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.
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 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.
It has offices covering all the major jurisdictions and financial centres around the world (except, of course, Russia, where it did have a presence).
Ultimately the sorts of profits Linklaters generates 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”.
In the RollOnFriday Firm of the Year 2020 satisfaction survey, Linklaters was criticised over perceptions that management did not think juniors deserved their pay. “Amongst the trainees, many have expressed disappointment that some senior members had openly said they did not think the NQ salary hike was warranted”, said one. The Managing Partner ‘lost a lot of good will complaining about NQ salaries in the FT, and then even more when PEP still had a massive jump despite the grudging increase”, said a solicitor. “It was not very nice that they had that view over junior pay”, said another.
As for the pay, of course its very decent, but there were still grumbles in the survey. One lawyer said he was "considering going back to being an NQ. The difference in pay between an NQ and a mid-associate is now only £50k and I'd probably find it less stressful."
"There's a lot of lip service to work/life balance, but the moment it actually involves pushing back on a client deadline or means a partner will actually have to do some work it's quickly forgotten" said a junior lawyer. "All-nighters are common, late nights in the office are mandatory and weekend work is the norm," added the despairing associate.
Training "is brilliant, completing a TC in the MC opens up all kind of doors (although admittedly my poetry is a bit shitty)", said a trainee. "Your development is constantly monitored", said a junior solicitor, "even on a week-to-week basis to ensure you're getting the right spread of work” and working with the right people. ”I genuinely think they couldn't do more in this area, and having formerly been at a US firm, the two are worlds apart"
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.
Here's what its people had to say in recent RollOnFriday Best Law Firms to Work At surveys:
Lawyers said the 10% pay rise last year "was appreciated but not as 'significant' as the firm had made out. It does however help to stem some of the allure of US firms and certainly in house roles", and that "The firm made an effort to increase pay through bonuses".
"Fair play for the increase, enough to prevent jump to US", agreed a colleague. "Juniors showered with cash. Partners take home more than ever. The rest is simply squeezed dry", said another, while, amid the NQ pay war of 2022, one junior just wanted everything to calm down: "I wish it would stop going up as we're expected to be available more unreasonably to justify the pay", they said.
"As a junior your career development is very structured and clear", said one lawyer, "but as you get more senior figuring out if you have real partnership prospects or if you're being strung along (whilst the existing partners suck as much blood from you as possible) seems to require a mixture of clairvoyance, the political skills of Machiavelli, and as much luck as Tsutomu Yamaguchi". That's an accurate portrayal of many firms, though, said others: "As with all law firms, I probably understand more about the early moments of the universe than I do about my own process for promotion, but there does at least seem to be some thought that goes into it, and a proper process - even if that's not apparent to those in the process".
"I knew what I was signing up for", said one lawyer. "Try as (some) partners might, w/l balance remains illusory", said another: "Love getting the emails about the importance of sleep and mental health when at 120%+ utilisation".
"Communication has actually been very good over the last two years" ove the pandemic, said staff, including the MP and SP's "weekly, slightly cringey, management videos". "Despite being a bit like watching your dad dance at a wedding, the effort to be visible across the firm is definitely appreciated". With a new team bedding in at the top in 2022, staff said, "Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. For now".
"Most people very nice and respectful", and "There really aren’t many arseholes. For the most part the people are great. In five years I’ve met maybe five people who I actually didn’t like", said lawyers. "It's a very nice bunch overall - very little willy-waving alpha behavior, with the grumbles being more about the sheer volumes of work than anything else", said one.
Note: the figures in RollOnFriday's table are for salaries plus bonuses, therefore pay may be smaller than it first appears. The firm also pays different amounts within a PQE band depending on the lawyer's performance. The figures RoF has used in the table are for a median salary and median bonus for a median performer - high performers will earn more.