Legal Business

Legal Business Awards 2020 – Real Estate Team of the Year

Legal Business Awards 2020 – Real Estate Team of the Year

After much back-and-forth between the judges in a keenly contested category, we are now delighted to reveal the winner of Real Estate Team of the Year for the 2020 Legal Business Awards.

For this award, judges looked for a standout example of real estate-related work, including financing, development or construction, or cases and transactions in planning, environment and regeneration.




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Winners – Addleshaw Goddard/Linklaters/Norton Rose Fulbright

These three firms collaborated to advise the joint venture between Permodalan Nasional Berhad and the Employees Provident Fund on its £1.58bn acquisition of the commercial assets within Phase 2 of the Battersea redevelopment project.

Once redeveloped, the iconic art deco power station building will house Apple’s new European HQ and a private members’ club, a 2,000 capacity events venue and over 250 residential homes along with luxury retail, food and beverage and leisure accommodation.

The deal focuses on one of London’s largest, most hotly-anticipated regeneration sites. Over the years, the site has been subject to a number of unsuccessful redevelopment attempts due to the significant challenges posed by the site – so much so that it has been described as being the ‘Everest of real estate’ on the basis that it is considered to be one of the toughest redevelopment projects in the world, with a number of developers having tried and failed to conquer it.

The transaction is anticipated to comprise one of the UK’s largest-ever single-asset real estate transactions. Linklaters, led by Patrick Plant, advised the joint venture purchaser; the seller (the owners of Battersea Power Station Development Company) was advised by an Addleshaw Goddard team headed by Leona Ahmed; with Norton Rose Fulbright (Dan Wagerfield and Dan Kennedy) acting for the seller on the financing aspects.

No individual firm stood out as contributing to the overall success of this deal: there were a number of different and complex parallel workstreams, which demanded fluid co-ordination between all three firms.

This truly collaborative process meant this entry stood apart. Christopher Gilchrist Fisher, senior director of CBRE Global Investors, said: ‘Without the co-operation and shared objectives of all involved, this transaction would not have happened. Deals of this level of complexity involve managing the multi-layered requirements of various stakeholders. They demand a new type of lawyer – one who works with their respective clients for the future success of the project, above individual requirements, and in the face of short-term gains.’

Highly commended – CMS

Acting for longstanding client Vita on its landmark £600m portfolio sale of Vita Student assets to DWS’s real estate funds. The portfolio comprises a total of 3,198 beds in Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Leeds, Birmingham and Newcastle.

CMS fielded a multi-disciplinary team, led by partners Gareth Saynor and Peter Winnard, comprising over 35 advisers in Sheffield, Manchester, London and Edinburgh, to deliver this deal for Vita. This was a complex transaction requiring significant strategic advice at every stage and was of huge significance for the client, allowing it to scale up its growth and bring more innovative brands to market while continuing to deliver high-quality student accommodation. CMS played a pivotal role in helping the client to achieve its goals.

Other nominations

Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner

Advising Grange Hotels on the sale of part of the reorganised group to Queensgate Investments for some £1bn, a portfolio comprising four upscale hotels offering around 930,000 sq ft of real estate.

Davitt Jones Bould

Advising The Royal Parks on a novel contract for events held at London’s major parks. With government funding diminishing, TRP was faced with raising over £30m annually and events are seen as key to its long-term financial viability.

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett

Continuing work on key client Blackstone’s real estate acquisitions and financings, including a joint venture with Telereal Trillium to acquire Network Rail’s £1.46bn commercial real estate portfolio, as well as on its acquisition of Dream Global REIT’s assets.

Womble Bond Dickinson

Advising South Tees Development Corporation on the acquisition and regeneration of TATA Steel’s former steel works on Teesside; this was the first transaction involving a mayoral development corporation outside of London.

Legal Business

Deal view: Linklaters rues loss of corporate golden generation but in Covid era inherent strengths remain

Deal view: Linklaters rues loss of corporate golden generation but in Covid era inherent strengths remain

Thomas Alan finds resilience at the heart of Linklaters, but without meaningful change the firm risks breathing life into unfavourable clichés.

‘It could and should have been a golden generation,’ laments one former Linklaters corporate partner, now at a US firm. ‘But that generation has been decimated.’

The sentiment summarises the received wisdom among ex partners and corporate counterparts in the City. Some go so far as to make unfavourable comparisons between the firm’s corporate practice and ‘grey’ accountants, while others draw parallels between Links and England’s underachieving football team between 2000-2010.

Such comparisons are easy to make, with the firm’s class of 2008-10 being subject to a series of high-profile departures over the years. The group was first heavily targeted in 2015/16, when Kirkland & Ellis hired corporate real estate star Matthew Elliott, Nordic private equity head Roger Johnson, private equity partner Stuart Boyd and big-biller David Holdsworth. Meanwhile, charismatic dealmaker Charlie Jacobs moved into senior management later that year.

More recently, Weil, Gotshal & Manges lured one of the remaining standout lawyers from the generation, hiring M&A star David Avery-Gee to the firm’s City office in October of last year . A month prior, another of the group – prominent deal lawyer Iain Wagstaff – passed away following a cycling accident.

Undoubtedly, what was a hotbed of talent – arguably above that of its peers – has been diminished. ‘They don’t have the bench of well-known, high-impact people,’ says one head of corporate in the City. ‘They do a competent job but they’re not hungry, they’re not coming after our clients like some firms do.’

Culture trumps strategy

The argument has been repeated and rehearsed to the point of cliché: Links’ group of technically-gifted lawyers are more interested in managerial roles than an entrepreneurial pursuit of fresh business, and the business-minded among them are forced to look elsewhere. The culture depicted by some is a caricature, but there remains a genuine belief it could be doing more to foster ambition in its corporate heart. It is a point even current partners believe has been an issue, albeit an historical one.

‘There is a more entrepreneurial spirit now in a way a number of years ago there was less of one,’ says corporate partner Simon Branigan. ‘Partners are given confidence and licence to go and get the opportunities. People in years gone by would have been more cautious. That’s been a real and palpable change in the last three to five years.’

Branigan is among the more widely-tipped in Linklaters’ core corporate team, alongside teammates Dan Schuster-Woldan and Nick Rumsby. Between them, the trio act for clients such as Capita, Scottish Power, Yum! Brands, Greene King and Advent.

But externally many remain unconvinced the culture has changed in light of significant departures. Former partners describe a stubbornness at the centre of the firm which mistakes stasis for resilience, an attitude exemplified when in 2016 partners vetoed radical changes to the firm’s remuneration structure. The introduction of a gate at the firm’s eighth progression in the lockstep and five-year reviews for those at the top of equity were introduced, but ‘superpoints’ and bonuses for high-performing partners were dropped.

The cultural problems described by some are championed as ‘collegiality and collaboration’ by many at the practice, particularly Aedamar Comiskey, who has headed corporate since 2016, having first joined the firm in 1990. Comiskey is much admired within the practice, and partners credit her for bringing a ‘positivity’ which had been lacking in previous years. Some go as far as to tout her as a future senior partner.

More strategically, partners credit changes made by Comiskey, Jacobs and managing partner Gideon Moore to pivot away from the benchmarking of partner performance that characterised the tenures of their predecessors, in particular former chiefs Tony Angel and Simon Davies. Instead, partners have been encouraged to focus on buiding teams to create and maintain client relationships.

‘The last four years have been very good. It’s been a strong period for the business and a strong one for the team,’ says Comiskey. ‘In terms of what we focus on, we think about where most of our business comes from and we look at our big institutional relationships which we have been lucky to have for a number of years.’

Though the refrain of ‘collegiality and collaboration’ from the firm’s leaders sometimes sounds trite, undoubtedly consistent coverage across jurisdictions and ties between practices result in deep client relationships. Forty-five corporate partners in London and 90 across its global network see Links maintain relationships with clients such as HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group, deVeres and G45. Recent deals out of the practice include acting for pub retailer Greene King on its £2.7bn offer from CKA, while in Germany the firm acted for Thyssenkrupp as private equity houses Cinven and the RAG foundation acquired its elevator business for €17.2bn.

Unsurprising then that corporate generates the lion’s share of material income at the firm. The practice is responsible for approximately 40-45% of the firm’s revenue, and since Comiskey took over the practice that output has increased 20%.

And while much is made of Jacobs’ move into management, the now senior partner often leveraged more junior talent to help nurture his client relationships. Of the group – referred to as ‘The Charlie Boys’ by one ex-partner – Tom Shropshire, Schuster-Woldan, and Branigan are among those that still remain, and according to most they successfully maintain the relationships Jacobs helped forge.

Says Jacobs: ‘I don’t know whether we can claim to be unique, but in all firms people fill the space left by others. With me becoming senior partner, we have had a new generation of partners who have filled that space. I still very much keep in touch with clients. They have a great leader in Aedamar and there is strong talent coming through the ranks. It’s a broader practice than it used to be and I’m happy with that.’

PE struggles

Another received wisdom is that while David Higgins and Adrian Maguire were building a standout private equity practice at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Linklaters left itself underweight in sponsors as the firm instead prioritised its core corporate practice and banking. ‘You can’t say you have the best corporate practice if you don’t have a top-rate private equity practice,’ one former partner puts it tersely.

In private equity the firm currently has 12 partners and 40 associates in London, and 35 partners across Europe. The last three years have seen the firm do work with Advent, Permira, HG, PSP and Softbank. Including transactions, financing and disputes, around a third of the firm’s global revenue comes from sponsors.

With that platform, practice head Alex Woodward gets Linklaters to punch well above its weight. A particular area of strength is the ability of the practice to operate on different types of deal, with resources in M&A and IPO work meaning the firm can advise on entry and exit points for sponsors.

Woodward is among the handful of partners at the firm whose work thoroughly runs against the narrative Linklaters is devoid of standout talent or dynamic characters. But herein lies the paradox the firm is struggling to resolve: its success is partially responsible for the challenges it is increasingly facing. Inherent resilience has bought Linklaters the time to postpone the tough decisions. While it is true the firm has enjoyed a relatively quiet spot for big exits over the last two years, that resilience has an expiry date.

Perhaps the largest issue presents itself in the form of the US. While criticism of a lack of character or talent often resembles trash talking, suggestions the firm lacks a strategic boldness fall uncomfortably close to the mark. Freshfields hoped to crank up the pressure on Wall St in December last year with its four-piece Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton hire, potentially at the cost of internal turbulence. Though Freshfields’ attempt may be too little too late – and cracking the US market is an issue hardly unique to Linklaters – it at least signals some intent from the firm, something to date Linklaters has not displayed.

Currently the firm has a presence in New York and Washington, with NY acting as a base for PE buyouts and M&A for European clients, while regulatory support, antitrust work and white collar comes out of Washington. Jacobs summarises: ‘In the US, you either keep the size we are, or you go big – halfway measures make no sense. To date, we have decided not to go large. This is revisited from time to time.’

The fear will be the opportunity for a bold play in the US has already been missed, and that while the firm remains married to an inflexible remuneration structure, higher paying rivals will always be able to lure Links’ best talent – as happened with its golden generation.

But a wide client base and strong core has bought Links time. Though the most subdued among its Magic Circle peers, there was resilience to be found in Linklaters’ most recent financials: revenue was up a marginal 1% on the prior year to £1.64bn, while pre-tax profit stood at £726.9m. Profit per equity partner, however, was down 5% to £1.6m. Given the battering the firm’s year-end took, such results make for a respectable showing.

As the economic crisis continues, major plcs and banks will need disaster response advice from legal counsel, and clients like that make for lucrative and reliable pipelines of work. Linklaters has such clients in abundance, and it also remains true that US firms tend to fare worse in major downturns than their UK counterparts, meaning the Linklaters could avoid adding to its large alumni network among major American firms.

Linklaters may have entered the Covid-19 era listing somewhat, at best playing for time as more profitable and ambitious rivals began to circle. But with the industry put on the defensive, the value of time is hard to overstate. For now, if the clichés ring true, Links could well be thankful for them.



Legal Business

Linklaters edges revenue up despite global slump as City results start flowing in

Linklaters edges revenue up despite global slump as City results start flowing in

Traditionally, like the proverbial London transit, you wait ages for one set of Magic Circle results and then they start coming in like buses. Hot on the heels of Allen & Overy (A&O)’s financial results, City peer Linklaters has just unveiled its 2019/20 numbers, with a similarly resilient showing in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

Linklaters today (16 July) confirmed that its revenues for the period to the end of April were £1.64bn, up a marginal 0.7% on the previous year. Pre-tax profit stood at £726.9m, with profit per equity partner ebbing 5.1% down at £1.612m.

In an issued statement, managing partner Gideon Moore (pictured) noted: ‘Covid-19 came at the tail end of what was a strong year for us. Notwithstanding the change in circumstances arising as a result of Covid-19, we have been able to continue to support our people and our clients. Our long-term strategy remains unchanged: investing in our globally diverse talent base and growing our practices sustainably to best serve our clients.’

The results unsurprisingly show some softening against its 2018/19 year, when Linklaters drove revenues up 7%. While revenue growth is marginally slower than at A&O, the result will still be seen as more than respectable for Silk Street given the sustained economic slump facing many sectors in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Leading law firms have so far proven remarkably robust in the face of the crisis with many plc and sponsor clients still turning to them for profitable work during the pandemic. Even with managing partners gearing up for a tougher year ahead, the early results from these two City leaders will steady some nerves in the profession.

For more, see coverage of Allen & Overy’s results in our recent article, ‘A&O shrugs off lockdown to hike revenues 4% to £1.69bn in first post-pandemic results from UK law elite’

Legal Business

Linklaters acts on $500m ‘virtual trial’ while insurers and claimants agree coronavirus ceasefire

Linklaters acts on $500m ‘virtual trial’ while insurers and claimants agree coronavirus ceasefire

The Commercial Court is going fully virtual on a case worth over $500m this week, with Linklaters and King & Spalding among those acting remotely as a result of the coronavirus lockdown. Meanwhile, insurers and claimants have reached an accord, with the groups set to work together throughout the pandemic to ensure a continued access to justice.

The Commercial Court’s ‘virtual courtroom’ will be in place from tomorrow (26 March) for a case where Linklaters will represent Bank of New York Mellon while King & Spalding is representing the other defendants The Statis, Ascom Group and Terra Raf in a ‘substantial multi-party litigation’,  with The National Bank of Kazakhstan and The Republic of Kazakhstan acting as claimants. The case had originally been scheduled for seven days in the court with witnesses from America, Belgium and Kazakhstan all set to be called before travel restrictions were laid down due to the spread of Covid-19.

‘It was listed for a trial in the ordinary sense but this week as the crisis got worse, the judge instead ordered a virtual trial,’ Linklaters litigation partner Tom Lidstrom told Legal Business. ‘It is going to be totally virtual. In the past pieces of evidence have been given remotely, but to have every judge, advocate, witness and interpreter in different places is certainly novel.’

The move comes as courts have faced increased pressure to radically change their practices as Covid-19 continues to impose severe disruption throughout the legal industry. Yesterday, the Supreme Court went virtual for the first time in its history, conducting a case entirely through video conferencing. The Lord Chief Justice also took the decision earlier this week to suspend all new jury trials, with ongoing trials paused as measures are put in place to ensure they can continue safely.

While conceding the arrangements were ‘imperfect’, Lidstrom stressed it was possible the court systems could retain some of the technology used after the coronavirus pandemic has passed. ‘It comes down to whether the technology will cope. At the moment, we are doing in a matter of days what would normally take months or years to test. It will rest on how robust the new technologies and solutions prove. But we will see more of this in the civil sphere after Covid-19, subject to how the technology responds.’

Elsewhere insurers and claimants have reached an unlikely understanding, creating a protocol that will include an agreement freezing all limitation dates in personal injury cases. Claimants have accordingly been encouraged to respond sympathetically to defendant requests for an extension of time to serve a defence.

The arrangement is set to last for a minimum of four weeks, effective immediately, with a review in place that could see it extended should the need arise. It comes after claimant firm Thompsons and the Association of British Insurers (ABI) investigated methods of working together throughout the Covid-19 outbreak.

Commenting on its work to establish the protocol with the ABI, Thompsons head of policy, Tom Jones, said: ‘We have all needed to innovate because the normal rules governing the personal injury claims process have started to fray very fast. The threat to individual claimants and access to justice has become too great to ignore, and this protocol puts a practical framework in place.’

Legal Business

Coronavirus impact widens as Links and Eversheds become latest City firms to send staff home

Coronavirus impact widens as Links and Eversheds become latest City firms to send staff home

Linklaters has followed its City rivals in asking staff to work from home due to the quickening spread of COVID-19. 

The firm today (17 March) moved to a full remote working arrangement for its 1,200-lawyer Silk Street headquarters. 

This after UK prime minister Boris Johnson announced yesterday the government was ramping up its response to the rapid spread of the disease and people should stop non-essential contact with others as well as non-essential travel. 

Linklaters said the measures will be reviewed in two weeks and remain in place until further notice Its Asian offices have already been operating on this basis for the last two months, its US outposts since last week and its Paris staff started working from home yesterday. The firm’s German teams, meanwhile, followed suit today. 

The firm has shut its Milan and Madrid offices following decisions by the Italian and Spanish governments to put the countries in shutdown. 

A spokesperson for Linklaters said: ‘We have invested in robust and secure technology to support remote workingallowing us to remain fully operational and to support our clients throughout this challenging period.’ 

The move makes Linklaters the latest Magic Circle firm to move to remote working. Slaughter and May asked all staff to work from home ‘where feasible to reduce overall numbers of people in the office and traveling to work.’ The arrangements will initially be in place until Friday 3 April, with the situation kept under review. 

Clifford Chance, whose APAC employees have been working remotely for some time, has rolled out working from home for its UK, US, European and Middle East offices, and has business continuity procedures in place across all its officesAllen & Overy also announced yesterday it had asked its London staff to work remotely. 

Meanwhile, Eversheds Sutherland has also asked staff in its US, UK, Europe and Middle East offices to work remotely where possible. The firm will review the situation regularly but expects to work remotely for the next several weeks.

Eversheds’ offices will still be operational with a core support team in each location to assist those working remotely and other services, unless circumstances or governmental advice changes.

A spokesperson said: ‘We have made extensive preparations across our business to prepare for the disruption caused by COVID-19, with our key priority being the health and wellbeing of our people, clients, suppliers and wider communities and our ability to continue to service our clients’ needs. In particular, we have spent the past few weeks testing our remote capabilities to extend beyond our usual flexible working arrangements for our people.’

Legal Business

More partner conferences suspended amid spike in coronavirus cases

More partner conferences suspended amid spike in coronavirus cases

Coronavirus is increasingly having its impact felt in the business of law, with Simmons & Simmons the latest firm to postpone its partner conference as the virus spreads across Europe.

In a statement, the firm said: ‘In response to the ongoing outbreak of coronavirus across parts of Europe and Asia, Simmons & Simmons has regretfully decided to postpone its partner conference until a later date. The firm believes that this decision will safeguard the health of employees across its international network.’

The conference was due to take place today (5 March) in Monaco over two days, however the increasing number of cases of coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, across Europe forced the firm’s decision. In the UK, there are currently 90 people confirmed to be infected with the disease.

Meanwhile, Linklaters too has had to suspend its partner conference set to take place in Berlin on 24 April. The firm is currently encouraging staff to work from home, and is replicating the measures taken in its Asia offices across its wider business. The gathering of its partners is now set to take place virtually.

Baker McKenzie was the first major firm in the City to be forced into a decision on coronavirus, closing its 1,000-employee office last week after a member of staff was taken ill following a return from Northern Italy, which has been heavily impacted by the virus. The office was reopened this week.

Latham & Watkins also had to take action, suspending its annual partner conference in New York citing safety concerns. Shearman & Sterling is another US firm that has taken measures, imposing a travel ban for China and Hong Kong, limiting non-essential travel to contaminated jurisdictions and putting in place remote working measures. Meanwhile, Dentons has temporarily closed its office within Wuhan, the epicentre of the disease.

Fears around the impact of coronavirus on businesses have proved justified in recent weeks. In February the US Stock markets suffered their worst week since the 2008 financial crisis, with the three main indexes falling by 10% or more.

Legal Business

Dealwatch: Kirkland lift first Cinven mandate since Maguire hire as Links, Gowling and Jones Day bed roles in week of PE records

Dealwatch: Kirkland lift first Cinven mandate since Maguire hire as Links, Gowling and Jones Day bed roles in week of PE records

Kirkland & Ellis has this week won roles advising on one of the largest European private equity transactions since the financial crisis and the UK’s largest-ever private real estate transaction.

Kirkland advised private equity houses Advent International, Cinven and the RAG foundation in their €17.2bn acquisition of Thyssenkrupp’s elevator business and acted for Blackstone in its $4.7bn purchase of iQ Student Accommodation.

Adrian Maguire (pictured) acted on Kirkland’s first deal for his long-term client Cinven since his move from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer last year. The team was led out of Kirkland’s Munich base with corporate partners Benjamin Leyendecker and Philip Goj, and also involved David Higgins, whose move to Kirkland from Freshfields preceded Maguire’s.

Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton advised Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, which was also part of the consortium acquiring the business.

Linklaters’ co-head of M&A, Dusseldorf-based Ralph Wollburg, acted for Thyssenkrupp, which saw several bidders battle out for its elevator business. An offer by private equity house CVC in partnership with Finnish engineering company Kone, advised by Clifford Chance, was withdrawn partly due to antitrust concerns.

A consortium of Blackstone, Carlyle and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) had also shown interest, advised by Milbank’s German offices. Thyssenkrupp had also considered an IPO before deciding to offload the business entirely.

Headquartered in Germany, the elevator business generated €8bn in revenues in 2018/19. The deal is expected to close within six months.

While its plan for the acquisition from Thyssenkrupp did not materialise, Blackstone went through with its plans to acquire iQ Student Accommodation from Goldman Sachs and The Wellcome Trust.

Kirkland fielded a team led by London corporate partners Michael Steele, Carlos Gil Rivas and Dipak Bhundia, with Gowling WLG’s real estate specialist Michael Twining also acting for the private equity house.

The London office of US firm Jones Day also won a prominent role on the record-breaking transaction, with London partners Giles Elliott, Anthony Whall and David Smith advising iQ, Goldman Sachs and The Wellcome Trust.

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett partner Tom Lloyd advised on the financing aspects.

‘It’s a great business for a great client with a sophisticated buyer on the other side,’ Elliott told Legal Business. ‘It was an incredibly accelerated process all round. It was an exhausting but great deal to be involved in.’

Jones Day has some history with the business and its owners, having advised Goldman when it combined its student housing business with The Wellcome Trust-owned iQ in 2016.

Legal Business

From Silk to Rope: Linklaters signs lease for Ropemaker Street move in 2026

From Silk to Rope: Linklaters signs lease for Ropemaker Street move in 2026

Linklaters is moving its 1,200-lawyer City headquarters out of Silk Street after 30 years to take up 14 floors at 20 Ropemaker in Moorgate from 2026.

The firm’s move to new 300,000sq ft premises in the 27-storey building will reduce its floor space by about 25%, but managing partner Gideon Moore said Linklaters will be able to use the space more efficiently.

‘The building will provide us with the flexibility to accommodate any changes,’ Moore told Legal Business just after signing the lease this morning (13 February). ‘I’m not making the assumption that we’ll have fewer lawyers in London. We have enough space to accommodate not just what we think we’ll be in six but in 16 years’ time.’

The building is due for completion in the last quarter of 2022, and Linklaters will be running a series of pilots to ‘work out what working environment will be more suitable’ for its staff at the time of the move, ‘whether it’s the single office approach, open plan or a combination of the two’, said Moore.

One of the key items on Moore’s agenda since his appointment as managing partner in January 2016, Linklaters started searching for new premises around two years ago.

‘We had a wish list which included location, the developer and landlord, the quality of the product, most importantly the working environment that it would provide for our people and clients,’ said Moore. ‘As with all properties, you try to get as close to your wish list as you can anticipating that you will have to make some compromises. I can honestly say we didn’t have to make a single compromise.’

‘What’s really pleasing is the uniform support we have received from the firm, not just in London but around the network.’

Office moves have been high on the agenda of other City firms too in recent years. Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer will this year bid farewell to Fleet Street after three decades and move to 100 Bishopsgate, while Ashurst relocated its London operations to Brushfield Street last year.

Legal Business

Regime change – The scorched-earth approach to legal education reform

Regime change – The scorched-earth approach to legal education reform

Its supporters are accused of advocating reforms not fit for purpose, posing a threat to the standing of the profession; its detractors are derided as ‘dinosaurs’, apologists for inequality and ‘buggers’ who moan about everything.

Four years since the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) announced plans to shake up legal education in England and Wales with the introduction of a new Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE), the debate is as passionate as on day one. And as deeply entrenched.

Legal Business

Freshfields recruits Linklaters’ alternative legal services head as chief operating officer

Freshfields recruits Linklaters’ alternative legal services head as chief operating officer

Linklaters’ global head of alternative legal services has quit just months into his role to become chief operating officer at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.

Mark Higgs (pictured), the former head of Ashurst Advance who was hired by Linklaters in April to spearhead its flexible lawyering platform, Re:link, is joining Freshfields in December. He had been chief operating officer of Re:link and became global head of alternative legal services at Linklaters in October.

In a statement, Linklaters said Higgs had joined to the firm to support the launch of the firm’s flexible resourcing platform. Linklaters director of legal operations Stewart Chippindale will continue to provide senior leadership and strategic direction for alternative resourcing, including Re:link, innovation and knowledge & learning.

The firm said: ‘Since launch, Re:link has significantly surpassed its client and consultant targets and its experienced team will continue to provide our clients and our practices with market leading support. We thank Mark for his help on the project.’

At the time of his appointment at Linklaters, Higgs told Legal Business: ‘I have been speaking with Gideon [Moore, managing partner] and members of the board throughout 2018 as they shaped their idea. To join a firm like Linklaters to launch and lead a new area was a one-off opportunity.’

Claire Wills, Freshfields’ London managing partner, commented: ‘We’re delighted to have Mark on board at what is an incredibly exciting time for the London office, as we prepare for our move to 100 Bishopsgate. His experience will be invaluable in helping us drive forwards our business and operations strategy.’

For Freshfields, the hire is another signal of its intent to increase its firepower on both sides of the Atlantic following the hire last month of a four-partner M&A team in Wall Street from Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton.

The team – led by prominent M&A veteran Ethan Klingsberg and including partners Meredith Kotler, Pamela Marcogliese and Paul Tiger – is viewed as a trophy acquisition for Freshfields’ US corporate offering, which has struggled to gain momentum in recent years.

It follows the departure, however, of the Manchester-based global head of service and transformation who became chief information officer last December, Jon Grainger, to Slater and Gordon as chief information officer last month.

Elsewhere, the former chief executive of Peerpoint, Allen & Overy’s new law operations, Richard Punt quit the Magic Circle firm for Thomson Reuters in January.