Simon Branigan, Global Head of Business at Linklaters, has been with the firm since 1998. He was promoted to Partner in 2009 and in June 2021 took over the global business.
During his tenure with the firm, he advised on various major transactions including the £1.6bn merger of OneSavings Bank and Charter Court Financial Services and Capita in connection with its £701m rights issue. pound sterling. Here, he’s talking about takeout from the office and rushing into Buckingham Palace’s bathrooms to take a call.
Home office or “real” office?
For me, this is the real office. I like being around people, around the team, I like the noise, the buzz, the energy. It’s always good to have a mix, but for me it’s definitely the office in person.
What advice would you give to young corporate lawyers starting out?
Always take care of your teams and it will pay dividends throughout your career, and always put yourself in the customer’s shoes in everything you do.
Why did you become a lawyer?
I watched a lot of television when I was a kid. There are no lawyers in my family, I come from a working class Northern Irish background and used to watch LA Law (which definitely dates me!). I was convinced this was the law, life as a lawyer was as glamorous as LA Law, so I thought, “I’ll take a slice of it.” Also the fact that everyone wore fantastic suits and ties. No one in my family had a job that required suits and ties, so I was very impressed.
What is the professional moment you are most proud of?
I have three. When I was elected partner because, still today, it is a privilege; when I was named global head of the company; and seeing very junior lawyers progress, either being elected to a partnership themselves or becoming more experienced. Especially the junior attorneys I’ve worked with, you see them with clients and think back to when they sat down with you as an intern and you can see the progression. It makes me incredibly proud.
…and did you have a worse day at work?
Each day is like a big party! But there is one, as a junior attorney, I was emailing very late at night. I did a spell check because I was very well trained. Unfortunately there was an autocorrect so I emailed the lawyer on the other side with all the clients in CC’s which started”Dear asexual” because their name was corrected automatically. At the time, I thought the world was going to end. Now I look back and think that’s hilarious. It’s the only email I’ve received in 24 years, so it’s not that bad, but it was definitely a bottleneck!
The most memorable deals you’ve worked on and why?
The acquisition of ABN Amro in 2007 will always be memorable. It was huge, involving around 70 jurisdictions and it was really like 20 agreements in one. I also acted for House of Fraser when it was sold to their Chinese buyer at the time, it was smaller but incredibly complex, mainly because of the personalities involved.
Where’s the most absurd place you’ve taken a work call?
I’m a master at finding quiet lanes in central London when I suddenly have to do a conference call. I’m like a carrier pigeon, able to find a quiet place without traffic even near Regents Street! But maybe Buckingham Palace men’s toilets are good!
What are the main risks and opportunities that your customers currently face?
Overall, in the immediate term, it will enter slightly choppier waters. Of course, this also creates opportunities for clients, but for some there is a geopolitical angle, especially with China and Russia, which will create risks for some clients who have a greater presence in these jurisdictions.
What are the main risks and opportunities facing law firms today?
I would say there is still a lot to play for in many jurisdictions, from Linklater’s perspective, such as the United States. We will be more and more active, I hope, in the United States in the future. Likewise, general competition is a risk, particularly US law firms in the UK, but also expansion into other jurisdictions where we have offices. There is real growing competition in the war for talent.
What annoys you the most about being a lawyer?
Lawyers who fixate on small points and lose sight of the big picture. Especially the points that their customers don’t care about, but they see the world is about to end if they give up on that point. He does no one a favor and does not act in the best interests of the client.
How sustainable are pay rate increases for junior lawyers?
We have to be flexible on that. We have been through a number of years where there is fierce competition in the marketplace and, unsurprisingly, this is leading to rising wages, led in large part by corporate America. We have to be very clear about our offer. Salary is incredibly important, but we also have to recognize that we offer something in addition to very high salaries. If it was just a matter of money, many of us would go work somewhere else and do something else. It’s important but it can’t be the only thing holding people back.
You’re stuck working late at the office, what food do you order and what music will get you through?
With the expensive taste I have – Nandos chicken pitta, medium spicy, with fries. Also their mashed potatoes are amazing and it comes from someone who is Irish! My taste in music is terrible. It would be anything from Sigala, Kygo or (and embarrassingly I shouldn’t admit it but it’s true) Little Mix.