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Clifford Chances management committee has introduced a draconian new partnership agreement in the wake of Andrew Wilkinsons defection to US firm Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft.
The move follows a trend for City and national firms to introduce a gardening leave clause into their agreements.
The old Clifford Chance agreement had a 12-month notice period and a 12-month restrictive covenant for departing lawyers.
The new agreement adds to the firms armoury by allowing it to suspend for 12 months partners who have resigned and to forbid them from talking to trainees, assistants or clients about their move.
Wilde Sapte and Pinsent Curtis introduced similar agreements several years ago and both have enforced them.
Clifford Chance will have to persuade partners to sign up to the agreement. The firm has lost a handful of high-profile partners and senior assistants to US firms in recent years.
In 1995, partners Maurice Allen and Martin Hughes founded Weil Gothsal & Manges London office; energy lawyers Gary Pegg and Alan Jones joined LeBoeuf Lamb Greene & MacRae and John Edwards became managing partner of Sidley & Austins UK practice.
Senior assistants Kenneth MacRitchie and Nick Buckworth left for Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy in 1994.
A few days after Wilkinson was suspended from Clifford Chance, a private detective was spotted snooping around Cadwaladers London Wall office. He is understood to have offered u1,000 to the security guard to allow a client in to look around. Clifford Chance has made it clear it had nothing to do with it.
The firms management say they have no knowledge of any private detective (see page 6).
Cadwalader has signed a lease for a permanent office 11,000 sq ft at 55 Gracechurch Street in the City. It will be moving there from Bastion House, London Wall in November.