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|Headquarters||10 Upper Bank Street,|
|No. of offices||36 offices across 23 countries|
|No. of lawyers||Approx. 3,300|
|Major practice areas|
|Revenue||£1.69 billion (2018/19) |
|Profit per equity partner||£1.62 million (2018/19)|
|Date founded||1987 (by merger)|
|Company type||Limited liability partnership|
Clifford Chance LLP is a multinational law firm headquartered in London, United Kingdom, and a member of the "Magic Circle". It is one of the ten largest law firms in the world measured both by number of lawyers and revenue. In 2017/18, Clifford Chance had total revenues of £1.62 billion, the highest of any firm in the Magic Circle, and profits per equity partner of £1.6 million. According to Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute (SWFI), Clifford Chance tied for 1st place for calendar year 2015 regarding legal advising for public institutional investor deals.
Clifford Chance was formed by the merger of two London-based law firms. The first was Coward Chance, which derived from a firm established in 1802 by Anthony Brown, a fishmonger's son. Brown's firm became embroiled in the Panic of 1825, caused by speculation in South American investments, including the non-existent country of Poyais, invented by Scottish soldier Gregor MacGregor. One of the firm's longest clients was Cecil Rhodes. The firm advised him on his diamond mining business in South Africa, administered his estate after his death and helped set up the Rhodes Scholarships. Another client was Guglielmo Marconi. It also helped Midland Bank recover assets in Russia after the 1917 revolution, and advised the state government of Hyderabad on the preparation for Indian independence. The second firm was Clifford Turner, founded in 1900, with offices on Gresham Street, EC2. Its clients included Dunlop Rubber Company and Imperial Airways. In 1929, Clifford Turner advised and witnessed the creation of John Lewis Partnership. After the Second World War it advised the Labour government on the nationalisation of several privately owned industries. It opened offices in Paris in 1961, Amsterdam in 1972 and New York in 1986.
The merger of Clifford Turner and Coward Chance in 1987 led to the formation of Clifford Chance. Neither Clifford Turner nor Coward Chance were first-rank London law firms, but their merger has since been said to have changed the shape and profile of law firms in London and globally. Over the next decade the firm expanded its practices across Europe and Asia and more than doubled in size. In 1992 Clifford Chance became the first major non-US firm to practice US law.
In 1999, Clifford Chance merged with Frankfurt-based law firm Pünder, Volhard, Weber & Axster and with the 1871-established US-based firm Rogers & Wells (the use of the Pünder, Volhard, Weber & Axster and Rogers & Wells branding for their respective European and United States regional offices was discontinued in 2003). In 2002, Clifford Chance launched in California, setting up a branch with nearly 50 attorneys from the disbanding dot-com firm Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison in Los Angeles, Palo Alto, San Diego and San Francisco. With California's downturn, the firm closed its Pacific Coast operations in 2007.
In 2003, David Childs became chief operating officer and under his tenure he managed cost-cutting and instilling financial rigour. The Lawyer, a monthly British magazine for commercial lawyers, "depicted him as an executioner wielding an axe."
Clifford Chance was one of several international law firms that developed local law practices in Japan following the easing of restrictions on foreign law firms in 2005. Although its Magic Circle competitors Allen & Overy and Linklaters significantly downsized this segment of their practice following the 2008 financial crisis, the Tokyo office of Clifford Chance maintains a local law practice, even handling local matters for Japanese clients, and views this capability as critical for an international law firm. Clifford Chance was the highest-ranked European law firm by Japanese corporate legal departments in a December 2013 Nihon Keizai Shimbun survey.
Like other firms in the Magic Circle, the firm lost significant revenue during the late-2000s recession, with its profit dropping by 33.4% in the 2008-9 financial year. As part of cost cutting in response to the recession, in 2009 Clifford Chance announced plans to lay off 80 lawyers and 115 support staff in London. In addition, the firm accepted the redundancy applications of 50 fee earners in London over and above the initial 80 lawyers.
In May 2011, Clifford Chance opened offices in Australia by merging with two M&A boutique law firms, Sydney-based Chang, Pistilli & Simmons and Perth-based Cochrane Lishman Carson Luscombe. In February 2012, Clifford Chance opened a new office in Casablanca, giving the firm's Africa practice its first permanent on the ground presence in the continent. In July 2012, Clifford Chance became the first UK firm to receive permission from South Korea's Ministry of Justice to open an office in the country.
In November 2011 it was identified as the largest supplier to the City of London Corporation, having received over £9m in fees from the corporation between January and September of that year.
In 2012, a further 13 lawyers were laid off in London.
Profit per equity partner for 2014 for the firm was £1.14 million; compared to £1.12 million at Allen and Overy; £1.39 million at Linklaters; and £1.48 million at Freshfields.
In 2016, the Legal 500 UK ranked the firm tier one in 31 categories, more than any other law firm in the UK. In 2017, Chambers Global awarded the firm more global tier one rankings than any other firm, topping the Chambers Global Top 30 for the fourth consecutive year.
In October 2017, The Lawyer wrote that although Clifford Chance had been trying to find a partner in China for close to twenty years, it had still failed to find an alliance partner in the country.
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- Mark Ford (Director of the Clifford Chance Knowledge Centre): Clifford Chance's knowledge centre in India: the story so far, Practical Law Company, 28 April 2011, http://plc.practicallaw.com/8-505-7501
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- Morris, John E., 'The New World Order', American Lawyer, August 1999, pp. 92–99.
- 'Merger in the First Degree: British Law Firms Are Forging New Relationships That Could Transform the Style of Global Legal Practice', Time International, 9 August 1999, p. 41.
- Steinberger, Mike, 'Is Clifford Chance/Rogers & Wells the Next Wave, or Simply Overkill?', Investment Dealers' Digest, 9 August 1999, pp. 12–13.