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UK rules: London in the spotlight as Mayer Brown appoints City veteran Clay as managing partner

In a marked shift in leadership away from its Illinois roots, Global 100 giant Mayer Brown has appointed City-based veteran Jeremy Clay as its new managing partner.

Global real estate head Clay will replace Washington-based litigator Kenneth Geller, who took on the role in 2009.

Appointed by the firm’s management committee and partnership board, Clay was a partner at legacy Rowe & Maw and one of those behind its 2002 takeover by Mayer, Brown & Platt. A member of the management committee since 2012, he built his reputation in the firm’s property practice.

Last year his team acted on headline deals for two of London’s landmark buildings, the £1.3bn purchase of the Walkie Talkie by Hong Kong investors LKK Health Products and the £1.15bn acquisition of the Cheesegrater by Chinese investment group CC Land.

Clay will now split his time between Mayer Brown’s New York and London offices, but the firm said he will also continue to work with his real estate clients.

Clay will lead the firm alongside Chicago-based chairman Paul Theiss, elected to the role in 2012. Thiess said Clay’s ‘broad experience in the firm brings a positive dynamic perspective as we continue our evolution as a world-class, global law firm’.

Clay’s appointment comes after a mixed 2017 for Mayer Brown. Globally the firm grew revenue 4% to $1.31bn, while partners claimed the London office outpaced global growth increasing both revenue and profits by double digits.

But in the City it saw an 18% headcount decrease to 230 due to a number of departures to firms including Kennedys and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher – although in February the firm added private equity partner Neil Evans from Simpson Thacher & Bartlett.

Long outpaced by pacier Chicago rival Kirkland & Ellis, Clay’s appointment reflects Mayer Brown’s attempt to focus on its image as a global firm.

Speaking to Legal Business at the beginning of this year, Clay stressed the point: ‘Along with the Chicago office, the connection of London, New York and Hong Kong is part of the backbone of the firm, one of the things that positions us very well. We have 200+ lawyers in each of them. Not many firms have that and we need to work hard at continuing to develop this.’

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