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Cutting the cord – Allen severs Ropes ties to focus on new role as DLA Piper continues finance push

Raconteur, rainmaker and serial legal entrepreneur Maurice Allen is to phase out his ongoing role with Ropes & Gray to focus on his new post at DLA Piper, after admitting it was ‘difficult’ to work for both firms as a consultant.

Allen, who was Ropes & Gray’s London office founder and senior partner, was originally planning to remain as a consultant at the Boston-bred leader while also joining DLA as a consultant to develop the client side of the firm’s finance practice.

However, speaking to Legal Business, Allen said: ‘To be honest the role with Ropes & Gray has come to a head. We effectively decided I can’t do both. With the benefit of hindsight that is probably the right outcome. I am very loyal to Ropes, but going forward I will just be working with DLA and not with Ropes. It would have been too difficult to do both. Ropes have been fantastic. They generally tried to help enable me to do different things. We part as very good friends.’

In January a spokesperson at the top 20 US law firm said the move had been under discussion for some time and that Ropes was ‘comfortable with Maurice working on a consultancy basis for both firms, so long as the consultancies are scoped and more importantly, will operate on a conflict-free basis’.

However, it was apparent that the move has caused some unease at Ropes with some insiders not expecting the finance rainmaker to fit in another legal role into an already crammed CV that includes stints at Clifford Chance (CC), Weil Gotshal & Manges, White & Case and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.

Allen, who starts the part-time role at DLA Piper on 1 March, will report to Charles Severs, managing director of practice groups and Jan Geert Meents, managing director of sectors and clients. The move comes as DLA has directed substantial investment in recent years into its finance practice to upgrade the practice beyond its roots as a mid-market deal finance and restructuring shop.

Describing his brief at DLA, Allen added: ‘My role is to continue in a sense the role I had at Ropes in the last couple of years, which is to be client-facing. It is having an overview of the relationships globally, seeing where the natural fit is. And then I usually will be able to find some point of access to a client if the firm is interested in that client. Or different points of access if they already have a relationship.’

A Ropes & Gray spokesperson said: ‘We can confirm that Maurice Allen’s consultancy with Ropes & Gray has come to end.  After discussion, it was agreed that Maurice’s consultancies with ourselves and DLA could not operate on a sufficiently conflict-free basis.  As a result, it was mutually agreed that Maurice should end his consultancy with us. He remains, however, a friend of the firm and we thank him for his significant contribution to the firm and wish him all the best with his future career.’

Allen announced his retirement as a partner at Ropes at the end of last year, and the 1,100-lawyer US firm has no current plans to replace him in role of UK senior partner, created in July 2014 when the dual role of co-managing partner shared by Allen and Mike Goetz was split.

Following his then trailblazing move from CC to Weil Gotshal in 1996, Allen has for 20 years been one of the most high-profile finance lawyers in the Square Mile with a career marked by restless team-building and a 30-year charm offensive directed at the City’s most coveted finance clients. With the exception of an unhappy post-White & Case move to Freshfields, he presided over a series of successful growth stories, culminating at Ropes, which saw its City revenues rocket from a 2010 launch to $83m in 2015.

Allen’s clients have included borrowers such as Liberty Global, Ahold and Bain Capital; and lenders such as Highbridge, Ares, Sankaty, CVC Credit, MV Credit and AMB. Bank clients have included Deutsche Bank, JP Morgan, Credit Suisse and Goldman Sachs.

Speaking to Legal Business in 2013, Allen said: ‘I was very lucky that Ropes & Gray came along, otherwise I could have reached a low point at Freshfields. But no more moving now – this will be my last home.’

Who’d take that bet?

For more on Ropes & Gray’s City ambitions click here (£)