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26 July 1999
26 July 1999
2 July 2007
CliffordChance is off, according to a senior lawyer at the City firm.Stuart Popham,global head of finance at Clifford Chance, tells The Lawyerthe talks have ended becausethe firms could not agree on the structure ofthe merged practice.He says: "We haddiscussions with Mallesons, as we do with firms, and wehave concluded these negotiationsbecause we cannot agree on thestructure."The failure of the merger talks will be asignificant blow to CliffordChance. Its merger with US firm Rogers & Wells and plannedmerger withGerman firm Punder Volhard Weber & Axster makes it the largest law firm intheworld with more than 2,600 lawyers.The addition of Mallesons, Australia's largestpractice with 870 lawyers,including 191 partners, would have considerably increased itsstanding inAsia and the Pacific Rim.Mallesons is officially keeping silent regardingClifford Chance. But asenior source at the firm claims Popham has got it wrong. Hebelieves thetalks are still on but declines to comment further.The two firms had beenin talks since last year. But the negotiations weremarred by structural issues. It isunderstood Mallesons suggested eithersplitting into a two-tier national andinternational partnership ormanaging Clifford Chance's Asian operations on aprofit-sharing basis. Itappears Clifford Chance is not prepared to accept eitherproposal.A partner at a rival Australian law firm is not surprised the talkshavecollapsed. He believes Clifford Chance was only ever interested inMallesons' bankingdivision.He comments: "I had heard that the last proposal that Mallesons had puttogetherhad not been warmly received. I can understand Clifford Chancesaying 'We are more thanhappy to merge with the A team in banking but dowe really want the B team in, forexample, insurance as well?' Australianfirms are less narrowly focused."Popham saysClifford Chance is not talking to any other Australianpractices but is keeping a closeeye on the market.He says: "We will always be looking to make sure we are providingtheright service in Asia. We are keen on the area and think the economyisrejuvenating."We are not short of lawyers [in Asia] but maybe in time we will needtoimprove the situation. We are very much keeping an eye on it."see news analysis, page12
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