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Clifford Chance ushers in more streamlined constitution with end to regional and practice head votes

As part of the first major changes to its corporate governance structure in 14 years Clifford Chance yesterday (24 July) voted to dispense with regional and practice head elections in favour of appointment by managing partner Matthew Layton.

Long having stood out for its highly democratic but time consuming and at times disruptive granular election processes, the Magic Circle firm previously appointed regional and practice area heads only after a soundings process, nominations, hustings and votes.

The new streamlined process, ushered in as part of Matthew Layton’s manifesto to bring the 2,945-lawyer firm’s structure in line with client needs and changes to the market, will still include an election process for the role of managing partner and members of the partnership council including the senior partner.

CC will also continue to vote on any investments made by the firm, partner promotions and hires.

Speaking earlier to Legal Business, Layton said: ‘I have made proposals to the partnership to consult and look at the current structure. We need to be in the right shape for our clients as the market changes; we must be flexible and adaptable to change.’

Further changes to the firm’s governance yesterday saw the partnership vote in a new 12-strong executive leadership group and the creation of three global business units to cover financial markets; M&A and corporate transactions; and risk management and disputes.

Chaired by global managing partner Matthew Layton, the slimmed-down executive group will take responsibility for setting and implementing the City giant’s strategy.

Members of the new executive group will include the incoming heads of the global business units and three regional managing partners (RMP) for the Americas; and Asia Pacific and the newly created role of Continental Europe managing partner. The inaugural executive group will also include the regional head for Germany, though London and Middle Eastern regional managing partners will not sit on the group.

The appointments of the regional managing partners are, however, expected to be subject to a ‘soundings’ process, meaning the RMP line-up may change. The firm has yet to appoint heads for the global business units.

Further places on the reformed core leadership team are to be awarded to the executive partner and general counsel (Chris Perrin), global head of people and talent (Laura King), the chief financial officer (Stephen Purse) and the chief operating officer (Amanda Burton).

The new structure replaces the Magic Circle firm’s 16-strong executive committee, which had a broader coverage of practice heads including London regional managing partner David Bickerton, head of finance Mark Campbell, head of corporate Guy Norman and global head of disputes Jeremy Sandelson.

The newly-created GBUs, meanwhile, are oriented around the firm’s clients and are aligned with its six practice areas, which will remain intact. They will be headed by representatives drawn from across the practice areas and regions, ‘to maximise collaboration and integration of expertise from across the firm’.