What a cynical bunch you lawyers are.
With predictions that there is, at most, a good six to nine months left in this current downturn, taking on a restructuring expert may seem to some like shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted.
Over the past 18 months, US firms have been positively bursting on a diet of restructuring and litigation.
So Linklaters’ Stateside strategy of firstly taking on a team of four litigators from Shearman & Sterling in July and then this recent hire from Latham could be viewed as a reactive rather than proactive move. (Incidentally, I can’t help feeling like there is some sort of weird tit-for-tat thing going on here. This year, Linklaters has lost one partner to Shearman, in the guise of Peter King, and partner Roberto Cristofolini to Latham’s Paris office.)
However, the Flics hire does make sense.
First, he’s a good catch. Described by one New Yorker as “very smart, very decent and very hardworking”, Flics is taking a small paycut – he’s understood to be coming in one point below Linklaters’ top of lockstep, which last financial year was 905,000 GBP, according to The Lawyer 100.
Second, the banks like him and for this reason, he makes a natural fit with Linklaters London partner Robert Elliott. Also, it’s rather neat that Geoff Cruickshank, head of corporate restructuring at Royal Bank of Scotland, a mainstay client of Elliott, now works from the US.
But Linklaters still has some way to go to catch up with its magic circle counterparts in the US: Clifford Chance has between six and eight restructuring and insolvency partners (although some of these can switch back to financing roles in an upturn); and Allen & Overy has three (but David Frauman spends around 70 per cent of his time at the firm’s London office).
But Linklaters’ strategy will probably prove sensible. After all, you don’t want to be taking on too many people in this practice – just enough to keep busy even when the good times come back.
So for all you Jeremiahs out there, Linklaters may just end up proving you wrong.
Talking of firms enhancing their US capability, the prize for rumour of the week must surely go to SJ Berwin, which is said to have approached a number of premium outfits such as Sidley Austin Brown & Wood. In reality, initial talks between the two led to just one follow-up meeting and show no signs of proceeding. No doubt the rumour mill was sparked into action by the presence of seven SJ Berwin partners in the US for a conference. Between them, they have also been squeezing in meetings with an average of seven US firms each day, so keep watching this space.