Not so fond farewells

The beauty of partnership is that it’s not just a business relationship, it’s personal. The most colourful off-the-record briefings are reserved for partner departures. It never ceases to amaze just how many faults one can find in a partner who was a glittering example of good lawyerliness just one day before they handed in their notice.

While Clifford Chance‘s barbed comments are normally reserved for their rivals at Allen & Overy, a new upstart has raised a few shackles recently.

Robert MacGregor’s defection to Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) in 2004 provoked much angst within Clifford Chance’s real estate team, and a nerve remains raw.

The smaller firm is wallowing in its exalted status as a rival to big, bad Clifford Chance. One BLP source tittered with pride when recently asked about the tit-for-tat hiring spree: “Can you believe it? Little old BLP trading blows with Clifford Chance.”

While off-the-record comments can be bitter, are often defamatory and sometimes scandalous, on-the-record comment can be just as amusing.

Clifford Chance real estate chief Cliff McAuley has been quite restrained with his welcoming quote this week, but it was a different matter when Franc Peña arrived from BLP. “Peña is someone who’ll fit in very well culturally here,” he said. “As opposed to having a collection of individuals who are each running their own book of business, we’re trying to build a team of people that share the same ambitions and approach.”

McAuley has progressed in fine style since the touchy “no comment” that greeted MacGregor’s departure. There’s a future managing partner in there somewhere.

McAuley’s thoughts were eloquently expressed, but the art of saying goodbye can be just as brutal when done simply: after former colleague David Blumenthal walked out of the door for Mishcon De Reya, Dewey Ballantine’s Lee Parker merely said: “We wish Mishcons well.”

Dewey has had a few exits recently, but nothing when compared to Denton Wilde Sapte, which suffered 14 in 2005 before managing partner Howard Morris decided enough was enough. After wishing 13 all the best, the unlucky fourteenth received a brusque: “The firm’s moving on and we have no concerns about his departure.”

As if that wasn’t enough, a firm spokesperson gave his twopenneth worth: “If some partners can’t adjust, then it’s better that they’re elsewhere.”

But the best leaving quote came from Barlow Lyde & Gilbert partner Chris Holder. When partner Kit Burden left for DLA Piper, Holder said: “I think he’s overreacted slightly to being dropped from the football team.”

On that note, we’re off on holiday for a week, but you can keep up to date with all the news every day on www. The Lawyer will return on 3 September.