Postcards from the edge

LEADING corporate finance lawyer Mike Francies, one of Clifford Chance's highest billers, is quitting the firm to head US firm Weil Gotshal & Manges' corporate practice in London.

Francies, who is thought to have billed about £3m last year, has been given a mandate by his new firm to build a corporate finance and M&A practice.

But he is still negotiating the terms of his departure with Clifford Chance, which recently introduced a clause in its partnership agreement allowing it to put departing partners on gardening leave for up to 12 months.

Weil Gotshal's London head Maurice Allen said: “We are delighted to have got him because he has an excellent market reputation.”

Allen revealed that Weil Gotshal had already reached initial agreement with a corporate partner from another City practice to join the firm and that he was in preliminary talks with another two candidates.

But he ruled out taking any more corporate partners from Clifford Chance.

Clifford Chance has lost a number of high-profile partners to US firms over the past four years, including Maurice Allen and Martin Hughes to Weil Gotshal, Gary Pegg and Alan Jones to LeBoeuf Lamb Greene & Macrae, and Andrew Wilkinson to Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft.

The signing of Francies brings the total number of partners and fee earners at Weil Gotshal's London office to 14 and more than 60, respectively.