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Clifford Chance has started its push into the United States by adding attorneys to its New York and Washington offices. The effort to expand here is largely the result of a strategic review that began in May 2006, said David Childs, the firm’s London-based managing partner. “We continue to recognize the U.S. as being a very, very important part of the future of our firm,” he said. “We think success on the East Coast of the U.S. is fundamental to achieving our overall goals.” With about 3,800 lawyers, Clifford Chance calls itself the world’s biggest law firm. While some have characterized its latest U.S. efforts as a “relaunch,” a “second coming” and a “fresh assault,” Childs called it “more of a confirmation of our previous strategy.” The firm has 28 offices in 20 countries, including its U.S. locations in New York and Washington. The two offices are integrated and have nearly 400 attorneys, Childs said. He said he does not have a target for how many attorneys will be added, but said both offices will get laterals. The firm already announced it hired Thomas Pax to head the U.S. regulatory group in Washington, and said it was relocating Ignacio Suarez Anzorena from London to Washington to strengthen its Latin American team in the United States. A new recruit is expected to start in New York this month, the firm said, and acquisitions of three laterals for the Washington office and one government employee will be announced soon, said Craig Medwick, the firm’s New York-based regional managing partner for the Americas. The U.S. practice accounts for about 15% of the firm’s revenues. That total will likely exceed 20% during the next three or four years, Childs said. Firm’s focus As it seeks to expand, the U.S. practice will focus on regulatory, white-collar and antitrust issues in the litigation area; debt and restructuring in the mergers and acquisitions area; acquisition and asset finance in the finance and banking area; and equity markets and high yields in the capital markets area, Childs and Medwick said. Practices that support the work of those areas, such as the tax group, also will beef up, Medwick said. The firm is expanding based on feedback from its employees and clients and market demands, he said. “In order to be a really full-service integrated law firm, we have to be strong in the United States,” he said. While many U.S. firms have expanded their London offices in recent years, it is not surprising to see a reverse picture, said Tim Cullen, a partner in the Washington office of Jones Day who coordinates the firm’s trial practice. “The U.S. is the single largest legal market in the world, so it’s really necessary for the U.K. firms who have global ambitions to have a run at getting themselves established in the U.S.,” he said. Clifford Chance, a “Magic Circle” firm, as the handful of the United Kingdom’s leading law firms are called, is not the only London-based firm with offices here. Linklaters, for example, has 2,400 lawyers in 23 countries, including New York. The Big Apple is also home to more than 100 of Allen & Overy’s 220 U.S. lawyers. While Clifford Chance already has an established U.S. practice, its challenge here will be the same as for any foreign law firm, said Tony Williams of London’s Jomati Consultants, which specializes in the legal profession. “It’s the issue of building up a critical mass,” he said, “because if you are going to go toe to toe in the local market with the local firms, you’ve got to have the depth and the breadth.”

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