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Tony Vlasto, who for years has been the face of shipping at Clifford Chance and who is regarded as one of the finest maritime litigators of his generation, will retire from the firm in June
Vlasto dismissed market rumours that his departure will damage his department, saying that his mantle will be carried on by fellow litigation partner Mark Morrison.
"People say these things because it's convenient to do so. I'm confident that there's a good team in place here and that the ones that follow me are sufficiently well known," said Vlasto. "My ability and reputation should not be overstated."
Paul Turner, a ship finance specialist, is the only other lawyer with years of partnership experience behind him. Alex Panayides, another litigator, joined the partnership last year.
Commenting on his future, Vlasto said: "I've had a variety of proposals - don't assume they've been from law firms - and I've made no decision except that I won't be making any decisions for another eight to nine months. My life has been this place for 30 years and I love it here."
Adam Morgan, head of shipping at Richards Butler, commented that Clifford Chance's maritime department will largely continue as it has under Vlasto's leadership. "Clifford Chance has always wanted to be a full service firm, so it's likely that the maritime department will continue.
"However, shipping tends to be a marketplace in which individuals' names are as important as firms' names. Some clients specifically say they want to instruct a particular lawyer. To the extent Clifford Chance has such clients, then they may move with Tony's departure."