Allegations that the former chairman of failed law firm Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison and his new firm, mega lawyers Clifford Chance conspired to ruin Brobecks have resulted in a lawsuit seeking $100 million in actual and punitive damages. Tower Snow (right) joined Clifford Chance’s San Francisco office, along with a number of former Brobeck partners, in 2002. Brobeck ceased operations when it succumbed to a large debt load and other problems, in January 2003.

London-based Clifford Chance is rated as the largest law firm in the world by one legal publishing company. The lawsuit claims Snow’s actions precipitated the collapse of Brobecks.

However, Clifford Chance says it will vigorously defend itself against the complaint which it says is entirely without merit.

“We find the notion that Clifford Chance is responsible for the collapse of Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison to be absurd. We believe we acted appropriately in our dealings with Brobeck and with the former Brobeck partners who joined Clifford Chance,” the firm said in a statement.

Brobecks had once been a highly profitable law firm, with per-partner profits sailing in at $1.17 million in 2000. It acted for a range of desirable clients, including Cisco Systems and Compaq Computer Corporation. It was hard hit by the tech-wreck downturn in the same year and was unsuccessful in finding a merger partner.

Bloombergs reported that the suit claims Clifford Chance’s managing partner for the Americas, James Benedict, was contacted by Snow in January 2002 with an offer to open a San Francisco office with up to 175 Brobeck lawyers. Snow is also charged in the complaint with charging Brobecks with his Clifford Chance-related business trips and with obtaining confidential, Brobeck information to be used for the benefit of himself and Clifford Chance when he made the move.

One of the keys to the complaint relates to loan provisions undertaken by Brobecks and negotiated by Snow which triggered a default if 15 percent of the partners left the firm.

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