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Clifford Chance has launched a high-level strategic review of its Central Europe offices after largely ignoring the region since its three-way merger with Rogers & Wells and Pünder three years ago.
Top-flight London partners Keith Hyman and Malcolm Sweeting have been instructed by managing partner Peter Cornell to report to the partnership next month on opportunities in the region in anticipation of EU enlargement.
Although the review is not led by concerns over the profitability of individual offices, The Lawyer understands that offices in countries where the team does not identify business opportunities could be wound down.
One source quipped that Clifford Chance's offices in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland between them probably make as much money as one floor of the firm's London office on Aldersgate Street.
Hyman confirmed the review was going on and stressed that it was forward-looking and positive rather than a way of tackling underperforming offices.
"We review all our businesses on a regular basis and this is one of a number that are going on," he said. "There are major developments happening in Central and Eastern Europe relating to EU accession, and we want to be well placed to take advantage of any opportunities."
Last summer, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer reviewed its Central and Eastern Europe offices, resulting in the Prague office being spun off, although it retains a best friends status.
A group of salaried partners in Budapest, inherited through merger, were rebranded 'senior counsel' because Freshfields has a 100 per cent equity partnership, although the head of the Budapest office was taken into equity.
Lovells is also reviewing its offices in the region, although the firm does not intend to make any cuts, and Lovells' Moscow office in particular is performing well.