Clifford Chance to take on Wall St in US relaunch

Magic circle firm plots fresh New York assault after record year

Clifford Chance to take on Wall St in US relaunch” />CLIFFORD Chance is set to relaunch its US practice following its first major strategy review in seven years as the magic circle firm seeks to capitalise on its record financial results.

The formal recommitment to its £150m US business will herald a sustained lateral drive and relocation of rainmakers to New York as Clifford Chance seeks to differentiate itself globally from the rest of the magic circle.

After Clifford Chance merged with US firm Rogers & Wells and Germany’s Punder Volhard Weber & Axster in 2000, the US practice contributed a quarter of the firm’s total revenue. However, following a period of turbulence in the US business, turnover from the New York and Washington DC offices now make up 14 per cent of the business.

Conceding that the firm’s 2002 experiment on the West Coast, when it took 17 partners from the now-defunct Brobeck Phleger & Harrison, was a failure, Clifford Chance managing partner David Childs said the US practice was nevertheless crucial to the future of the global firm.

“The US is the biggest and most important legal market in the world,” Childs said.

“If we want to remain an international player we have to be successful in the US. The job isn’t finished until we get the US much stronger.”

The Lawyer understands that the aim is to get revenue up to 25 per cent of the firm’s total within four years, with the performance of the M&A and securities teams a particular focus.

The strategy was drawn up by a Childs-chaired subcommittee, which includes corporate head Peter Charlton, real estate head Cliff McAuley, banking head Mark Campbell, capital markets head David Dunnigan, US head Craig Medwick and Asia head of disputes Martin Rogers.

The conclusions of the review were unveiled to lawyers at the firm last week, while key clients in New York and London were also consulted.