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Denis Petkovic tells Sean Farrell his reasons for leaving Mayer Brown & Platt for Chadbourne & Parke.
"I'll shut the door. Tell someone I'm having a haircut or something," Denis Petkovic tells his secretary as he seals his office from his partners at Mayer Brown & Platt.
The reason for the secrecy is that Petkovic is leaving the firm to join Chadbourne & Parke today (Monday) and is keen to set the record straight.
He is upset about comments made by Mayer Brown's London partner in charge, Ian Coles.
Coles told The Lawyer (6 March) that Petkovic's practice "took a dip" when work dropped off in emerging markets 18 months ago. Petkovic had "wanted to do other stuff and Chadbournes gave him the opportunity to do projects and he took it".
Petkovic says that until Chadbournes made the offer, he thought he would stay at Mayer Brown for life.
His partners at Mayer Brown tried to persuade him to stay, says Petkovic, but he sees the move as a chance to "make some headlines and some big home runs".
"We have had four serious years here. Like other US firms, Mayer Brown is very focused on billings and results, but I never thought I'd achieve the results I have achieved here.
"It has been quite extraordinary - bringing on Robert Fleming & Co, which two years ago was the top billing client in this office and this year was fourth or fifth, and Royal Bank of Scotland, which is number four or five."
He is one of the office's biggest billers, he says, bringing in deals worth $500,000 (£316,000) in fees.
Petkovic's family moved to Australia from their native Croatia when he was four years old. He planned to spend two or three years at a City firm and go back to Australia, but he has been in the UK so long that he is unlikely to return.
He joined Mayer Brown from Stephenson Harwood, where he spent nine years after completing an LLM at Cambridge.
Having spent four years in Stephenson Harwood's Hong Kong office, he returned to London in 1993 to find the firm was not the one he had known before.
"It was still friendly but was suffering the after-effects of the recession. It wasn't the happiest place to be."
Then a friend mentioned that Robert Fleming & Co was looking for new lawyers to advise it. "I went there on secondment and started making some serious money."
He wanted to join a US firm because the bank increasingly wanted him to work on US issues. He chose Mayer Brown because it was "a pre-eminent banking firm".
Petkovic firmly expects to take his clients with him from Mayer Brown.
"The firm has been having a go at my client base, which I find amusing, saying 'We have converted these into the firm's clients'. I wish many of my partners had been as successful in marketing as I have."
Coles says: "We are sad to part company with Denis. He had a successful career at Mayer Brown & Platt and we wish him all the best at Chadbourne & Parke." Denis Petkovic Chadbourne & Parke