CC fancies its chances with clients’ private equity assets

Clifford Chance is truly the home of the wizard wheeze. Take its idea of setting up a fund of funds to participate in its private equity clients’ investments. Given Clifford Chance’s market-leading reputation in both fund creation and deal execution, it is a logical step – especially now that all of its partners across the globe are allowed to invest.

But it’s not a get rich quick scheme. SJ Berwin set up something similar – albeit much smaller – four years ago, and the word is it’s never made much of a return. Clifford Chance partners are looking at a 10-year illiquid investment.

The bigger question is whether Clifford Chance’s private equity clients will let them in. Most private equity funds’ big investors are institutions where there is reciprocal business; it’s not quite the same with a law firm. But Clifford Chance is showing commendable commitment. As one source says: “It’s really about an alignment of interests.”

However, another senior source with experience of private equity investment is more gloomy. He tells The Lawyer: “The minute I hear that lawyers have discovered a wonderful new investment is the time I sell.”

Linklaters hoping Youle brings gladder tidings
Linklaters was putting a brave face on the Graham White and Raymond McKeeve departures last week, arguing that, as private equity becomes more complex, the big M&A firms were going to win out.

But Linklaters is ignoring the fact that the big private equity houses require absolute commitment to their relationships, and it’s all about individuals. It’s all very well focusing on the one-off M&A mandate, but there’s an awful lot of handholding in between.

Meanwhile, the magic circle firm will be relying on senior associate Richard Youle, who has a strong relationship with Hermes Private Equity and who is being made up to partner in this year’s round of promotions, and Carlton Evans, a young partner who is close to MidOcean Partners.

But if Linklaters thinks it can institutionalise its private equity relationships, it might be disappointed. Even Clifford Chance and Ashurst are reliant on their individual dealmakers. Linklaters may have a little too much misplaced faith in the power of the institutional brand.

Wragges sics solo partner onto London debt finance
Wragge & Co has given itself quite a task with its one-lawyer entrance into the competitive London debt finance market. The Birmingham firm has hired CMS Cameron McKenna associate Kirsty Jefferies to join its ranks as a partner.

As the sole London-based debt finance partner, she will work with Birmingham-based head of debt finance Chris Brierley to build on existing relationships with London clients and attract new business. Senior partner Quentin Poole tells The Lawyer the move was client-driven in an “increasingly London-centric” finance market.

Wragges seems confident that Jefferies has what it takes to create a stir, but the move has left some City-based debt finance partners scratching their heads.

“It’s a very competitive market in London and, although they’re considered a very competent firm, I don’t think they’re going to make much of an impact,” says one high-profile banking partner.

Wragges will have to prove a lot of people wrong. The battle starts here.