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Clifford Chance managing partner Tony Williams is stepping down from his high-profile role following the firm's decision to merge with Rogers & Wells.
He is only two years into his five-year term but denies rumours circulated by rival firms that he has been sidelined in the new expansion.
"I have had a couple of very good years in the job and looking back at my manifesto, we have achieved nearly everything we wanted to do," explains Williams, who will be returning to his practice.
"We are now launching the next stage of development. As to whether this is the most exciting time - yes it will be exciting but it will be extremely difficult as well.
"It seems to me that I had the choice to stay in management and accept that I would be in management for evermore and I didn't want to do that."
As to suggestions that Williams has been left out in the cold in the lead up to the partners' vote on taking on Punders and Rogers & Wells, he vehemently denies this is the case. "I have taken a back seat in the publicity for the merger because I knew I would not be continuing in the position," he says.
An ex-Clifford Chance partner says: "The real issue is whether you see your career as being a full-time manager. Once you have been in the job for a certain time it's difficult to go back, and Tony is still quite a young guy.
"He may just find this is a good opportunity to say - without standing down - because you can't really stand down, 'Here's a good opportunity to move back into private practice.'
"It could be that when they came to divide up the jobs in the new firm there was no obvious role for him because there won't be a UK managing partner, and you had to allot jobs to a number of senior figures within the firm.
"I'm not sure how keen he was to do the job in the first place. They got themselves into the situation where they didn't have anyone to do it, and they may have prevailed upon him to fill the job."