Clifford Chance spins off Hungarian office

Clifford Chance is to pull out of Hungary, with the lawyers in its office there set to form a standalone firm.

Budapest managing partner Péter Lakatos will run the spin-off firm, which will launch at the end of July and will be called Lakatos Köves & Partners. The firm will maintain a referral relationship with Clifford Chance.

Clifford Chance’s Budapest office was one of a handful at the firm to operate a lower lockstep than the rest of the network. While most of the firm’s equity partners progress through a 40 to 100 point equity ladder, those in locations such as Budapest, Poland and the Czech Republic were put onto a lockstep that ran from 30 to 70 points (13 August 2007).

According to Lakatos, by spinning off into a standalone firm the Budapest partners will have greater flexibility to develop their practice.

He added: “We’ll continue to work closely with Clifford Chance and to benefit from its network, such as training for our lawyers and access to know-how.

“Our best friend arrangement will guarantee Clifford Chance’s clients the same level of service they have been used to in Hungary.”

The news comes less than a year after Clifford Chance merged with its Romanian ally, Badea & Asociatii (17 December 2008). 

According to firmwide managing partner David Childs (pictured) the firm decided to spin off its Hungarian operation because the country is no longer key to its international clients.

“Our strategy is to develop our Firm in those areas that are most important to our major international clients and this is where we must concentrate our investment,” he said.

“While our Budapest office is a successful, highly-regarded, top tier practice that has been involved in most of Hungary’s ground-breaking transactions over the years,  we believe that a standalone Clifford Chance operation is no longer needed in Hungary and that we’ll be best able to meet the needs of our strategic clients through this best friends arrangement.”

Clifford Chance’s magic circle rival Linklaters also ditched its Budapest office last year, spinning off a number of Eastern European offices to form a standalone practice named Kinstellar (6 October 2008).

Kinstellar, which has offices in Bratislava, Bucharest, Buda pest and Prague, is run by former Linklaters managing partner for Central and Eastern Europe Jason Mogg and maintains close referral ties with Linklaters.