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Linklaters borrows plc playbook to bring in Hague as door-opener-in-chief

It’s long been a trusted technique for major corporates to ship in public figures for advisory roles to open doors and bring a touch of geopolitical gravitas to the table but so far the idea has rarely made it to law. But Linklaters  has decided to borrow from the plc playbook with the appointment of former UK Foreign Secretary William Hague to a newly created ‘International Advisory Group’ in a bid to bring in an ‘external perspective’ on the firm’s strategy.

A statement issued by the City giant said the new body will aim to support ‘the governance and strategic direction-setting of the firm’, and consist of internationally-renowned individuals that can offer guidance on matters that impact the firm and its clients.

‘[The group] will act as a sounding board, providing critical input as we develop and refine our strategy, suggesting priorities for consideration, highlighting opportunities, and signposting risk,’ Linklaters said in a statement. The firm said that the once the group becomes established, it will play a role in Linklaters’ global partner meetings.

Linklaters senior partner Robert Elliott commented: ‘We believe that under William’s leadership, this group will provide us with an extra gear in making the most of current opportunities and shaping the long-term future of the firm. It will include outstanding individuals bearing international reputations, who can bring innovative thinking, genuine insight and high quality constructive input.’

Despite some of the fuzzy messaging around the announcement, it seems more likely that Hague has been brought in for his ability to position Linklaters in the minds of key influencers rather than for his incisive take on the pros and cons of lockstep remuneration or how to drive margin via a client relationship programme.

Hague’s appointment comes after the foreign secretary stood down last year after a cabinet reshuffle. He will join Linklaters’ advisory group in September 2015 as its sole member with the discretion to appoint others.

Discounting a speech as a teenager at a Conservative Party conference, Hague rose to early national prominence as leader of the opposition between 1997 and 2001, when he led a party struggling to cope with the early years of the New Labour bandwagon. His term as Conservative leader ended with the 2001 general election with a second comprehensive defeat at the polls. However, Hague, a superb public speaker generally judged in Westminster to have an intellectually agile mind, made a substantial comeback in political life as a well-regarded foreign secretary in the 2010-2015 coalition administration. He stood down as an MP after 26 years ahead of this year’s general election.

Hague was quoted in the statement as saying: ‘This group will be flexible and pragmatic in how it supports the firm and I am looking forward to spending time with the talented workforce who drive this great firm and the partners who lead it. Additional members of the group will be identified over the coming months and my priority will be to find innovative and influential thinkers who are well renowned in their fields.’

The addition to Linklaters’ leadership team comes as the City law firm this month confirmed that its managing partner Simon Davies was standing down early to take a senior legal and strategic role at Lloyds Banking Group.