Linklaters launches Houston offensive

Magic circle delegation scouts for prospects in Texan energy hot spot

Linklaters is targeting the increasingly vital Houston market as the centre of a global energy push after sending a group of partners on a fact-finding mission to the Texas city.

A senior source at the magic circle firm confirmed that a delegation had gone to Houston earlier this month and that they were in talks with partners at firms already on the ground there.

“We’ve been talking to some people who’ve been reaching out to us,” said the source.

Linklaters later denied that it was close to opening its own office in the city, but there is increasing speculation in Houston that the firm is seeking a strategic alliance with a firm (or firms) with an established energy ­practice in the city.

As part of an increased global push in the sector by the firm, energy and ­infrastructure partner James Douglass has relocated to Linklaters’ Beijing office, becoming the first energy-focused
partner in the ­jurisdiction.

Houston is at the centre of the global oil and gas industry and it is understood that a number of other firms, including Allen & Overy, have also been increasingly visible in the city.

Latham & Watkins opened a Houston office in January 2010, with hires from local heavyweights Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld and Baker Botts being followed a month later by a four-partner team from Vinson & Elkins.

“You can’t overestimate the centrality of Houston to the energy industry,” said one Latham partner. “The firms there have a lock on oil transactions. We’re being hired for transactions as a result of opening in Houston.”

Another US firm, Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft, launched a Houston office this year as part of a nine-partner transatlantic raid on McDermott Will & Emery.

Reed Smith was also ­eyeing the market last year when it entered into ultimately fruitless merger talks with Thompson & Knight.