Linklaters is a City powerhouse and its corporate department has a reputation as one of the best - it's certainly one of the busiest, with the corporate team bringing in the lion's share of profits. Though firmly set within the magic circle, its turnover is nearly £100m behind that of Clifford Chance, compared to only a £19m difference last year.
Linklaters acts for all the sorts of clients you would expect on all the sorts of transactions you would expect. Recent deals included advising News Corporation's Independent Management and Standards Committee in relation to all relevant investigations into the News of the World phone-hacking case; advising Lloyds TSB Bank on a £1.6bn securitisation of PFI loans; and represented BP in its $9bn joint venture with Reliance, which involved BP's acquisition of a 30% stake in 23 oil and gas production blocks operated by Reliance. Other clients include JP Morgan, Standard Chartered Bank and Vodafone.
In 2012 Linklaters formed an exclusive alliance with Aussie firm Allens, and in December 2012 it was in talks with South Africa based Webber Wentzel over another exclusive alliance, taking its global reach to new heights. It has a total of 27 offices in 19 countries covering all the major jurisdictions and financial centres around the world.
Revenue has remained static in recent years, turnover in the last two financial years has stayed close to the £1.2 billion mark. Average PEP was £1.24m in 2011-12 (a 3% rise from the previous financial year), with the highest-earning partner taking home £2.5m (compared to £2.2m in the previous financial year).
Hundreds of lawyers and support staff and dozens of partners were shown the door in early 2009 as the firm slimmed down to ensure it could continue to make stellar profits. There were no complaints over the firm’s generous redundancy package, but plenty about the sheer numbers of staff that were booted. And about employees finding out about the consultation from the press rather than from the partners... And then in February 2012, another firm restructure saw 35 partners being kicked out of the London office (around 10% of their worldwide partnership).
The new Linklaters-lite may not have had the easiest run of it recently, and there have been plenty of grumblings from within the firm, culminating in the humbling failure by Simon Davies to get re-elected as managing partner. Despite being the only candidate. All the same, few doubt that the firm is now in a position to continue to jog along at the top of the City.
Ultimately these sorts of profits don't come with an easy workload, and this may not be the firm to join if you're particularly keen on seeing your home in daylight, or even on public holidays: “there is actually a risk you might be asked to work on Christmas day, New Years Day, Bank Holidays...any given Sunday...”.
There are endless complaints of a crippling workload – “you will get flogged. Half to death (and then when you've recovered a bit, you'll get flogged again)."
says one PQE. There is massive “internal pressure to bend over backwards, sideways and forwards for clients, even if they don’t really mind about a deadline”, and a “huge amount of face-time”.
Criticism also for the building - the view of the Barbican has lost its appeal, and many complain that the inside - despite a lick of paint - is looking a little too shabby these days.
On the upside, there are “loads of parties and events on that people actually want to go to. It's fun, and softens the blow when the hours are tough”
. One PQE comments, “surprisingly friendly for a MC firm. (Some) partners that actually seem to care about your having a life away from the firm”
. Praise too for the perks, “great facilities - gym, health centre, medical cover, beauty salon, restaurant and shop”
. Well what do you expect if you’ve got to be in office 24/7? However Links lawyers get to work on the biggest deals around, "generally a nice bunch of people and the work is first rate
”. And the “jelly beans in meeting rooms continue to delight”
. Linklaters also dramatically boosted the size of its GDL and LPC maintenance grants this year, meaning students with training contract offers from the firm who join courses after 1st April 2013 will now be better maintained than any of their Magic Circle peers.
The hours are tough, and this can be a pretty hard, commercial firm. But Linklaters is still one of the best outfits in the world, and offers all the advantages that go with its status. One of the best names to have on your CV.
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