Canary Wharf gravy train lures Linklaters

Relocation of finance department back on the cards as Linklaters follows rivals.

Linklaters is set to follow in the footsteps of Allen & Overy (A&O) by moving part of its finance practice, and even a chunk of corporate, to Canary Wharf. The copycat initiative has been put back on the Linklaters agenda ahead of Clifford Chance‘s move there in August this year.

The plan is in line with Linklaters’ decision to bolster its corporate and finance practice while also streamlining other areas. Last week The Lawyer revealed that Linklaters was de-equitising partners in real estate and construction.

Linklaters considered 15,000sq ft, or half a floor, in the main tower six months ago, but turned down the space. However, a banking partner at the firm confirmed last week that “it is under consideration [to move part of the finance team to Canary Wharf]. We may have a bit of corporate down there too.” The firm is now understood to be looking at as much as 35,000sq ft.

Clients already resident on the estate include Barclays Capital, Citibank, Credit Suisse First Boston, HSBC and Morgan Stanley.

A&O’s banking managing partner for operations Christopher Rushton said the move had enhanced his firm’s practice. “You’re down there in the face of some very significant clients, so I guess that gives you a slight edge,” he said. One Clifford Chance partner quipped: “Linklaters can have some of our spare space over there if they like.”

However, Linklaters has a juggling act on its hands. It took 100,000sq ft at 3 Bunhill Row two years ago, but now has a surplus, with Merrill Lynch’s move out of Linklaters’ Silk Street HQ adding to the problem. Linklaters is now marketing 38,000sq ft at Bunhill Row through ATIS Real Weatheralls.

One source at a magic circle rival queried whether Linklaters’ decision had not come too late. “You won’t be able to develop some types of relationships with those institutions if there’s a large presence of other firms down there,” said the source. “They’re not one of the first people to do it, so it loses its impact.”