Legal Business

Financials 2020/21: Linklaters maintains Magic Circle resilience with double-digit profit hike

Financials 2020/21: Linklaters maintains Magic Circle resilience with double-digit profit hike

Despite the pandemic, the 2020/21 financial year proved to be an improved outing for Linklaters as revenues inched up and profits saw a robust increase.

Turnover nudged upwards by 2% to reach £1.67bn – a modest increase, but an improvement on the marginal 0.7% growth seen last year. More notable was the firm’s rebounding profits: pre-tax profit stands at £815.3m, a 12% jump from last year, while profit per equity partner (PEP) grew by 10% to hit £1.773m.

Profit per all partners, which takes into account salaried partners, was also up by 10%, reaching £1.707m.

Viewed in the additional context of Linklaters opting not to use any governmental financial support packages throughout the year, the results are a respectable upgrade.

Linklaters managing partner Paul Lewis described the figures as ‘a very strong set of financial results’. He attributed them to ‘the hard work and excellent performance of our people over that period, especially given its unique challenges’. Lewis added: ‘Our global capabilities and enduring client relationships also came to the fore as clients turned to us to help them to navigate the myriad issues arising from the pandemic.’

Lewis is still in the early days of his premiership, having been elected as successor to Gideon Moore by Linklaters’ partnership in July.

Linklaters becomes the latest Magic Circle firm to announce its financial figures this summer, comfortably keeping in line with the standards set by the rest of the group. In July, Clifford Chance similarly unveiled modest revenue growth amid pacier profit increases.

In the same month, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer posted solid 5% increases to both its revenue and PEP, while Allen & Overy completed the trend with a 5% growth in revenue which was outstripped by a striking 17% increase in PEP.

tom.baker@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

‘Laser-sharp focus’: Linklaters elects finance head Lewis as managing partner

‘Laser-sharp focus’: Linklaters elects finance head Lewis as managing partner

Linklaters partners have elected global finance head Paul Lewis as the successor to managing partner Gideon Moore, the firm announced today (15 July).

The move sees Lewis, a Linklaters lifer and a partner since 2006, take the helm alongside Aedamar Comiskey, the M&A heavy-hitter who succeeded Charlie Jacobs as senior partner on 1 July.

The appointment brings to an end a spell of illustrious leadership from Moore, who in March 2019 won a second term, albeit a shorter stint, in order to bring the managing partner and senior partner terms into sync.

Lewis, who was most recently head of the firm’s finance division and co-head of its innovation group, was also previously on the partnership board and the executive committee he will now chair. A capital markets partner with a particular specialism in derivatives and structured securities, Lewis joined Linklaters in 1997 as a trainee, qualifying in 1999 and becoming a partner at the age of 30.

Comiskey said of Lewis: ‘I have great confidence in his strategic thinking, strong leadership skills and laser-sharp focus on our future success.  I’m looking forward to us leading the firm together to foster ambition, creativity and excellence from our high-performing teams across the world, to deliver outstanding results for our clients.

‘I would like to thank Gideon for his tremendous leadership and energy over the past six years in creating the best conditions for the firm to excel, and I know Paul and I will continue to benefit from his advice and guidance over the coming weeks and months as we transition into our new roles.’

Lewis commented: ‘The firm has a simple formula – exceptionally talented, high-performing teams delivering outstanding results for clients. I look forward to Aedamar and myself helping foster the environment that enables that to happen and have a huge excitement as to what the future holds for Linklaters.’

Moore replaced Simon Davies as managing partner in January 2016 after seeing off competition from dispute resolution head Michael Bennett and Asia managing partner Marc Harvey. During his first term he was credited with implementing a ‘refreshed strategy’, which saw the firm drop individual partner metrics and annual assessments to focus on team and firmwide performance.

Moore also pushed through lockstep reforms providing more flexibility in moving partners on the equity ladder, introducing a gate at the eighth year of progression and regular reviews for partners who have reached the top of equity.

Moore concluded: ‘Leading Linklaters, with its long history, reputation for excellence, and operating at the highest level for many of the world’s leading organisations, has been a true honour. We have come through (what is hopefully) the worst of the pandemic stronger than ever and ready to seize the opportunities ahead. I look forward to working with Paul to ensure a smooth transition in order that we continue to build on this momentum, and I wish him the very best in his new role.’

nathalie.tidman@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

‘Confidence and distinction’ – M&A grandee Comiskey elected Linklaters senior partner

‘Confidence and distinction’ – M&A grandee Comiskey elected Linklaters senior partner

In a case of second time lucky for Aedamar Comiskey, Linklaters’ illustrious head of corporate, the M&A heavy-hitter has been elected senior partner to succeed Charlie Jacobs on 1 July.

Long considered one of the most influential corporate partners in the Square Mile, Comiskey had been particularly hotly-tipped among the candidates, which also included London corporate partner Sarah Wiggins and Milan-based Western Europe managing partner Claudia Parzani. London partner and global US practice head Tom Shropshire had also been in the running early on but in February left the firm to take over the GC and company secretary position at Diageo.This is the second time Comiskey has competed in the coveted senior partner race – she lost out to Jacobs back in 2016 but was soon after named head of corporate to take over from veteran dealmaker Matthew Middleditch.

For his part, Jacobs himself followed a similar route into management, becoming senior partner and chair from the vantage point of being one of the most high-profile M&A lawyers in the City.

In February it emerged that Jacobs would be taking the road less travelled for outgoing law firm leaders, landing himself the role of co-head of investment banking at JP Morgan.

For Comiskey, assuming the role on a five-year term will be the next step in a distinguished career in which she has established herself as a substantial business generator, acting as Linklaters’ relationship partner for key clients including Aviva and HSBC.

She is also making history as Linklaters’ first female senior partner, with the firm following Magic Circle peer Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer which last September elected Asia disputes head Georgia Dawson as its first woman senior partner.

Jacobs said: ‘I have known Aedamar for her whole career at Linklaters. I have so much admiration for her client focus, strategic thinking and leadership skills not to mention her energy and passion for our people, culture and communities. I know she will lead the firm with confidence and distinction, and I shall follow with great interest the direction in which she takes the firm during her term.’

Comiskey said: ‘I am hugely proud to have been elected the firm’s first female senior partner. It is an honour and a privilege. Thank you to my colleagues for their trust and confidence in me – I intend to deliver on the vision set out in my manifesto.

‘I want Linklaters to stand out as the law firm with the best minds in the business from truly diverse backgrounds, contributing different perspectives to solve the complex challenges facing business and society today. And as we launch out of lockdown, our focus will be on fostering drive, ambition and creativity from our high-performing teams across the world, to deliver outstanding results for our world-class clients.

‘I would like to thank Charlie for his enormous contribution, energy and strong leadership as our senior partner over the five years and wish him all the very best for his future role at JP Morgan. I would also like to thank my two longstanding colleagues and friends – Claudia and Sarah – who both ran an excellent campaign.’

Comiskey joined Linklaters as a trainee in London 29 years ago and was elected partner in 2001. Alongside her management roles on the firm’s partnership board and executive committee in recent years, she has continued to lead high-profile transformational deals, including most recently advising G4S on the successful outcome of its high-profile contested takeover.

nathalie.tidman@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

Diversity guaranteed in Linklaters senior partner race as Jacobs takes JP Morgan role

Diversity guaranteed in Linklaters senior partner race as Jacobs takes JP Morgan role

Charlie Jacobs, senior partner, chairman and rainmaker of Linklaters has taken the road less travelled for outgoing law firm leaders, landing himself the role of co-head of investment banking at JP Morgan.

The audacious move will see Jacobs (pictured), who in January announced he was leaving the Magic Circle firm in October after 30 years, replace banking industry stalwart Ed Byers as he is promoted to the solely client-facing role of vice chair of UK investment banking. Jacobs will join existing co-chair David Lomer in the dual role.

Jacobs was elected senior partner and chair of Linklaters in 2016, moving into management from the position of being one of the most high-profile M&A lawyers in the City. He has garnered much respect from peers and partners alike for a dynamic management style that put team building, collaboration and client relationships at the fore.

According to an internal memo sent to JP Morgan staff, Byers – a leading corporate broker who led the integration of Cazenove to become a wholly-owned part of JP Morgan in 2010 – actively had a hand in hiring Jacobs as his successor. Byers, Jacobs and Lomer will all report to Dorothee Blessing and Conor Hillery, co-heads of EMEA investment banking.

Meanwhile Linklaters will be holding a contested election to replace Jacobs in May and looks increasingly likely to follow in the footsteps of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, which last September elected its first-ever woman as senior partner in the form of Asia disputes head Georgia Dawson.

Corporate head Aedamar Comiskey, a true M&A heavyweight and one of the most influential partners in the Square Mile, is hotly-tipped among the candidates, alongside London corporate partner Sarah Wiggins, Milan-based Western Europe managing partner Claudia Parzani and Tom Shropshire, a former London corporate partner and now US practice head.

The election looks likely to herald a vote for diversity, whichever way the ballot goes.

Jacobs’ move into the rarefied world of investment banking may not exactly open the floodgates for law firm leaders to swerve the common course of consultancy and non-executive director positions for an industry switch, but it will be interesting to see if other grandees try.

nathalie.tidman@legalease.co.uk

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.

 


 

 


Sponsored by

Edwards Gibson

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.

thomas.alan@legalbusiness.co.uk

 

 

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.

alex.novarese@legalease.co.uk

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.’

thomas.alan@legalbusiness.co.uk

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.’

marco.cillario@legalease.co.uk

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.

thomas.alan@legalease.co.uk