CC gives way in 'gardening leave' battle

After pressure from a client, Clifford Chance has conceded defeat in its battle to hold its high-profile insurance insolvency partner Andrew Wilkinson on gardening leave for his full 12-month notice period.

Wilkinson handed in his notice in June, intending to join the new London derivatives practice set up by US firm Cadwalader Wickerham & Taft, which opened last month.

Although Wilkinson was not available for comment, it is believed that Clifford Chance put him on leave and kept him to his full notice because it suspected him of seeking to take some or all of his insolvency team of assistants with him. There have even been rumours of the firm hiring a private detective to gather evidence on Wilkinson's moves.

However, Wilkinson instructed Herbert Smith to fight his corner and it is understood that a client of his entered the fray, telling Clifford Chance that it would not use the firm if it could not use Wilkinson on the transaction.

Clifford Chance, it is understood, has now agreed to allow Wilkinson to complete the transaction for the client and to join Cadwalader on 15 February.

One City partner commented: “Restrictive covenants and gardening leave might work for bankers but they don't work for lawyers – clients don't like it.”

Asked whether his firm had hired a private eye, Clifford Chance managing partner Geoffrey Howe said: “There are some wild rumours going around the City – probably in the bars.”