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 a total of 29 offices covering all the major jurisdictions and financial centres around the world.
Turnover rose from £1.3 billion to £1.63 billion in 2018/19. PEP rose from £1.45m to 1.7m. And for the money-minded (so, everyone), note that the 2PQE and 3PQE salaries given here are the maximum possible in the bracket.
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”.
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 2020 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.
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.