Clifford Chance offices in Washington, D.C. March 24, 2015. Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/The National Law Journal.

Steven Mastrovich is returning to Big Law after spending nearly two decades at investment banks including JP Morgan Chase & Co. and UBS.

In an unusual investment bank-to-law firm move, Clifford Chance announced Monday it has hired Mastrovich in its New York office. He will not be practicing law much at all. Instead, he will provide strategic business advice to clients. Mastrovich said providing that advice is a way for Clifford Chance to add value to clients as a buffer against the increasing commoditization of legal services.

“Clifford chance was a firm that recognized that years ago and asked, ‘How can we bring in different strategists to supplement the advice we provide that clients would see as truly value-add?’” Mastrovich said in an interview. “It is a client-driven business … And I think clients are increasingly looking to lawyers for high-level boardroom advice on how do we compete and grow our business.”

The firm said Mastrovich would support clients in private capital raising, joint venture and capital formation, enterprise reorganizations, complex transactions and in developing strategies to support enterprise growth and success.

The hire is indicative of a broader trend that has seen law firms serve as more well-rounded professional service firms, including by offering consulting or other advisory services. That broadening has come, at some firms, as a response to the threat posed by the Big Four accounting firms’ increasing interest in legal markets.

Before moving to an investment banking role at JP Morgan Chase in 2000, Mastrovich had practiced law for about 18 years, most recently at Squire Patton Boggs. He said he initially left the practice of law because the role of an investment banker allowed him to provide more “creative” business advice.

At JP Morgan, where he worked for 14 years, he held the title of managing director and head of real estate private capital markets. At UBS Investment Bank, he served as co-head of the global real estate advisory business.

As banks’ risk-taking has been reined in by increasing regulation in the postrecession era, Mastrovich said the creativity that used to be prominent in the business was on the decline. He left UBS in late 2018, he said, after a group of clients said they were interested in retaining him outside of the traditional banking platform.

Meanwhile, Mastrovich, who has been a Clifford Chance client during his days as an investment banker, said law firms had changed dramatically in the nearly two decades since he was a practicing lawyer. More sophisticated clients are more actively negotiating rates with law firms and taking work in-house, he said.

“The challenge for law firms is how do we provide boardroom strategy that clients will pay for and look for their lawyers to provide?” Mastrovich said. “Clients are desperately in need of that high-level kind of advice, and I just think Clifford Chance is in a great position to provide that.”

Meanwhile, Clifford Chance this week saw global finance partner Steven Kolyer depart for Sidley Austin.

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