CEE rivals hunt Linklaters clients and staff

CEE rivals hunt <a class=Linklaters clients and staff” />Firms in central and eastern Europe (CEE) are gearing up to cherry pick Linklaters’ clients and lawyers, as the magic circle firm reviews six offices across the region.

Hungarian firms will be the first to make a play for Linklaters’ clients. The market consensus is that Budapest will be the first victim in Linklaters’ review of the CEE.

One partner at Hungarian firm Oppenheim told The Lawyer: “We’re currently pulling together a marketing package and pitch that we believe will attract Linklaters’ clients.”

In Hungary Linklaters has focused on high-end finance and restructuring work for long-standing clients including Citigroup and Deutsche Bank.

Another source in the Czech Republic said that the market has been flooded with CVs from worried Linklaters associates, leading to a “feeding frenzy for recruitment consultants”.

The source said that the number of associates dumped on the market from an office closure would be great enough to lower salaries in Prague, and so the lawyers want to secure new jobs before wages drop.

Profitability will be one of Linklaters’ main topics in the review. One CEE chief at a UK top 10 firm said of the Hungarian market: “Here international firms have priced themselves out of the markets with some charging even less than domestic firms. It’s ludicrous and would be a perfect target for closing down operations.”

Meanwhile the Linklaters cost base has been the subject of scrutiny in the CEE. White & Case Bratislava and Prague partner Michal Dlouhy said: “It’s no secret that Linklaters has a very high cost base out here. They did a lot of lateral hiring. I’m sure there’s a profitability issue.”

One Linklaters partner said the magic circle firm is committed to the emerging markets but demands efficiency. “We have strong client bases in Kazakhstan and Russian which are serviced from Moscow. Simon is reviewing all the options but to my mind do you need offices in Bratislava, Prague and Poland? Probably not. It perhaps would be better to have a hub to service the whole region.”

Linklaters declined to comment.