CC pursues its American dream


New York office claims four out of 35 new partners

Last summer Clifford Chance firmwide managing partner David Childs pledged to make growth in the US a major strategic focus (The Lawyer, 23 July 2007). And if this year’s promotions list is anything to go by, he has certainly lived up to his promise.

Okay, so gaining four out of 35 new partners hardly puts New York in a position to usurp London as the firm’s hub, but the fact that the number has increased from three out of 38 last year is significant.

As Childs says: “The US is very important to us. The promotions are in line with that.

“We’re growing the partnership strongly through a combination of lateral hires and internal promotions. While with promotions you have to deal with the year you’re dealt, certainly if we have the quality there this number will be repeated.”

While the corporate practice is the firm’s biggest on a global scale, in New York litigation accounts for around a third of the 440-lawyer office.

That said, it is the US corporate practice that has fared best in the latest promotions round, gaining two of the four new partners in the shape of Jeff Berman and Benjamin Sibbert.

Capital markets and tax, pensions and employment each gained one partner – Grant Buerstetta and Christopher Roman respectively. Interestingly, while litigation was overlooked, so too was the finance practice – a traditional stronghold for the magic circle firm.

This, says Childs, is simply down to where the talent was this year, adding that the intention is to grow New York significantly on all fronts in the coming years.

“We want to be strong across all six practice areas,” he insists. “We do want to build corporate and finance, but equally we’d like to see real estate grow.”

As well as organic growth, Childs is keen to continue to beef up the practice through lateral hiring.

“We need more resources in corporate,” he says. “Despite the current difficulties in the market, our US corporate practice remains very busy and could do with more resources. We also need more resources in banking.”

The specific driver behind the focus on New York is to have the US contribute a quarter of firmwide turnover within the next three years.

The firm previously achieved this following its 2000 merger with Rogers & Wells. However, a period of turbulence in the US business meant that, by last year, turnover from New York and Washington DC combined accounted for just 14 per cent of the business.

Another driver behind the US push is the desire for Clifford Chance to really differentiate itself from its magic circle counterparts. If promotions are anything to go by, it is certainly going some way to achieving this goal.

While Linklaters has yet to announce its 2008 promotions, both Allen & Overy (A&O) and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer have made up just one US partner each this year.

At A&O that one partner is Daniel Guyder, a lawyer in the firm’s New York banking practice. Firmwide, A&O has made up 28 new partners this year.

Last year A&O promoted five in New York, with banking, corporate, capital markets, litigation and tax all benefiting.

At Freshfields Alexander Yanos joins the dispute resolution practice in New York as one of 25 new partners across the firm as a whole. This is one up on last year, though, when the firm did not make a single promotion in the US.


Moving story

New York firms Dewey Ballantine and LeBoeuf Lamb Greene & MacRae executed a near-perfect merger when they joined forces to form Dewey & LeBoeuf last October.

Seven months into the merger Dewey & LeBoeuf has started closing offices, with three peripheral US bases set to close their doors over the coming months.

Rather than making the lawyers at the closing offices redundant, Dewey & LeBoeuf is offering them the chance to relocate to bases of their choosing. That’s great in principle, but will Fred Associate from Jacksonville, Florida be ready to up sticks for Almaty?
There may be redundancies to come.

• Posted: 11 April

Davis Polk hire shock

What’s happened over at Davis Polk?

The New York firm seems to have gone on a lateral hiring rampage. Well, okay, it’s hired a partner in Beijing, but for Davis Polk even one lateral is a marquee event. The man in question is Howard Zhang, ex-head of O’Melveny & Myers’ Beijing office.

The firm now plans to expand its Beijing office. For Davis Polk this is radical stuff. Most of that growth will be organic, admittedly. In Zhang’s case, on the other hand, when someone like that is available, Davis Polk is happy to pounce.

Although he and the rest of the office will be practising US law, his arrival (along with the former Chinese diplomat’s extensive contacts book) is intended to help Davis Polk navigate the unfamiliar Chinese waters.

• Posted: 2 April

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