Incoming CC managing partner vows to slim management ranks and review salaried partner lawyers

Matthew Layton

The newly elected managing partner of Clifford Chance, Matthew Layton, won his mandate after pledging to look at whether to reduce management committee membership from 16 to nine and investigate whether to scrap the salaried partner bands.

Layton will formerly step into the role in May succeeding David Childs who is to retire from the firm (26 November 2013). Canvassing partners for votes Layton said he would look to streamline the management structure by cutting the committee to nine.

While he didn’t go as far as fellow candidate, real estate finance partner Andrew Carnegie, who wanted to cut the committee to just six, Layton expressed a clear intention to “change the structure and have a stronger central management”, according to one insider.

“The committee will definitely become smaller,” said a further source added, while another said: “It wasn’t clear who would come off it but we will have fewer practice areas.”

According to sources at the firm there is a strong feeling that practice areas need to be consolidated in order to have a smaller group who represent more partners on the committee. It is thought that the four regional positions could be taken off the committee and put underneath global heads to create a more vertical structure.

“Slimming down struck a chord with partners” another insider added.

The hustings process also kicked off a debate about whether to bring all salaried partners into the equity in order to create a more collegiate atmosphere at the firm. “It’s all about how you make partners pull together more,” said one source.

Carnegie appears to have been a key instigator of those discussions. Sources said that the only contender not on the management committee “did not want it to be a coronation”, and was determined to “open up the debate.”

“I don’t think his entering was a huge surprise to anyone,” said a source. “He’s pretty outspoken, he’s not so much a contrarian as a different perspective on things. He didn’t expect to win and therefore it was a platform to make people think differently.”

Another source said: “He [Carnegie] said we needed to be more collegiate, more focused on excellence and less tolerant of poor performance.”

Layton’s manifesto was more of a “business plan” than a presentation, according to a source. 

Wehrli appears to have taken a more qualitative approach to the process and was not as keen on pushing big change. As the only contender not based in London Wehrli is thought to have had trouble persuading the others he was a contender – even promising to move to London if he won the race. 

Billed by all sources as a charismatic charmer, a source said the Paris chief took an “ambassadorial” approach, suited to his flair for public speaking. But when it came to change another source said: “Yves was a bit more about keeping the structure as it is in his manifesto.”

“Matthew was more likely to say that the time for mission statements is all well and good but if it doesn’t translate to money we need to ask ourselves what we’re doing wrong” said another source.