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.

Legal Business

Deal watch: Simpson Thacher conjures Blackstone and Alibaba mandates as Linklaters and CC lead on British Steel takeover

Deal watch: Simpson Thacher conjures Blackstone and Alibaba mandates as Linklaters and CC lead on British Steel takeover

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett has picked up two high-profile mandates advising Blackstone on the acquisition of MagicLab alongside the Hong Kong listing of Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba.

Elsewhere, Linklaters and Clifford Chance (CC) led on Chinese steelmaker Jingye Steel and Iron’s acquisition of British Steel.

Alibaba this week said it was set to raise up to $13.4bn in a secondary listing in Hong Kong, including an international offering of 487.5m ordinary shares and a Hong Kong public offering of 12.5m ordinary shares.

Simpson Thacher is advising Alibaba with a team led by Chris Wong and Daniel Fertig in Hong Kong. Chinese firm Fangda Partners is also advising the group on legal matters pertaining to Chinese law.

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, meanwhile, is advising the underwriters with a team led by M&A partners Teresa Ko, Calvin Lai and Xu Jason. King & Wood Mallesons is advising the underwriters on Chinese law.

Earlier in the week, Jingye Steel agreed to acquire British Steel’s steelworks in Scunthorpe, UK mills at Teeside Beam Mill, Skinningrove and its subsidiary businesses in France and the Netherlands. Following months of uncertainty, the sale is said to have saved 24,000 jobs in the UK. Jingye is planning on investing £1.2 billion over the next decade as well as upgrading plants and machinery.

Linklaters advised Jignye with a team led by London corporate partners Chris Staples and Hugo Stolkin, Hong Kong partner Crystal Chen and restructuring and insolvency partner Matthew Harding.

Staples commented: ‘This is a landmark deal with Jingye’s commitment to significant investment in British Steel ensuring the long-term future of the business.’

The official receiver and special managers of British Steel were advised by CC, with partners Philip Hertz, David Lewis, Nick Rees and Iain White in London leading on the transaction. Paris partner Laurent Schoenstein and Amsterdam Partner Greg Crookes led on the sale of British Steel France Rail Holdings and the sale of FN Steel.

Jingye is a multi-industry group specialising in steel and iron as well as in powder metallurgy, 3D printing, tourism, hotels, and real estate. It distributes to 80 countries, producing 15 million tonnes of steel a year for an annual turnover of about £10bn.

The deal, signed on 10 November 2019, is subject to conditions such as regulatory approvals and employee consultation procedures.

Simpson Thacher also won a mandate advising Blackstone on its proposed acquisition of a majority stake in MagicLab for the value of approximately $3bn.MagicLab owns and operates dating and social networking apps including Badoo, Bumble, Chappy and Lumen. Founder and CEO Andrey Andreev is selling his stake and stepping down from his role as CEO and will be replaced by Whitney Wolfe Herd.

The Simpson Thacher team was led by M&A partner Anthony Vernace and included M&A partner Robert Langdon and corporate partner Clare Gaskell.

Baker McKenzie is advising the majority shareholders of MagicLab. The team is led by M&A partner David Scott and includes partners Leif King and Lawrence Lee in Silicon Valley.

Scott commented: ‘MagicLab is a fantastic business, with terrific brands and huge potential. The Blackstone acquisition is a great opportunity to further develop the platform. It’s been a real pleasure to partner with Andrey and the MagicLab team on this one.’

The deal is expected to close early next year.

Finally, Latham & Watkins advised Interswitch and its shareholders on a partnership with Visa. Visa will acquire a minority equity stake in the business which is valued at $1bn, making it one of the most valuable African Fintech businesses.

The team was led by London corporate partners Kem Ihenacho and Linzi Thomas and included partners James Inness and Christian McDermott. A Morrison & Foerster team led by London corporate partner Andrew Boyd advised Visa. The transaction is subject to regulatory approval.

Legal Business

Linklaters ExComm bag £25m amid surge in revenue from US and AsiaPac, LLP accounts reveal

Linklaters ExComm bag £25m amid surge in revenue from US and AsiaPac, LLP accounts reveal

The 12 members of Linklaters’ executive committee and senior partner Charlie Jacobs saw a 17% pay increase to more than £25m last year, the firm’s LLP accounts show.

Published this week (4 November), the accounts also revealed double-digit revenue growth in the firm’s non-European offices in the year to April 2019. Asia Pacific turnover surged 15% to £226m, while its three American offices in Washington DC, New York and Sao Paulo billed £103m, 11% more than the previous year.

The UK and continental Europe were the biggest contributors to the firm’s global turnover, rising 6% to £684m and £594m respectively. Middle East revenue rose 11% to £18m.

Overall the firm added more than £100m to its top line as revenue rose 7% to £1.63bn from £1.51bn, posting the strongest performance in its peer group as profits per equity partner grew 10% to £1.7m.

Off the back of the strong financial performance, Jacobs and the firm’s ExComm, which includes managing partner Gideon Moore, the practice and regional heads, and the heads of business support operations, collectively brought home £25.3m, up from £21.6m in the year to April 2018.

This week’s accounts also report operating profits of £556m for the 2018/19 financial year. The figure is 18% up on the number reported in the accounts last year but almost £200m short of the £751.6m pre-tax profits posted by the firm in July.

A spokesperson for Linklaters told Legal Business that as in previous years there were a number of partners who were treated and paid as equity partners but ‘for local bar rules or tax treatment’ counted as salaried employees in the accounts: ‘They get the same amount as equity partners on the lockstep: that in accounting terms is regarded as a cost.’

According to the accounts, the average number of equity partners at Linklaters in the year to April was 307 compared to the 433 the firm reported in July. Staff costs rose 6% to £786m as lawyer headcount grew 2% to 2,549 and business support staff 1% to 2,218.

The firm’s strong growth in Asia came at the end of the first year of its joint operation agreement with Shanghai outfit Zhao Sheng, which allowed Linklaters to practise Chinese law in the Free Trade Zone.

Speaking to Legal Business in July, managing partner Gideon Moore said he was ‘super delighted’ with the arrangement: ‘It has allowed us to recruit and retain very good people. It is something that clients really appreciate.’

Legal Business

Dealwatch: Rich pickings for A&O and Linklaters on €120bn tech listing as Addleshaws wins Battersea redevelopment

Dealwatch: Rich pickings for A&O and Linklaters on €120bn tech listing as Addleshaws wins Battersea redevelopment

The European teams of Allen & Overy (A&O) and Linklaters are set to bring in a total of more than €4m in legal fees after acting on the largest European listing of the year.

Meanwhile in London, Addleshaw Goddard and Norton Rose Fulbright acted on the £600m financing of the latest phase in the redevelopment of Battersea Power Station.

Last week (11 September) South African internet group Naspers floated its internet group and technology investment business Prosus on Euronext Amsterdam, with a secondary listing on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, giving the company a market capitalisation of €120bn.

A&O’s Amsterdam partner Tim Stevens led the team advising Prosus and Naspers on Dutch and US law and the firm is expected to receive €3.8m in fees according to the listing prospectus.

Linklaters’ Amsterdam partner Alexander Harmse and London partner Mike Bienenfeld acted for the financial advisers, bringing an estimated €925,000 to their firm. Linklaters’ South African alliance firm Webber Wentzel advised on South African law and is expected to receive €3.3m.

The listing, that sees Naspers retain control of about 73% of Prosus, made the company the third largest listed group in Amsterdam behind British-Dutch giants Royal Dutch Shell and Unilever.

In the City, Addleshaw’s real estate partner Luke Harvey led the team advising Battersea Phase 3 Holding Company on the financing of the third phase of the 42-acre development. NRF worked alongside Addleshaw on the deal.

The financing will be used to help create a new pedestrian high street called Electric Boulevard, and a mixed-use development including shops and homes.

Addleshaw also advised on the previous phases of the £9bn development, which is set to be completed in 2021.

Last year the firm advised as Malaysia’s asset manager Permodalan Nasional Berhad and state pension fund The Employees Provident Fund took a £1.6bn stake in the project. Battersea Power Station Development sold the commercial assets of phase two of the project, including a six-acre site hosting the former coal power station on the south bank of the river.