Clifford Chance Sydney boss exits with co-founder

Clifford Chance Sydney managing partner Mark Pistilli is to exit the firm alongside co-founding partner Danny Simmons.

Pistilli and Simmons co-founded Chang Pistilli & Simmons, which was one of two boutique Australian commercial firms to merge with Clifford Chance in 2011.

It is understood Diana Chang will replace Pistilli as head.

The top-level changes are part of a major management shake-up, according to a report in the Australian Financial Review (AFR). It also follows increasing competition in the local market, particularly for M&A work, which has affected the strategies of international firms in Australia.

Clifford Chance launched in Australia five years ago through a double merger with Chang Pistilli & Simmons in Sydney and Cochrane Lishman Carson Luscombe in Perth, creating a 14-partner presence in the country as part of plans to boost its Asia offering.

The firm now has 15 partners in the country, eight of which work in its corporate practice, and has around 70 lawyers.

Asia managing partner Peter Charlton said there were no plans to shrink Clifford Chance’s presence in the region.

“The Australian business is actually doing well,” Charlton told AFR. “Danny and Mark have decided to move on and we wish them well. We will build from here.”

A spokesperson added: “Mark and Danny have made a valuable contribution to the firm over the past five years as, together, we have established a strong and growing practice in Australia. They have now decided that the time is right for them to step down to pursue new opportunities outside the firm.

“Our Australian offices play an important role in the firm’s global and regional strategy and we will continue to develop our capability, building on the significant investments we have made since opening in 2011.”

It is not yet known where Pistilli and Simmons will resurface. Both are on gardening leave until June.

Clifford Chance was among the first major UK players to enter the Australian market, one year after Allen & Overy hired 17 partners mostly from Clayton Utz to open in Sydney and Perth.