It was Linklaters’ week. Landing the Lehman administration with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and two days later acting for Lloyds TSB on its rescue of HBOS would have sent those faltering utilisation rates through the roof.
By the way, PwC ought to be grateful to Linklaters, because the word is that it was Links that gave Tony Lomas & co the job. A team from the magic circle firm spent the weekend of 13-14 September doing crisis planning over at Lehman. When Barclays withdrew and a banking collapse loomed, PwC was the obvious choice to be put in.
The Linklaters-PwC relationship goes back a long way. After all, when Tony Bugg was a new boy at Linklaters in the late 1990s, he made his name working with PwC on the celebrated Ionica administration. And Enron, with its complex transatlantic issues and fiendishly complicated derivatives trades, now looks like merely a dry run for the beast that is Lehman.
One of the more interesting facets of the press coverage of Lehman and HBOS last week was the way the media tide turned against the go-getters and in favour of the cautious old hands.
And it’s notable that the Linklaters team is a very senior one. I hope I’m not being indelicate when I observe that Matthew Middleditch, Richard Holden, Tony Bugg and David Ereira are all in their 50s, but all in all it’s a big hurrah for grey hair.
We all know that thrusting City types make great copy, but who would you rather have on your side in a crisis? Baby deal junkies or cooler, more experienced advisers? Suddenly, enforced retirement at 55 in City firms looks a little unwise, to say the least. (Are you listening, Freshfields?)
And there is another problem lurking. There isn’t a rising generation of insolvency and restructuring stars behind this one. Sure, there’s the odd younger partner who cut their teeth being number 14 on Marconi, say, but there’s no embarrassment of riches. There are always waves of up and coming corporate partners, but very few firms in London – apart from Bingham – have promoted into insolvency. But, as a specialism, it’s certainly making a comeback.