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Interview with Regional Managing Partner Evan Cohen

How would you describe the firm's current market position?

We are a high-quality, full-service US law firm advising clients on their most important and complex domestic and cross-border mandates. We have several top-ranked practices in the US as well as other highly regarded strategic offerings.

We are in a great position overall. Our US revenue per lawyer places us in the upper third of Am Law 100 firms, and our international platform allows us to combine our US expertise with leading practices all over the world. No other firm can match that combination of US strength and a seamless global practice. It's why clients seek us out in the world's most competitive legal market.

Associates have mentioned a plan to grow the Firm’s US presence – is this the case? And if so, how?

I'm glad that you mention our associates in this context because we have some powerful messages for the future leaders of our profession. Our US-law practice is the Number 1 priority for our Firm, and growth in the US is a primary component of our strategy.

Growth isn’t just about numbers but also about opportunity. This is an important point for those who are setting high goals and thinking strategically about their careers. As I mentioned, we are expanding our capabilities and steadily increasing our foothold in the US market.  While we are smaller than a number of our longstanding US competitors, we view that as a positive. As a smaller firm that is focused on growth, we can offer more opportunities for partnership than many larger US firms. It’s not a zero-sum game for us, and that’s an exciting prospect for an ambitious junior lawyer in a rapidly evolving profession.

Opportunities start right away at Clifford Chance. For instance, we send every summer abroad for a few weeks. We want them to experience working at offices in different legal jurisdictions and help them to understand what "globalization" really means. Clifford Chance is inherently equipped to provide this kind of enrichment.

We are also extremely mindful of diversity and inclusion as we continue to grow. For instance:

  • 100% of the US lawyers we have put forward for partner promotions this year are diverse.
  • Our 2018 class is incredibly diverse: 70% are women, and the class is 65% diverse as to LGBT+, minority and veteran status.
  • 25% of our Americas Management Committee is diverse.
  • We are a pioneering firm for the Mansfield Rule (please see our press release, here), which commits us to considering a minimum of 30% women, LGBT+ and minority lawyers for significant leadership roles.

Finally, our junior lawyers love Clifford Chance's international platform. Our US practice is an integral part of that, not just in the Americas region but across the Firm's offices in Asia, Continental Europe, the Middle East and the UK, where we have local teams of US-qualified attorneys practicing every day. This broader infrastructure not only ensures that we can offer on-the-ground resources wherever our clients do business, but also provides nice opportunities for secondment and additional exposure to other markets.

Tell us about your strategic practices and initiatives.

Leading US practices are clearly an important part of our story. But the fuller picture reflects our constant push toward a new style of innovation and outside-the-box thinking in terms of how we deliver our services and drive the business of our Firm. The truth in today's market is that our clients take excellent legal advice as a given. We need to go much further to stay competitive. 

We are doing just that, for example, with the recent addition of veteran investment banker, Steven Mastrovich, to add a strategic and novel dimension to our leading REIT, real estate, hospitality, private equity, fintech and specialty finance practices. Steve's extensive banking and cross-border transactional experience, plus longstanding relationships with key market players, are a distinct value-add for our clients. This is a cutting-edge move by our Firm.

In 2018, we also launched the Firm's global Tech Group to help our clients cope with challenges arising from the tech revolution. This group is focused on delivering multidisciplinary expertise, both in developing areas such as blockchain, data, fintech and privacy, and in adapting traditional practices like antitrust to stay on point with constantly emerging issues. Our lockstep culture is a major asset and requires no adjustment as we continue to provide collaborative, holistic advice. I invite your readers to learn more about our Tech Group from key members of our US team, here.

During the past few years, we have been expanding our capabilities within a Firm initiative called Best Delivery, which focuses on people and technology resources that complement the primary services of our excellent legal teams. Recent developments in this area include:

  • Bringing in continuous improvement, legal project management and legal technology professionals to focus on efficiency and process enhancement, working in tandem with our lawyers on client matters. Many of these team members are fee earners, and their services deliver a win for our clients, in creating efficiency and driving down costs, and for our legal teams, in freeing them to focus on higher-level aspects of our matters.
  • Launching some very cool tech initiatives:
    • Clifford Chance Applied Solutions, which integrates our expanding range of digital products, using the latest technology to increase efficiency while delivering consistent and high-quality outcomes to large-scale client challenges. This initiative is based in New York to best position our global Firm in leveraging the significant opportunities that legal tech presents in the US market. 
    • Clifford Chance Create, which supports our "innovation ecosystem," essentially to keep us at the forefront of the advances shaping the legal sector and our future client service model. This includes Clifford Chance Labs, a new cloud-based platform that helps us share ideas and collaborate on solutions, both internally and externally. The latter involves working with clients – for example, Barclays Eagle Lab – with universities for skills development, and with think tanks and other leading voices in the legal innovation arena.

Overall, our substantive strategy focuses on playing to our strengths and growing where our clients and the market demand it. Looking at Chambers USA and Chambers Latin America alone, our Firm enjoys dozens of practice and individual lawyer rankings across our transactional and litigation groups. Here are just a few highlights across a fuller range of the Firm's US rankings.

We are perennially top-ranked in Asset Finance, Project Finance, REITs and Tax. Our regional capabilities in Latin America are widely recognized, for instance, with consistently very high placement in the Project Finance and M&A league tables. We topped the 2017 Bloomberg Latin America M&A league table by a substantial margin. We also have very strong Funds, Insurance and Structured Finance teams, and our broader Capital Market practice finished with Top 20 positions in half of Bloomberg's 2017 year-end US league tables.

One of the most exciting growth areas for us has been in white-collar investigations. We've added several well-known partners and are increasingly being instructed on headline mandates, such as multiple representations of key individuals in connection with the Mueller investigation. Our representation of Lawrence Hoskins resulted in a precedent-setting FCPA ruling from the US Court of Appeal for the Second Circuit, prompting client alerts to be sent out by other major US law firms and earning us an elite Am Law "Litigators of the Week" award. We also were named US Export Control firm of the year for shepherding Chinese telecom giant, ZTE, though a multiyear, multiagency US government investigation.

Continuing the innovation thread, our Litigation team has a strong reputation in cyber and is currently advising several major corporations on confidential matters. We are backing that up with client-focused technology tools, in this case a proprietary Clifford Chance app called Cyber Assist. For more information, please read a media interview with our US Cybersecurity and Data Privacy leaders, available here.

Talk a bit more about what the future holds for Clifford Chance US, and why law students should consider a career at your Firm.

Our strategy will continue to be about growth – expanding our substantive capabilities, increasing our numbers and continuing to measure these actions across the demands of global markets and our own core values of diversity, responsible business, teamwork and transparency.

The legal profession is changing in profound ways. Today's lawyers are just as bright, motivated, client-focused and civic-minded as prior generations, but they are also far more agile, mobile and self-reliant thanks to technology. They come into Big Law with a clear understanding about long hours and hard work, and they are willing to trade that off against the prospect of a fascinating, rewarding career in which every day is different from the last. At the same time, our Firm is focused on helping our people find the right work/life balance.

Technology is one driver of change in our industry, but we are also seeing an increase in innovative and entrepreneurial thinking, with new entrants to the market and business models that have disrupted the status quo. These are exciting times to enter our field, and especially to join a firm like ours that embraces change and is making the right adjustments.

Let me close with a word about the value of listening. Nothing evolves in a vacuum, so we take the words of our colleagues to heart and encourage feedback as part of the cultural fabric of our Firm. I couldn't be prouder to have finished No. 1 in the Chambers Benefits and Lifestyle Survey (both 2017 and 2018), No. 1 in the 2018 Chambers New York Summer Program Survey, and No. 2 in the 2018 Chambers US Associate Survey for both Satisfaction as well as Career Opportunities.

I hope to be hearing from your readers in the coming months. My door is always open, and they can stay in touch on LinkedIn and Twitter.