‘Truly international’ is much more than a moniker for this magic circle member.
ON numbers alone, Clifford Chance has a lot going for it. Its global revenue continues to hover around the $2 billion mark, while its worldwide ambitions have translated into 31 offices strategically dotted across five continents. However, CC's associates were adamant that there's far more to the firm's scope than just the numbers: “We really are global in the sense that we talk to colleagues in each country on a daily basis.” Those searching for “a firm that could hold its own” across regions had good reason to prioritize CC, as regional managing partner Evan Cohen explains: "Once I moved to Clifford Chance and became part of a nearly 200-attorney office, I was immediately aware of the magnitude of the CC global network and the benefit it provided our clients. For students interested in the very best global opportunities, there really is no better place.” On top of its foothold in no fewer than 20 countries, the firm also boasts more top-tier Chambers Global rankings than any other law firm, and is a world leader in areas including banking & finance, capital markets, corporate/M&A, insurance, private equity, projects & energy and tax. And it came in at number two on the Chambers Global Top 30 – higher than any of its magic circle companions.
It’s always been a more conservative picture in the US, but healthy figures suggest they’re moving in the right direction – revenue grew to $263 million in 2017, and that same year CC's managing partner Matthew Layton expressed his desire to increase US revenues in the medium term so that they account for over 20% of the firm's total turnover. With just the two offices in New York and DC, the US practice is just one part of the Clifford Chance machine, but that’s not to say the work is any less interesting than bigger US players. What appealed to CC initiates were the firm’s “huge deals you read about in big journals – that was very exciting to me.”
The Work & Offices
One aspect of Clifford Chance’s international scope associates liked best was “the ability to call one of our foreign offices rather than going and talking to the client about hiring local counsel, which would mean asking for bids and submitting a proposal to the client. Instead, there are so many scenarios I can just reach out to a local Clifford Chance office.” In the US, the New York and DC offices make up just one part of the Clifford Chance machine. And that was the appeal for many: “the combination of an extremely large, international firm with the much smaller feel of the relatively small US offices.”
By default, all US incomers go to CC’s transactional associate pool, unless they express interest in litigation right off the bat. Juniors stay in the pool for two and a half years. Up to that point of specializing, an associate coordinator (“she’s amazing”) dishes out work from three broad areas: capital markets, banking and finance, and corporate. CC associates liked getting exposure to different types of work, but advised it might not work for people who know exactly what type of work they want to pursue. Overall though, they appreciated being free from practice group constraints: “With rotations you could either get slammed, or the opposite and have a slow couple of months. This way you can pick up the slack in other groups.”
“There’s a US aspect to many deals but you’re also working with teams across the globe.”
Associates said the banking and finance group was “a little bit giant. It’s a lot of teamwork because there are so many moving pieces. A number of associates get staffed on a matter and we all split the work depending on availability.” Most deals were “generally led by another office, but the client happens to have assets in the US – that’s always pretty cool.” Not only was it common to work with international offices, but associates interacted with a range of places: “I’d say maybe 50% of my international work is focused on London and Europe, and then I’ve done a solid chunk with Latin America and a smaller slice with Asia.” We heard about a lot of interesting cross-border matters including “a number of bank bond deals for toll roads in Colombia. It’s really big and there are so many players. We’ll have a loan component and a bond component. The loan has been under local law so you have all these local lenders getting involved in negotiating docs, while at the same time getting ready for bond issuing.” When it comes to the nitty-gritty of the everyday, “I do everything from negotiating contracts to sending dial-ins for calls.”
Juniors in corporate told us about M&A deals with “a bunch of US investors investing in a foreign company, so there’s a US aspect to many deals but you’re also working with teams across the globe.” Highlights for current juniors included one deal in which “we don’t have a lot of resources, so it's up to me, my research and any precedents I can dig up to be able to navigate the different issues that come up, which is really cool.” Associates outlined that initially, “you’re going to be tasked with a lot of diligence, but after my first deal I was put in a position to actually lead diligence in a smaller acquisition and liaise with other specialist groups in our firm, which was interesting.” In the structured debt practice within corporate, associates got a “fair amount of repeat work. Really big M&A projects don’t come to us as often so there’s not as much heavy diligence. Initially tasks tend to be running document checklists and gathering signature pages.”
Globally, the firm is huge in all areas of capital markets and the New York office's derivatives and securitization practices attract particular acclaim. "I've worked with a lot of REITs – we're very heavy-handed in that area," one junior told us, while another had also “worked with several aircraft financing companies such as LATAM Airlines” and handled “several high-yield debt offerings.” That entailed “lots of drafting – I would draft the risk factors, the business section, the bulk of the offering memorandum and underwriting agreements.”
One area that accounted for a lot of juniors’ time was the firm’s “robust” aircraft practice. “First years are involved in a lot of aircraft deals. For each aircraft there has to be a transfer of assets into a special purpose vehicle, and juniors tend to take the lead on that because although it’s not a huge closing, it still needs to occur. It’s the first time a junior would take a meeting deal and run the closing checklist, and seek advice from local experts – that’s one of the things you learn as a junior.”
Associates in Clifford Chance’s smaller litigation and dispute resolution group still enjoyed a similar level of cross-border work: “Everything has some international flavor, whether the client is abroad or the facts occurred abroad.” The work entailed “some due diligence, looking at specific transactions and writing memos, going through DOJ documents, doc review, and some broad outlines of witness prep.”
Training & Development
All first years are assigned a Career Development Partner (CDP), but it can be changed: “I didn’t develop a relationship with mine at all, and then a different partner offered to be mine.” The CDP is one of the partners present at associates’ formal annual reviews. Juniors get an informal ‘check-in’ at the six-month mark too, and “the firm reviews vertically, so I review partners as well.”
“I’ve done double my CLE requirements in the first few months!”
Associates attend “mandatory overviews of each major group and subgroup.It feels like every week. I think I’ve done double my CLE requirements in the first few months!” After feedback, the firm “has been trying to spread training out more rather than frontloading.” As this training falls away, juniors transition into the Clifford Chance Academy, the firm-wide training program – “that’s a couple of times a year.”
Hours & Compensation
In the DC office, associates felt the 2,000-hour billing target was “more of a conversation in New York.” We’d say that was true, but it wasn’t a difficult chat: “It breaks down to 40 hours in a work week, which is a regular working week for any person, so I don’t think it’s unreasonable.” Rationalizing aside, associates admitted: “I’d be lying if I said the hours weren’t long. On a crazy day I could be in the office until any time. But on a normal day I probably sneak out around eight or nine.” And working internationally inevitably entailed some weekend work: “We had a deal with Japan and our Sunday was their Monday, so by nature of the time difference I was working.”
“Our Sunday was their Monday, so by nature of the time difference I was working.”
Associates enjoyed more flexibility to work remotely though, after the firm introduced a tech stipend: “That’s been a huge positive development.” The perks of being a British firm shows in the 20 vacation days. “A coordinator makes sure everyone is covered during their time off. I disappeared to the other side of the world and when I came back all my work had been done!”
Although its US practice isn’t enormous, associates emphasized that the CC culture very much depended on the group: “Personalities are very different. Some are more distant, and seniors generally aren’t very communicative. Others are more friendly, it’s not uncommon for them to take people out to lunch.” Some associates felt attorneys were “more colleagues than friends. People are pretty serious about work.” Others, while agreeing with the latter, were committed to having fun at the same time: “We had a rough Thanksgiving because we had a ton of work, but we still got together and cooked a couple of turkeys. People brought friends along, so in the end we had this fun Thanksgiving which all started because we knew we were gonna have to work a bunch.”
“Everyone seems to be working together to survive – it can be hard at a law firm!”
Overall, associates were happy among their peers: “We’re competitive in the sense that we want the firm to succeed but we don’t compete against each other. Everyone seems to be working together to survive – it can be hard at a law firm!” As much as they valued each other, that’s not to say juniors didn’t appreciate their seniors. One commonality we noted in associate feedback was a “great emphasis on teaching – I was given the opportunity to team up with a senior and a partner on drafting articles for client alerts and various publications. I’ve found it valuable to be encouraged to develop my knowledge of my practice area.”
From its London nerve center, the firm radiates progressive vibes. CC is one of a handful of leaders in diversity in the UK, and on both sides of the Atlantic, juniors commend the firm's commitment to eliminating bias in recruiting. Clifford Chance’s diversity committee has various arms including groups for Asian American, Latino and black attorneys. Associates at the junior level did find a lack of women at the top discouraging, but the firm has adopted the Mansfield Rule, so at least one candidate considered for leadership roles will be a woman. And associates felt the firm was open to plans and initiatives brought by the diversity committee: “The diversity committee is in charge of an art exhibition on our main floor, and liaises with the art curator once a month. We had special exhibits for Black History Month.”
Pro bono hours were unlimited, but “the firm encourages that all pro bono is done by two associates so we don’t run into time restraint issues. It is nice to be able to lean on each other.” Some felt pro bono wasn’t as much a “natural part” of CC life as it could be, though associates did get “weekly opportunities” from the firm. Associates had been involved in “helping high school kids prepare for a worldwide competition in The Hague.”
Pro bono hours
- For all (US) attorneys: undisclosed
- Average per (US) attorney: undisclosed (50 hours minimum encouraged)
Strategy & Future
From global associate updates, juniors were encouraged by the firm “emphasizing a focus on building the Americas practice further. They’re consistently increasing junior and lateral recruitment. That measured approach makes us feel good. We’re not going to be overextended and will continue to grow and improve.”
Candidates invited back to callbacks face four one-to-one interviews with a couple of partners and a couple of associates, each lasting half an hour. There might also be time for an informal coffee or lunch. Which candidates leave a lasting impression? Associates told us CC wants people who are "willing to embrace the international aspect of the firm. They look for people who like traveling, or who have an international background whether they studied abroad or have an interest in international work." Some advised to go a step further: "Know what's going on globally. The global picture is something everyone here is a little more focused on because when you're on the phone with someone across the sea, you don't want to sound ignorant when they bring something up."
The lucky few who make it through to the summer program should take note: "My first piece of advice is to make yourself indispensable," says managing partner of the Americas, Evan Cohen. "Most importantly, become an integral part of the team. This 'team mentality' is the foundation of our lockstep culture at Clifford Chance; it's what makes us a great place to work and also what helps us bring the best solutions to our clients."
And get ready to pack your bags: "A core part of the summer program is the foreign office placement, which involves spending two or three weeks in one of the international offices," associates revealed. "It's a good way to get a global sense of the firm." We heard just some of the foreign offices summers had gone to, including Frankfurt, Moscow, Shanghai, Beijing and of course the global HQ in London.
OCI applicants interviewed: 541
Interviewees outside OCI: 12
Applicants invited to 2nd stage interview: 169
Notable summer events: Bowling at Brooklyn Bowl, Cocktails & Dinner Hosted at a Partner's Home, Outdoor Movie Screening, Private Picnic in the Park at ShakeShack, Interactive Murder Mystery event, All-Day Golf Outing, Broadway Show, Firm-wide LGBT Art Event & Reception
Interview with Clifford Chance’s Americas regional managing partner, Evan Cohen
Chambers Associate:Last year you told us you were looking to grow in litigation and corporate/M&A. What steps has the firm taken in the last year to grow in these two areas?
Evan Cohen: With the addition of five lateral partners and three counsel since our last conversation, we have successfully prioritized targets for growth within the firm's Americas Strategy. In litigation, we welcomed three partners and one counsel – all with high-profile backgrounds. This past September, partners Josh Berman and Glen Donath joined our DC team. Josh prior served as the deputy general counsel for the US Department of Commerce, and Glen was a cochair of Katten Muchin's white-collar practice in DC. They have both held senior positions as federal prosecutors. We also welcomed counsel Josh Fitzhugh, who formerly served as the vice president and group head of trade controls for global defense contractor BAE Systems. Josh joined the front lines of our sanctions practice, where we do a lot of work around anti-money laundering and International Traffic in Arms Regulations, or ITAR.
In January of this year, Celeste Koeleveld joined our team in New York. Celeste formerly served as the general counsel of the New York State Department of Financial Services – a central regulator for financial institutions. She also was the chief of the Criminal Division for the Southern District of New York and oversaw some of its most important cases, including the World Trade Center bombing and the Guantánamo cases.
As our 2016 laterals also reflect, we are focused on expanding our substantive capabilities and credibility where clients need it most. It continues to be a very exciting time for our Americas litigation group.
Our corporate practice added three colleagues this past year and we're delighted to welcome back partner Joe Cosentino. Joe has a strong practice in public and private M&A, with a special emphasis on the insurance and private equity sectors.
We also brought in Alice Kane, a former general counsel at two Fortune 100 insurance companies – New York Life and Zurich Insurance Group. As a regulatory specialist, she deepens our already significant insurance practice in the US, particularly in strategic tech-related areas, such as cyber and InsureTech.
Michael Sabin joined as a partner to expand our funds and investment management practice. Michael has already hit the ground running with some significant deals for major clients.
In other areas, we brought in counsel Paul Koppel to head up our ERISA practice, which sits within our tax, pension and employment group. Paul works with our teams in the UK, Europe and Asia to deliver global solutions on critical issues for our clients.
Of course, we continue to be solidly focused on internal growth and are especially excited about the upcoming promotions effective May 1, 2018.
CA:How do you define the culture at Clifford Chance’s US practice?
EC: We’re a fun place to work. Of course, we work hard, and we want the work to be rewarding, but we also want people to enjoy the work they do. We make regular social events a priority. Our annual quiz night, for example, is always a big hit for associates and partners – a friendly competition for honor, glory and the coveted trophy. Our attorneys are actively involved in our summer program and it seems to get better with every passing year! For our summer outing, we close the office to enjoy a day of tennis, golf, yoga, swimming and painting.
Our firm is also committed to social responsibility across the globe, and we take volunteering seriously in the Americas. We have longstanding relationships with organizations that help our schools, support justice and provide relief and opportunity to people and communities in need.
My door is always open, and I want our associates to understand the firm. We regularly schedule meetings so I can share updates about significant work across our practices and report on financial results and progress against our strategy. Diversity also continues to be an area of strong focus. It’s no secret that firms of our size and longevity need to do better, but we are committed to concrete action. For example, we support all our associates in developing the right career path, and we want every individual to envision a path to success at our firm. But we also pay special attention to the particular needs of our diverse candidates, making sure that they understand that, while we are not where we want to be, we want them to stay and help us get there.
We are making progress. Taking a look at the total number of lateral hires and promotions since our last conversation: more than 35% are women. Thirty percent of our US management committee is now comprised of women and people of color, and we are steadily increasing the percentage of women in our partnership.
This past year marked the launch of a collection of stories and essays entitled Advice to My Younger Self, in which over 20 Clifford Chance women associates, partners and alumnae discuss their individual (and not always linear) paths to success. The book has been described as “required reading” for all women lawyers; we've received great feedback from a wide variety of organizations and it remains an incredible piece of literature for women at all stages of their careers.
Finally, we were very proud to be selected among a small number of US firms to pilot the Mansfield Rule, which was inspired by the NFL's Rooney Rule requiring league teams to interview minority candidates before senior positions can be filled. The Mansfield Rule is named after Arabella Mansfield, who in 1869 took and passed the Iowa Bar exam, challenging a statute excluding her from practicing law. She went on to become the first female lawyer in the US.
To achieve Mansfield Certification, a law firm must show that it has affirmatively considered a candidate pool that is at least 30% composed of women lawyers and attorneys of color in connection with senior-level hiring.
CA: What advice do you have for law students who may be interested in Clifford Chance?
EC: My first piece of advice is to make yourself indispensable. Most importantly, become an integral part of the team. This 'team mentality' is the foundation of our lockstep culture at Clifford Chance; it's what makes us a great place to work and also what helps us bring the best solutions to our clients.
I’d also advise students to set priorities. Where do you want to be? Early in my career, I worked in the Hong Kong office of another firm. I was one of just seven attorneys and had to rely on local counsel for advice. But once I moved to Clifford Chance and became part of a nearly 200-attorney office, I was immediately aware of the magnitude of the CC global network and the benefit it provided our clients. The relationships I have forged with my colleagues throughout the firm have helped me build a rewarding career.
For students interested in the very best global opportunities, there really is no better place. We are the only US Firm to send all of our 2L summer law clerks to a wide range of offices abroad. We are committed to showing our incoming talent just how truly global we are and giving them the chance to build their network from the very beginning. Many of our lawyers spend time in foreign offices, and almost all of our associates will travel abroad for training and professional development courses throughout their careers.
Finally, find a place where you can be fulfilled both personally and professionally. I'm really happy to say that Clifford Chance passes both tests.
CA:Anything to add?
EC: Yes, and it's all about tech. Our clients look to us for tangible value, not just as lawyers but also as business advisers in a constantly changing global market. That’s our top priority as a firm and one that has always required us to adapt and be prepared to work differently.
In today's business world, success means helping clients harness extraordinary advancements in technology. We worked directly with our clients in establishing a Global Tech Group and, specifically, an Americas Tech Strategy, and their feedback has been transformative.
I would advise all aspiring lawyers to develop tech-related skills and stay on top of innovation in the space. Virtually every major corporation is deeply dependent on technology, and not just actual tech companies like Google or Amazon. We've heard the likes of GE and Goldman Sachs labeling themselves as tech companies. Tech is central to our firm's growth strategy. I have no doubt that many successful legal careers will be built on technology-related expertise.
Clifford Chance LLP
31 W 52nd Street,
- Head office: London
- Number of domestic offices: 2
- Number of international offices: 30
- Worldwide revenue: $1,985,000,000
- Partners (US): 72
- Associates (US): 201
- Main recruitment contact: Sarah Posner (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Hiring Partner: Nicholas R. Williams (NY) Steve Nickelsburg (DC)
- Diversity officer: Zarrar Sehgal
- Recruitment details
- Entry-level associates starting in 2018: 28
- Clerking policy: Yes
- Summers joining/anticipated 2018: 1Ls (1), 2Ls (18), 3Ls (0), SEO (1)
- Summers joining/anticipated 2018 split by office: NY17, DC 3
- Summer salary 2018: 1Ls: $3,461.54/week 2Ls: $3,461.54/week
- Split summers offered? Case by case
- Can summers spend time in an overseas office? Yes
Main areas of work
DC: Banking and finance (with a specific focus on project finance), litigation and dispute resolution and structured finance.
• George Washington
• St. John’s
Summer associate profile:
We believe in giving our lawyers a high level of exposure and responsibility from the very beginning. Over the ten-week program, our clerks will work on a wide variety of assignments to not only gain exposure to our full range of practice areas, but to get to know the partners and associates in those departments as well. Through close attorney contact, formal training, time spent in one of our offices abroad, and social events that explore the city, our summer law clerks receive a realistic vision of what it means to be a Clifford Chance lawyer.
Summer program components:
We believe that the best learning is done on the job. In addition to the hands-on experience they’ll receive working alongside our partners and associates on real assignments, our summer law clerks also participate in formal training programs focused on legal writing, corporate transactions, negotiations, as well as a seminar specifically geared toward working as an international lawyer. Feedback is given on a formal and informal basis, allowing our clerks to have a clear idea of their development.
Americas page: www.linkedin.com/showcase/clifford-chance-americas/
Firm page: www.linkedin.com/company/clifford-chance-llp/
UK handle: @CC_UK_PR
US handle: @CC_Americas
This Firm's Rankings in
Chambers USA Guide 2017
- Corporate/M&A: Highly Regarded (Band 3)
- Insurance: Transactional & Regulatory (Band 3)
- Latin American Investment (Band 3)
- Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations (Band 3)
- Tax (Band 3)
USA - Nationwide
- Capital Markets: Derivatives (Band 3)
- Capital Markets: Securitisation (Band 4)
- International Trade: Export Controls & Economic Sanctions Recognised Practitioner
- Investment Funds: Private Equity: Fund Formation Recognised Practitioner
- Projects: Power (Band 4)
- REITs (Band 2)
- Transportation: Aviation: Finance (Band 1)