Linklaters threatens Slaughters’ FTSE100 client list dominance

Linklaters has managed to close the gap with Slaughter and May at the top of the Hemscott FTSE100 client rankings to just four clients.

While Slaughter and May remains top, its client numbers are down from 29 to 26 this quarter, according to Hemscott.

This was due to the merger of Slaughters’ stalwarts Alliance Unichem and Boots, and both Cable & Wireless and Ladbrokes dropping from the FTSE100 to the mid-caps.

Herbert Smith saw the biggest jump in client numbers, boosting its FTSE100 client list 33 per cent, from nine to 12.

The firm fronts its client relationships with two-partner teams, often a senior corporate partner paired with a more junior one. Senior corporate partners Michael Shaw, Geoff Maddock and David Paterson lead on Friends Provident, Hammerson and Scottish and Southern Energy respectively.

Coming up through the ranks are corporate thirty-somethings Louise Freestone, Austin Sweeney and Ben Ward, who manage relationships with British American Tobacco, Next, Pearson and Yell.

Global head of corporate Michael Walter says: “We’re in the fortunate position of not having to allocate partners to clients. Most relationships are developed over time, making the teams self-selecting.”

The tables are, however, skewed by a small number of FTSE100 clients that prefer not to disclose legal adviser lists.

For example, water company Severn Trent is missing from the rankings despite Herbert Smith partner Stephen Wilkinson having advised on the demerger of its UK waste management business Biffa in August. Wilkinson is also the relationship partner for chemicals company Johnson Matthey and British Sky Broadcasting.

Ashurst, which pushed Clifford Chance down the rankings to seventh spot after a shake-up of its client list, operates the usual dual or triple-partner relationship system. Hammerson has been dropped from Ashurst’s client list, while Vedanta Resources and ICAP have been added.

Roger Finbow, managing partner of Ashurst’s London corporate team, gives Smith & Nephew as a key example of how the firm’s client relationship system works to continue the firm’s relations across generations. The medical supplies company has been a client of the firm since the 1920s. Senior corporate partner David Kershaw currently leads the relationship, assisted by younger partners Robert Ogilvy Watson and Nigel Stacey, along with a team of five associates being groomed as the next guard.

Linklaters also has a new breed of ‘younger’ relationship partners, which is sure to become crucial as David Cheyne steps up to his role as senior partner later this month.

While Cheyne is the senior relationship partner for BP and Vodafone, he has all but handed the responsibility for those clients to younger partners Lee Taylor and Iain Fenn respectively. Head of corporate David Barnes is similarly supported in the firm’s relationships with BT and J Sainsbury by partners Roger Barron and Mark Stamp respectively.

Despite advising fewer FTSE100 companies than Slaughters, Linklaters has the distinction of advising the most valuable pack. Its stock market client capitalisation stands at a truly impressive £679bn, with Slaughters left trailing at £432bn.

When ranked by client market capitalisation, Clifford Chance also breaks into the top five, leapfrogging Herbert Smith and Ashurst with a capitalisation of £227bn.

Clifford Chance has seven FTSE100 clients, five fewer than Herbert Smith, but heavyweight companies HSBC, British Energy and Man Group boost its total value, proving that the magic circle remains king.

Top firms by no of ftse100 clients (13 May-9 Aug 2006)
Rank Law firm No of clients
1 (1)* Slaugther and May 26 (29)
2 (2) Linklaters 22 (21)
3 (3) Freshfields 20 (20)
4 (4) Allen & Overy 18 (19)
5 (5) Herbert Smith 12 (9)
6 (7) Ashurst 8 (7)
7 (6) Clifford Chance 7 (8)
8= (8=) Addleshaw Goddard 5 (5)
8= (8=) Eversheds 5 (5)
8= (10) Lovells 5 (4)
8= (12=) Norton Rose 5 (3)
12= (12=) Berwin Leighton Paisner 3 (3)
12= (12=) Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw 3 (3)
12= (12=) Pinsent Masons 3 (3)
12= (12=) Simmons & Simmons 3 (3)
16= (17=) Burges Salmon 2 (2)
16= (17=) CMS Cameron McKenna 2 (2)
16= (17=) Denton Wilde Sapte 2 (2)
16= (17=) Hammonds 2 (2)
16= (NE) Macfarlanes 2 (-)
16= (NE) SJ Berwin 2 (-)