Linklaters senior and managing partner elections: potential frontrunners unveiled

With more than a year to go until Linklaters’ managing partner and senior partner positions potentially change hands, the names of likely frontrunners for the top jobs are already beginning to surface.

A number of litigation, financial and commercial players are tipped for the global managing partner and senior partners positions, which will be confirmed on 30 December 2016 and 30 September 2016 respectively.

A spokesperson for Linklaters said no timetable for either vote had been decided, though it is understood managing partner voting could open as early as February next year.

Linklaters’ senior partner elections typically take place in April, with the winning candidate stepping into the role the following autumn.

Asia managing partner and commercial litigator Marc Harvey has been tipped for the top job by a number of sources close to the firm. A move by Harvey to London to step up to the role would echo the footsteps of current managing partner Simon Davies, who moved back to the UK from Hong Kong in 2007 to take on the job.

Harvey took over as Asia managing partner in February 2014. Throwing his hat into the ring would necessitate stepping down from the position two years early.

Global head of Linklaters’ financial regulation group Michael Kent has also been named by insiders as potential next managing partner. One source said Kent could be the favourite “thanks to his neutrality of not being a banking or corporate partner”.

Kent was appointed global head of financial markets in 2007 and was named divisional practice head of finance and projects for a four-year term in May this year (10 March 2015).

Head of corporate Matthew Middleditch, based in Hong Kong, is also rumoured to be considering throwing his hat into the ring. Middleditch joined the firm in 1980 and took on the Asia-based role in July 2014.

For the senior partner position, corporate heavyweight Charlie Jacobs is currently rumoured to be the favourite candidate among insiders. Jacobs joined Linklaters in 1990 and practises public and private M&A, which sources say would work in his favour given the firm’s traditional focus on traditional corporate and M&A.

Other names for both roles are expected to surface as the election process draws nearer, with partners already speculating the current heads will not stand for re-election, though this has not been confirmed.

Current managing partner Davies was elected for a second four-year term in April 2012 at the firm’s annual partnership conference, breaking the firm’s traditional voting process.

Davies had failed to receive the 75 per cent of the vote required for re-election to the global chief position two months prior (17 February 2012), despite being the only candidate standing (12 January 2012).

Sources inside the firm at the time revealed there had been an attempt to oust Davies due to a restructuring of the partnership, in which a sizeable proportion of partners were asked to leave (8 December 2011).

Despite eventually winning the conference vote, the contention surrounding his re-election has led some partners to believe Davies will not stand for a third term.

Senior partner Robert Elliot was elected in May 2011 following a partnership vote. Former global banking chief Elliot successfully pitched his strategy against two other contenders at the firm’s Paris partner conference in April 2011, five years after he was beaten by then incumbent senior partner David Cheyne in 2006.

Traditional process dictates Linklaters’ managing partner is appointed by the international board, which is chaired by the senior partners. The international board consults partners to sound them out on potential candidates then partners vote in a poll to confirm the choice in an electronic vote.

The Lawyer revealed Linklaters cut three spots from its 14-partner international board in June, also renaming it the partnership board (2 June 2015).

Linklaters ranked the number one firm in the UK by revenue in the 2013/14, posting £546m turnover. It also returned to its strongest global revenue position in five years after boosting turnover by 5 per cent to £1.255bn. The firm also boosted net profit by 6.8 per cent to a six-year high of £521.9m. Linklaters has not yet released its 2014/15 financial results to the market. 

Linklaters did not comment.