Clifford Chance has embarked on its biggest strategy review for years, with strong indications that it will commit more resources to the US and invest in an ambitious push into China by tripling its headcount on the mainland.
A review group led by managing partner Peter Cornell and including corporate partner James Baird, finance partner Habib Motani and business development head Matthew Gorman has produced a paper in conjunction with political consultancy Oxford Analytica.
The document was emailed to all partners over the weekend of 17 and 18 September and posits three distinct 10-year geopolitical scenarios.
The first is that China invades Taiwan, resulting in upheaval in Asia and trade barriers imposed on Beijing. The second is that the US adopts an isolationist policy after being bogged down in Iraq. The third posits a continuation of the status quo. The paper discusses the economic consequences of each and the likely impact on the commercial environment.
A number of handpicked groups, organised mostly but not exclusively on geographical lines, are now being asked to respond to each scenario with detailed papers by the end of the calendar year. Group leaders include US managing partner Craig Medwick, capital markets head David Dunnigan and London partner Chris Perrin. The results will be presented at the partnership conference in May.
Confirming the review, Cornell told The Lawyer: “So many strategic reviews are done in a static environment, but we have to get used to doing them in a dynamic environment.”
The review also underlines Clifford Chance‘s shift away from practice area groups to a more geographical focus. This is likely to be accentuated by the lockstep review, which will be put to a partnership vote later this autumn following extensive consultations over the summer.
As previously revealed by The Lawyer (27 June), the lockstep review group has proposed that the equity ladder be stretched downwards in London to bring more junior partners into the equity. It also proposes different ladders for different jurisdictions to fall into line with the local economies. The final controversial proposal involves the adoption of a superpoint system in London.
Clifford Chance sources have indicated to The Lawyer that the lockstep proposals are likely to be passed, with the exception of superpoints in London, which has been criticised fiercely by London partners.