CC calls off Mallesons talks

CliffordChance is off, according to a senior lawyer at the City firm.Stuart Popham,

global head of finance at Clifford Chance, tells The Lawyerthe talks have ended because

the firms could not agree on the structure ofthe merged practice.He says: “We had

discussions with Mallesons, as we do with firms, and wehave concluded these negotiations

because we cannot agree on thestructure.”The failure of the merger talks will be a

significant blow to CliffordChance. Its merger with US firm Rogers & Wells and planned

merger withGerman firm Punder Volhard Weber & Axster makes it the largest law firm inthe

world with more than 2,600 lawyers.The addition of Mallesons, Australia's largest

practice with 870 lawyers,including 191 partners, would have considerably increased its

standing inAsia and the Pacific Rim.Mallesons is officially keeping silent regarding

Clifford Chance. But asenior source at the firm claims Popham has got it wrong. He

believes thetalks are still on but declines to comment further.The two firms had been

in talks since last year. But the negotiations weremarred by structural issues. It is

understood Mallesons suggested eithersplitting into a two-tier national and

international partnership ormanaging Clifford Chance's Asian operations on a

profit-sharing basis. Itappears Clifford Chance is not prepared to accept either

proposal.A partner at a rival Australian law firm is not surprised the talks

havecollapsed. He believes Clifford Chance was only ever interested inMallesons' banking

division.He comments: “I had heard that the last proposal that Mallesons had puttogether

had not been warmly received. I can understand Clifford Chancesaying 'We are more than

happy to merge with the A team in banking but dowe really want the B team in, for

example, insurance as well?' Australianfirms are less narrowly focused.”Popham says

Clifford Chance is not talking to any other Australianpractices but is keeping a close

eye on the market.He says: “We will always be looking to make sure we are providing

theright service in Asia. We are keen on the area and think the economy

isrejuvenating.”We are not short of lawyers [in Asia] but maybe in time we will need

toimprove the situation. We are very much keeping an eye on it.”see news analysis, page