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‘An excellent foundation from which to build’: Clifford Chance appoints new office managing partner in New York

Less than two weeks after Clifford Chance revealed the opening of a new office in Houston, the firm has announced the appointment of long-time CC real estate lawyer Ness Cohen as managing partner for its New York office, while also continuing to serve as real estate practice leader of the Americas.

Speaking to Legal Business, Cohen said: ‘The firm decided that it would make sense to have a New York office manager generally, especially with New York being one of our largest offices and also with our growth ambitions in the US.’

Cohen said that regional managing partner for the Americas, Sharis Pozen, approached him and said many of his fellow partners put his name forward for the new role. Pozen is based in CC’s Washington office, although she will be in New York for one week a month.

‘We just had an offsite meeting in Philadelphia for the US partners, as well as our colleagues in São Paulo, mainly to talk about our overarching global strategy. The alignment between the two is very clear. The global strategy identifies, among other things, that the US is a focus area,’ Cohen explained.

Cohen started at New-York based Roger & Wells back in 1998. The following year, the firm merged with Clifford Chance and Pünder Volhard Weber & Axster in Germany in a three-way merger. ‘[It] was really ambitious. To do one merger is feat, imagine pulling off a three-way merger that brought together three best-in-class firms,’ he added.

He was promoted to CC partner in 2007 and his practice focuses on real estate private equity, joint ventures, acquisitions, dispositions and financings involving real estate.

Earlier this month, the firm announced the opening of a new office in Houston, bolstering its global energy and infrastructure practice in the US.

‘Our entry into the Houston market is underway by an extremely appealing range of lateral candidates, which exemplifies the essence of our US strategy. The New York strategy is very similar, and we’ve brought in a fair number of laterals recently, integrating them into our office and the region,’ Cohen said.

‘There are some other ambitions that are underway with respect to potentially other locations. It’s safe to say that the firm as a whole sees the US as a region it can really achieve outsize growth.’

Cohen explained that the firm’s key focus areas are energy and infrastructure, technology, life sciences and healthcare, while it also seeks to build on other sectors.

‘We see our existing team as an excellent foundation from which to build further and grow out further. In other areas where the firm outside the US is extremely strong, we can use that and leverage it to build further. Houston is a good example of that.’

Cohen has also headed up the firm’s Personal Committee since 2011. He said ‘I really enjoy that role. It deals with everything, including our lawyers’ work-life balance. But that’s something that probably we’ll be looking to transition, since it wouldn’t make sense for me to keep that role with this.’