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Clifford Chance targets small firms in Australian push

Clifford Chance targets small firms in Australian push

The firms at the centre of speculation that they will provide Clifford Chance with its entry into Australia are remaining coy about the prospect of a merger announcement early in the new year.It…

The firms at the centre of speculation that they will provide Clifford Chance with its entry into Australia are remaining coy about the prospect of a merger announcement early in the new year.

It is believed that the UK firm has had discussions with Cochrane Lishman Carson Luscombe (CLCL) in Western Australia and Chang, Pistilli & Simmons (CPS) in Sydney about the possibility of launching in Australia on the east and west coast.

Ian Cochrane, who founded CLCL with Michael Lishman in 2006 when they defected from Mallesons Stephen Jaques, told Lawyers Weekly that his firm "get approaches from a number of firms, national and international, and it is not our policy to comment on discussions".

However, Cochrane added that any alliance or merger the firm entered would be one that would preserve the firm's structure.

"Any merger that we would entertain would only be on the basis that we maintained our current model," he said.

CLCL has a very low leverage ratio, with seven partners and seven lawyers at the firm.

In a recent profile in Lawyers Weekly, Cochrane said that one of the main reasons he left Mallesons was to break away from a big firm model.

"We both (Lishman and Cochrane) became aware of the fact that the big firm model, particularly in the M&A space, was starting to fracture and show some signs of strain," Cochrane said in that article.

It is understood between Clifford Chance and the two Australian firms may have stalled somewhat in recent months as concern mounts from Cochrane Lishman Carson Luscombe about how a proposed merger or takeover would affect its operations, and what impact the inclusion of CPS would have on the nature and logistics of any agreement.

When contacted by Lawyers Weekly, Mark Pistilli, one of the founding partners of CPS, refused to discuss whether his firm has had specific discussions with Clifford Chance, stating that "we have confidential discussions with a number of firms".

However, he did say that CPS is "always looking at strategic alliances".

Rumours of Clifford Chance entering the Australian legal market have been around for a number of years.

The firm entered into discussions with Mallesons a few years ago, but any chance of a formal agreement was dashed by the global financial crisis.

When contacted by Lawyers Weekly, Claire Gosnell, the global head of the Clifford Chance's communications team, said the firm would "rather not be drawn into this type of market speculation".

Clifford Chance has 29 offices in 20 countries.

Allen & Overy was the first of the so called "magic circle" law firms from the UK to enter the Australian market, when it officially opened offices in Sydney and Perth in May 2010.

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Clifford Chance targets small firms in Australian push
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