Clifford Chance has put the brakes on its global expansion strategy, stating that it has no plans to open in any more countries
The firm considers itself to have coverage in every major corporate and financial centre and has ruled out opening anywhere else. "We don't have any more plans or strategies to open elsewhere or to merge elsewhere," said a source. The firm decided to restrict itself to major financial and corporate centres in a strategy review last year. It believes that it now has every financial and corporate centre covered. Clifford Chance has international offices in Belgium, China, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates and the US. It announced the closure of its Vietnam office in December 2000 (The Lawyer, 16 December 2000). Clifford Chance's brave announcement shows that it is bucking the current law firm trend of opening in the less explored business centres of the globe. "Our strategy is obviously in contrast to what Linklaters, for example, is doing," said a partner. Last year, Linklaters extended its alliance to Sweden and Portugal, while Denton Wilde Sapte went further afield and formed a joint venture in Uganda. But according to another Clifford Chance partner, the firm has no desire to "colour in the map". Perception among lawyers involved in international strategy is that Clifford Chance has become large enough. "Clifford Chance is one firm that has managed to build a real international organisation," said one partner at the firm. Clifford Chance, through its mergers with Rogers & Wells in the US and Pünder in Germany, has inherited a lot of international lawyers. But unlike Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, which is closing down three Central European offices, all of which are dominated by staff from Bruckhaus and Deringer, Clifford Chance has largely managed to contain its empire. "We've slimmed down a bit in Russia, but that's it," said a partner. "We now want to concentrate on the major international jurisdictions we already have."