Clifford Chance scraps leadership elections in radical partnership overhaul

Clifford Chance has overhauled its constitution in order to scrap leadership elections and replace them with appointment by managing partner Matthew Layton.

Matthew Layton

The firm voted yesterday to radically re-write its constitution and potentially oust several of its regional managing partners early in a mass restructure of the firm’s leadership.

Germany managing partner Andreas Dietzel, Americas head Evan Cohen and Asia Pacific head Peter Charlton will all be removed from their posts unless they are reappointed by Layton.

All practice group heads will also cease to be put in post by groupwide votes from now on after yesterday’s decision. Previously both regional heads and practice area heads were elected after a soundings process, nominations, hustings and votes.

Now the senior leadership roles at the firm will be handpicked by Layton following the vote apart from the managing partner, senior partner and partnership council membership, which will remain elected posts.

As well as scrapping partner elections the firm is to replace its current 16-strong management committee with a new 12-strong executive leadership group (ELG) (24 July 2014).

Six practice area representatives have been cut from the committee and replaced by three new global business unit (GBU) head roles.

Head of real estate, Alfonso Benavides, finance chief Mark Campbell and capital markets head David Dunnigan will no longer have seats on the committee in their current capacity.

Global tax, pensions and employment Chris Davies will be removed along with global dispute resolution head Jeremy Sandelson and new head of corporate Guy Norman.

Unless chosen by Layton to sit as the heads of the three broader practice groups, financial markets, M&A and corporate transactions/ advisory and risk management and dispute resolution group, they will not keep their seats. 

London managing partner David Bickerton and Middle East head Robin Abraham no longer have seats on the new-look ELG. As a consequence they will be able to sit out the rest of their terms before being up for re-appointment.

The seismic shift is Matthew Layton’s first key move as new leader of the firm after taking up the reins in May. The former head of corporate stood on a platform of streamlining the firm’s management and was understood to have tabled a vote to chop seven spots from the management committee (28 November 2013).

Today he said of the leadership group: “This simplified leadership group reflects the fact that our firm, our clients and the market have changed significantly since 2000 when the current governance was put in place, just after our mergers.”