Gideon Moore replaced Simon Davies as global managing partner of Linklaters at the start of the year after an unsettled period for the City giant. The finance veteran talks to Legal Business about leadership, lockstep and diversity.
LB: You’ve just finished your first partners’ conference in Berlin as managing partner. What messages did you give to partners?
Gideon Moore (GM): I chose to say: ‘We’ve got a few decisions to make and it’s not for me to make them for you but I’d like to talk you through the options.’ We’ve got some great clients, we do some front-running work, but we need to have confidence. While it’s not endearing to be in someone’s face, there’s a balance. We’re all bloody lucky to be here, so be positive!
LB: Will Linklaters still have the same remuneration system in 10 years? Is the model outdated?
GM: In too many instances organisations can drift along doing the same. Let’s have the discussion. Michael Bennett, our head of disputes, looked at this a while back and I thought we ought to bring that to the partnership in a way which says: ‘Would we like to do something else, or endorse what we currently have?’
Any model for a law firm has to be one the partners feel is fair and the way profits are distributed is fair in terms of input/output over a period. Do I think we will migrate to an eat-what-you-kill type remuneration? No. What is fundamental to a firm such as this is that you don’t get individuals coming into a room and coming out with a number. Linklaters won’t end up in that space. That’s an anathema.
LB: How much pressure is the lockstep model under from US firms?
GM: If you change your remuneration model solely with a view to addressing US firms, you would have to change it so markedly that the upside might not cover the downside. What that might do is make sure the American firms offer even more to make sure they get the right person. I want to do what’s best for us, rather than second-guess what rivals may do.
Most people in this building are on someone’s recruitment list but so few in percentage terms actually leave. The fact they’re still turning up to Silk Street means there’s a bit more to life here than just the compensation.
LB: What’s your approach to the US?
GM: The approach we’re taking is to work out what capability we need in New York to service our clients through our global network. Say on a UK/Dutch/US deal, you’re able to say to the client: ‘Rather than have Slaughter and May, De Brauw and Davis Polk, why not come to Linklaters because we’ve got the Dutch, the UK and whatever you need in the US covered?’
LB: What’s your leadership style?
GM: Rather than have a fully baked idea and ram it down people’s throats, I arm myself, like I would on a deal, with bullet points and principles and then develop ideas. It’s an inclusive, discussion-led approach.
LB: What is your approach to diversity?
GM: Historically the target has been to have 30% women on the partnership board and executive committee. I’ve decided is that, in addition, women should make up at least 30% of all our leadership positions – so our intention is to include sector, practice and office heads, which are often roles people have before moving on to our boards.
LB: Some people would argue that Linklaters has been inward-facing and costs-driven since the financial crisis. Is it time to be more ambitious?
GM: It’s important to grow our business in a way that allows us to achieve sustainable profitability. You might not be planning for the future and cutting costs which you can skate over for a year or two but it will come back to bite you. I would encourage the partners to look for growth as there’s only so much cost that you can cut.
For more commentary on Linklaters subscribers can see After Harvard Kool-Aid and lost years can Moore galvanise Linklaters?