Clifford Chance elects Layton as new managing partner

Clifford Chance has elected global corporate head Matthew Layton as its new global chief to replace outgoing head David Childs, who retires next year.

Clifford Chance

Layton was crowned global managing partner today following the close of the vote on Monday (26 November 2013).

He will take up the reins as managing partner for his first four-year term at the beginning of 2014 after beating off competition from Paris chief Yves Wehrli and real estate finance partner Andrew Carnegie.

The news will come as no surprise to many – Layton was seen as the natural choice to replace Childs, regarded by many as a canny financial manager with a keen eye on the numbers.

During the hustings process, which ended mid-November, the three are said to have set out quite different stalls. While Wehrli was the charismatic choice, Carnegie was more focused on departing from the status quo.

Layton’s presentation is thought to have stuck more tightly to Childs’ tack, while Carnegie’s manifesto was based on change and getting partners “going out and working harder”.

As the only candidate not already on the 16-strong management committee, Carnegie is thought to have had more of a hunger for shaking things up – something that some partners responded to.

According to one source: “David is very focused on numbers and some people think there’s a time to move away from that rather than always looking at the bottom line.”

Some partners were also tempted by Paris chief Wehrli, described by one source as ”a very smooth and charming guy, without doubt the most charismatic of the three candidates”.

But in the end Layton won out with a manifesto based on steering ahead the currnet strategy. He was instrumental in bringing in the current sector-focused strategy launched in 2009 which saw the creation of 13 industry-focused practice groups that sit across practice areas.

Layton was also seen as a “safe pair of hands” to continue the firm’s regional strategy. As head of corporate he has had reach into Asia – a key focus for the firm.

Last year Clifford Chance struck an alliance with Singapore litigation boutique Cavenagh Law (11 December 2012) and launched in Seoul, though Asia-Pacific revenue fell 3 per cent from £185m to £179m.

Layton will now have to oversee the target of doubling 2011 fee income in the Asia-Pacific region to £250m originally slated for 2014 but now pushed back to 2015 or 2016.

As head of corporate he comes from Clifford Chance’s largest practice area in terms of partners. The firm has 186 partners compared to the next largest – finance – at 149.

He is also one of the 16 members on the firm’s management committee who picked up an average profit share of £1.19m in 2011-12 (19 October 2012).

His election follows the uncontested re-election of David Bickerton as London managing partner yesterday (26 November 2013).