CC looks to reignite faltering West Coast

Magic circle firm in shock U-turn as it plans to hire thirty lawyers in California

Clifford Chance

has set in motion ambitious plans to resurrect its devastated West Coast operation as news emerges of two more partners leaving the firm’s US arm.

The Palo Alto office is in negotiations with landlords to acquire new space, with capacity for between 25 and 30 lawyers. The office currently has six lawyers.

Clifford Chance is also in multiple discussions with groups of IP partners and associates with a view to making a swathe of hires. A senior Clifford Chance partner indicated that, within the next two years, the firm aims to have between five and seven IP partners in its Palo Alto office.

In its heyday, following the mass hire of more than 20 partners from the now defunct Brobeck Phleger & Harrison, the California operation boasted four offices and around £30m in revenues.

It is now reduced to a single active partner, global IP head Daniel Harris, following a slate of defections and this year’s offload of the eight-partner San Francisco office to Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe.

Discussions with iconic ex-Brobeck partner Tower Snow, who is expected to retire in the coming months, are ongoing. At the time of going to press, Snow was understood to be attending a week-long conference in Hawaii and was unavailable for comment.

However, last week it emerged that a pair of IP partners was quitting Clifford Chance for Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. Michael O’Shea, the firm’s head of IP in Washington DC, is leaving alongside fellow patent litigator Frank Cimino.

Harris said: “Our focus is on intellectual property. That’s our key area for growth on the West Coast.”