Linklaters lines up the players

Linklaters‘ senior partner election is the talk of the City, but the firm is valiantly trying to minimise any drama. As we report today, the firm has dispensed with hustings in favour of prerecorded speeches by the candidates. Uncharitable rivals will, of course, see Linklaters’ move to dispense with the human touch as apt.

And yet unlike the Freshfields senior partner election, where six relative unknowns – to the outside world, at least – pitched for the job, the Linklaters contest has an unmistakeable whiff of celebrity to it.

Indeed, according to several Linklaters sources, it was getting tense in the partners’ dining room last week. Of course, The Lawyer predicted the candidates with uncanny accuracy over a year ago, but in case you’re not sure who they are, here’s a guide:
One: corporate hawk David Cheyne. Client man par excellence. Tough on non-performance, and tough on the causes of non-performance. Part of a group of corporate hardliners who once threatened to strike over the proposal to go off-lockstep in New York. Huge London constituency. Less popular in Germany.

Two: finance head Giles White. Affable, clubbable. Currently playing the cuddly David Cameron card. Appeals to the overseas partners. Highly visible.

Three: banking partner Robert Elliott. Charming, clever, good with clients. The only candidate broadly acceptable to both corporate and finance constituencies, but less well-known overseas.

And goodness me, the conspiracy theories! Managing partner Tony Angel is rightly not indicating any preference for any of the three candidates, but orthodoxy has it that he is temperamentally closest to White. The pair both travelled to Asia a month ago to meet partners in what was billed as a routine visit. The trip had been long scheduled, but it raised some eyebrows in more cynical quarters as giving White airtime abroad.

And then there’s the question of whether Tony Angel is standing again for managing partner this time next year. There’s no doubt he’d be a shoo-in if he does. But if not, there are already several names being bandied about: finance partners John Tucker and Nick Eastwell, to mention just two. But should Cheyne not get the senior partner job, and should Angel not stand, will Linklaters corporate partners be happy with an all-finance management team?
We’ll know the result in a few days, so check out later this week. Don’t you just love penalty shoot-outs?