Cann said that all options regarding the firm’s strategy in the Netherlands were now up for discussion.
Cann said: “I hope we’ll continue working with De Brauw, whether as part of Linklaters & Alliance or something else. It will have to be discussed. If they want to leave Linklaters & Alliance, that doesn’t stop us working together.”
De Brauw has historically been a driving force within the alliance, but according to a source close to the negotiations, its partners could not accept the demands of the magic circle firm for a 70-75 per cent focus on transactional practices. A source close to the process claimed that De Brauw partners were anxious that fee-earner numbers could be slashed by up to 40 per cent.
Specifically, the partnership feared the impact this would have on its market-leading litigation practice, which incorporates intellectual property, administrative, environmental, employment and EU and competition law.
The practice includes high-profile partners such as Peter Wakkie, and is seen as a key attraction in the recruitment market. “Lots of clients asked us to keep that balance in the future,” said a source at the firm.
A source at a rival said the renewal of talks last November had been read by the market as an announcement that the firms had effectively agreed to merge and simply needed to finalise details.