CCR&W in last-gasp Brobeck turnaround

Clifford Chance Rogers & Wells (CCR&W) has abandoned plans to open an office in San Francisco and has pulled out of talks with the group of Brobeck Phleger & Harrison partners just hours before the CCR&W partners were due to vote on whether to take on the group.
As first revealed on news, the deal hit the rocks last Thursday (16 May), a day before the scheduled vote, following a fluctuation in the number of Brobeck partners agreeing to the move.
Reports suggested that up to 35 Brobeck partners were initially involved. However, it is understood that the number fell far below that prior to the Clifford Chance vote.
According to a spokesman at the firm, the final line-up of Brobeck partners did not satisfy Clifford Chance’s requirements.
“We were looking for the correct mix of skills to pick up complex M&A work, but this mix of skills wasn’t available,” explained the spokesman. “Looking at the number of people that were interested, we decided it wasn’t the right group.”
However, if the firm is looking to propel its M&A practice, it is not surprising that the group of partners did not offer the right skills given that the majority of them were securities litigation partners.
The spokesman stressed that Clifford Chance had not abandoned its plans for expansion in the US. He said that the merger with Roger & Wells had given the firm a platform to build on and it will continue to look for the right opportunity.
The exodus from Brobeck was being led by the firm’s ex-chairman Tower Snow and, had he been successful in wooing 35 partners away from the firm, it could have been the largest lateral hire in the history of the legal profession.
Snow is known to have a number of strategic differences with Brobeck’s current management. Following his role as chairman, Snow has long been regarded as a figurehead for the firm. Recently, however, he made it clear that he was against the persistent staff cuts that were made in response to the economic downturn.
Snow was unavailable for comment.
Top partners at Clifford Chance will suffer only a minor drop in profits this year, according to preliminary figures. Last year, plateau partners made £855,000, while this year they are expected to make £813,000. The average profits per partner figure is understood to be £703,000, down 6 per cent from £750,000.
As widely expected, the firm has broken through the £1bn turnover barrier for the first time this year. The London operation turned over some £400m of the total amount.