Linklaters isn’t for the faint-hearted. But there are few more prestigious places to begin a legal career. The firm consistently scores well for training in the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey, but it can be a demanding environment. Such standards are likely why the firm avoided a retraction of revenue following a tricky financial year, with revenue up less than 1% to £1.64 billion. Profit per equity partner, however, did undergo a 5.1% dip to £1.612 million.
The firm is spearheaded by managing partner Gideon Moore and charismatic senior partner and deal-maker Charlie Jacobs, who formerly headed the firm’s reputable corporate practice. As with other Magic Circle firms, Links has lost a few partners to US rivals in recent years, but a resilient and collegiate culture keep generating new stars. With clients such as HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group, deVeres and G4S, the firm has to be doing something right.
There’s a prevailing atmosphere of kinship among trainees, with many developing friendships while studying together on the LPC. “For all that people say about the MC, not a bad group of people here. They do have my back, don’t think I would be let down here,” one insider tells us. In the past the battle to secure the plum international secondments is said to have been quite intense, but has taken place more peacefully in recent years with most getting their first choices (Hong Kong, Dubai and Singapore are among the most popular locations). This year international secondments have been hit by COVID.
The work is a mixture of the intellectually challenging and the mindless that prevails at most magic circle firms. One rookie pithily sums it up: “Sometimes trainees are given fantastic opportunities to take on meaningful work. At other times, the work can be mundane, and it makes you ask yourself, ‘Why did I go to law school just to do this?’” Trainees who prove themselves find that better quality work keeps coming their way.
Work/life balance is what it is, with an average start time of just after nine and and finish time just shy of 8:30pm. But the 11-12 hour days tend to be in line with expectations. The unpredictability is the hard part, suggests one trainee:
“Done a decent shift of late nights when deals reach the ‘crunch’ point in transactional seats, but this is always noted and made easier by the fact that the end (closing) is in sight. Admittedly difficult to make weekday plans as often unclear whether you’ll be out at 6, 7 or 10 (a frustrating situation sees you doing no work from 9-12), only for a deluge to appear at 4pm, but you get used to this. Some weekend work done, but this is generally pretty rare.”
Socially, there’s a ‘work hard play hard’ vibe, with “the Australian and US lawyers leading the charge” on nights out. But Linklaters is apparently getting much better at having a range of socials — i.e. not all involve booze. “If you can stomach hanging out with lawyers for another few hours a week, people tend to be pretty fun. Loads of events and away days,” another insider tells us.
The firm makes up for its demanding nature with some of the best perks around. There’s an in-house gym and fitness centre that is completely free — and has boutique hotel standards of towels and toiletries, and even hair straighteners. A firm doctor, meanwhile, is on hand to see to employees’ needs. The canteen — called ‘Silks’ — is the sort of upmarket foodhall more usually associated with lunching in Chelsea or Beverly Hills. A recent price increase his riled some, but this year has also seen some “great vegan experimentation”.
Oh, and there is fantastic gear to keep you billing: standing/adjustable desks, lumbar support, ergonomic/wireless keyboards with mouse wrist rests, dual screens and deluxe stationery. This has translated to WFH: Linklaters lawyers were delighted to receive Surface Pro tablets, Yoga laptops and iPhones last year, while the firm has apparently given all those working from home throughout the COVID-19 lockdown £200 to expense on further kit. It should be noted too that, as of yet, Links has not made any redundancies or furloughed any staff as a result of the COVID-19 economic crisis, something not all law firms in the City can say.