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Clifford Chance's volatile New York operation has lost its heavy-hitting, five-partner bankruptcy and restructuring team to US firm Kaye Scholer.
As first revealed on www.thelawyer.com (16 February), star rainmaker and head of insolvency and restructuring Margot Schonholtz is taking the entire New York restructuring team with her to Kaye Scholer's New York office. Joining her are partners Madlyn Gleich Primoff, Jill Kurtzman, Mark Liscio and Scott Talmadge. The firm's 15 New York-based insolvency and restructuring associates are also expected to join Kaye Scholer.
Schonholtz and Liscio were among Clifford Chance's 'super point' partners, who are paid above the firm's 100 point top of lockstep. Their departures follow those of other key Clifford Chance super point stars last year, including antitrust partner Kevin Arquit to Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, securities litigation star Jim Benedict to Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy, Steve Newborn to Weil Gotshal & Manges and IP expert Leora Ben-Ami to Kaye Scholer. Global head of litigation Peter Chaffetz is believed to be the New York office's only remaining super-pointer.
In recent years, Schonholtz's practice has contracted owing to the declining number of new bankruptcy filings and restructurings. The super point status of both Schonholtz and Liscio was up for assessment in April, and according to one Clifford Chance source, the pair's extra points were likely to be cut.
The departures come just weeks after Clifford Chance managing partner Peter Cornell unveiled his five-person US executive group, designed to examine the strategic direction of the fragile US operation. Cornell is leading the group alongside US head John Carroll. It also comprises Chaffetz, securities partner Craig Medwick and US chief operating officer Terry Hatchett.
Schonholtz told The Lawyer that she had been approached to join the group but declined because she was in advanced talks with Kaye Scholer.
Clifford Chance is now examining the possibility of relocating London or European restructuring experts to New York in a bid to redevelop the practice.
A Clifford Chance source said: "This wasn't surprising at all. These departures have been a long time coming."
Schonholtz commented: "We have a great working relationship with Clifford Chance and we hope to maintain that."