Linklaters is working on plans to restructure its partnership in a move that is expected to see more than 35 partners worldwide leave the U.K. giant.
Legal Week has learned that the firm's London headquarters could see around 10 partners depart by the end of the current financial year in April, although its European practice has been cited by some outside the firm as the most vulnerable.
Three of the departing partners are in capital markets, banking and corporate practices, but it is not yet known where the remaining cuts will be made. Linklaters managing partner Simon Davies is managing the process.
The firm is also expected to announce a redundancy consultation for associates within the next few weeks, which is set to result in substantial job cuts. The firm today refused to deny that up to 10 percent of associates could be affected.
Linklaters has repeatedly refused to comment on questions regarding job cuts, though partners internally this week acknowledged that associate layoffs and partner departures were highly likely. To date, the firm has been the only top 10 London practice to refuse to comment about whether it would be making redundancies.
Some of the firm's rivals have put the number of potential partner departures as higher than 35, including one estimate Friday of 40 to 70 partners being affected. However, current indications are that the process, which has been dubbed Linklaters New World, is not yet complete.
Linklaters is also nearing the end of a lockstep consultation which will see the firm ultimately move to an all-equity partnership. According to the Legal Week Top 50 published last July, the firm had 520 partners, including 435 in the equity.
One Linklaters partner said: "Partners are now in the same position as everyone else -- they are not immune any more. It could be that [Linklaters' management] is trying their level best but there just may not be any justification for keeping them. Lockstep only works if you don't tolerate underperformance."
It is believed that Linklaters' international board -- its main governance body -- will ultimately decide on the partnership restructuring and that the package is unlikely to go to a full vote.
News of the shakeup has been greeted by rivals as evidence that senior partner David Cheyne is pushing forward with a vision of a smaller, more focused practice than the firm has cultivated in recent years.
One rival partner commented: "I would expect the firm to get smaller in Europe. Cheyne wants to see the firm more focused on London."
The news comes as Addleshaw Goddard cut its partnership by 19 earlier this week. The cuts will see 19 partners -- more than 10 percent of the partnership -- leave the firm within the coming months.
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