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Firm faces massive partner losses

Firm faces massive partner losses

A major law firm has lost nearly 50 partners since the beginning of March, it has been revealed.

CLIFFORD Chance has lost nearly 50 partners since the beginning of March, it has been revealed. 

London and New York have been most affected, and exits have included normal retirements, those choosing to leave, and those impacted the firm's recent partner restructures. 

Eighteen partners have left the firm's headquarters since March, five coming from the corporate practice, and two each from capital markets, tax and banking. Four litigators have left in London, Legal Week reports.

The New York litigation practice lost nine partners, as well as five from securities and capital markets. Continental European partner headcount dropped by 12. The figures, released by Legal Week, do not include departures in Asia and the Middle East.

The news comes after the mega British firm abandoned merger talks with Australian firm Mallesons Stephen Jaques in December last year. At the time the global financial crisis was blamed for the cancelled merger. 

Had the merger gone ahead, it was estimated it would have created a global legal giant with more than 80 partners, offices on every continent and estimated revenues of more than $3.5 billion. 

Neither firm would discuss the aborted merger at the time, and Mallesons has since declined interviews with The New Lawyer on the matter. 

Robert Milliner, Mallesons chief executive partner, said in December: "The firm has maintained a dialogue with a range of international firms in Asia and globally, to discuss market trends and look at opportunities to work together."

But while Mallesons has said its strategy was to keep growing offshore, Clifford Chance now appears to be cutting down on size. 

Clifford Chance last week confirmed that its restructuring will result in its partnership shrinking by 15 per cent between April 2009 and April 2010, which equates to around 90 partners. It is not yet know who the remaining 40 partners are, nor which areas they will be leaving from. 

On 1 July this year, Clifford Chance said its average profits per equity partner fell 37 per cent to 733,000 pounds ($1.2 million) as clients cut spending and as mergers, acquisitions and financing work declined. 

According to Bloomberg reports, revenue for the London-based firm's fiscal year, which ended 30 April, declined 5 per cent to 1.26 billion pounds. "When they suffer, we suffer as well," Clifford Chance managing partner David Childs said in an interview with Bloomberg, referring to its banking clients. "The last 12 months were very difficult for our clients and for us," he said. 

The firm has also dismissed about 130 salaried lawyers and 115 staff since 2007. 

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