Allen & Overy (A&O)’s veteran leader David Morley remarked sometimes that in running a law firm, success or failure is less about the decisions you make and more the ability to communicate what you are doing and why. Though directed at his own firm, the observation speaks to much of what ailed Linklaters over the last four years as a chasm opened between its leadership and partnership.
In managing partner Simon Davies and senior partner Robert Elliott, Linklaters had intelligent and energetic leaders intent on taking tough decisions to reposition the firm after the banking crisis. What was forgotten during a series of restructurings was that the partnership needed to be brought along to achieve their purpose. A decision can be absolutely valid but still entirely wrong if you can’t get the majority of your partnership to believe in it, not just grudgingly rubberstamp it.