Guy Norman on track to take Clifford Chance corporate chief role

Clifford Chance dealmaker and partner Guy Norman is on the verge of being named new corporate chief following an uncontested election.

Guy Norman

The partner is set to take the corporate crown from Matthew Layton when the corporate vote ends next week. Norman is understood to have been the only  contender after putting his name in the hat before Christmas (29 January 2013).

A source said: “There were a couple of deluded chancers who had a toe in the water but quickly pulled out.”

Corporate stalwart Norman will take up the role amid consternation over the firm’s private equity offering, following the exit of a third partner to Latham & Watkins funds team.

This week the firm lost partner Kem Ihenacho (18 February 2014) to Latham & Watkins on top of Tom Evans in October 2013 (9 October 2013) and former funds head David Walker in April 2013 (8 April 2013).

A source said: “Guy is going to have to bring stability where there is instability. But private equity is only a relatively small number of people so it could just be a case of having that with those guys.”

Deciding how to position the private equity group within corporate will be high on his agenda. It has been reshuffled within the corporate team several times over the last five years, with heavy-hitters Patrick Sarch, former partner Adam Signy and Matthew Layton all in Norman’s own ‘30C’ team back in the early 2000s. That was later disbanded and general corporate streams 30A and 30B created (22 April 2013).

Sources said he could look at shuffling “who’s in charge of whom”, but that he had high respect for Layton’s strategy and did not want to move too far away from the status quo .

But sources said he would also be good at looking outwards to make the firm communicate better with clients.

“Engagement with clients is a big thing, it’s a big machine here and it’s easy to get focused on a lot of things internatlly but that’s what Guy is really good at,” said a source. “He can work a room like some lawyers can’t so he will encourage people to point outside the buildings not in, and that’s what we need.”

Another said: “He is excellent with clients at boardroom level.”

Layton, who takes up the managing partner role from David Childs in May 2014, was said to have not been as good at encouraging partners to engage.

Norman was seen as the right man for the job as a respected partner at the thick end of its major M&A work (19 January 2010).  He spent the past three years as Middle East head in Dubai, where he was relocated as part of the firm’s international strategy but returned in August 2013 (3 July 2013).

Layton was elected to the Clifford Chance top job in November 2013 after beating off competition from Paris chief Yves Wehrli and real estate finance partner Andrew Carnegie (28 November 2013).