Weil Gotshal nabbed CC star biller with shorter hours offer

Star biller Michael Francies is leaving Clifford Chance for Weil Gotshal & Manges because he wants a break from the extraordinarily long hours he was working, it has emerged.

Neither Clifford Chance nor Francies will comment about the details of his move, revealed in The Lawyer earlier this month, but it is understood that Francies last year billed 4,000 hours when the average is about 1,500.

Sources say he wanted more time to see his wife and four children but did not feel able to hand client work to his partners.

Francies had been complaining about his hours for some time. Last year he threatened to resign and asked the firm to restructure the commercial department to lessen his workload. The firm had granted him a four-month sabbatical which was due to start this summer.

When Francies told the firm he was considering moving to Weil Gotshal, Clifford Chance offered to reduce his workload by a third. But he argued that whatever hours he was given as a target, if he had the same clients and was in the same department, he would still end up working the same hours.

Francies said he wanted to work in a smaller firm where he was more in control of his life. It is understood that Weil Gotshal has promised to put in place a support structure that would enable him to minimise his hours. London head Maurice Allen is negotiating with several other corporate lawyers in the City to join the firm.

But it appears that Clifford Chance still hopes to persuade Francies to stay. “We are talking to him about his future,” a spokesman told The Lawyer.

If he does go, one or two assistants may go with him, and Clifford Chance might then enforce the new 12-month gardening leave clause in its partnership agreement.