Magic circle’s New York travails

It has been swings and roundabouts within the magic circle firms in the Big Apple over the past month. While Allen & Overy (A&O) and Clifford Chance reasserted their presences with more lateral hires, Linklaters suffered its first group defection.

Linklaters’ loss of three lawyers in its New York office, including that of US head of corporate Mark Palmer just two years after he joined the outpost from Stroock & Stroock & Lavan, has been flagged up as signalling the end of the firm’s recent winning recruitment streak.

As a US recruiter warns: “The losses may be a one-off, but it may also unsettle the rest of the team.”

But Linklaters New York managing partner Paul Wickes shrugged such speculation aside, resolutely stating his plan to double the size of the office. Wickes, who has already grown the New York presence by 300 per cent since joining from Shearman & Sterling in 2003, claims to have several laterals in the pipeline.

His claims are backed up by word on Wall Street that, rather than Palmer’s move being the result of dissatisfaction, he was cajoled into it by a politically minded client interested in developing closer ties with former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who is believed to have his eye on the presidency.

Palmer and his team of two associates joined Houston-based
Bracewell & Giuliani, formerly known as Bracewell & Patterson, which launched in Manhattan last year by bringing in Giuliani as a name partner.

Meanwhile, Clifford Chance and A&O hired finance and restructuring partner John Howitt from Paul Hastings Janofsky & Walker and structured finance partners Howard Goldwasser and Lawton Camp from the New York office of Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe respectively.

But unlike Linklaters, A&O’s and Clifford Chance’s hires have made little impact on the local market. As one US competitor candidly puts it: “I don’t know who those people are.”