What would happen to your business if China invaded Taiwan? How would your clients react if America adopted an isolationist foreign policy? Where would your growth come from if globalisation were reversed? It might sound so far-fetched as to be irrelevant, but Clifford Chance, the global law firm, has commissioned one of its biggest strategic reviews to find out the answers so that it is prepared if any of the scenarios come about.
Peter Cornell, chief executive, said: “We’ve always done regular reviews in different offices or areas of the firm, but this time we want the big picture. We want to understand our risks and opportunities over the next 10 years, from 30,000ft.”
Ten months ago, Cornell commissioned Oxford Analytica, a consultancy that uses 1,000 academics across the world to predict geopolitical developments, to work on the review of its global strategy. Usually the Oxford-based firm works for governments or companies with large physical assets abroad, such as mines or oil rigs. Clifford Chance is thought to be the first multinational services company to undertake such a review.
“We haven’t seen a professional-services company do this before, but it makes sense,” said Michael Bates, Oxford Analytica’s director of consultancy and research. “Clifford Chance wanted to react to the fact that the share of international power is shifting and that the centre of gravity is moving towards Asia. They wanted to think through how these changes in particular would affect their company, staff and clients and how to adapt to them.”
Although headquartered in London, Clifford Chance has 6,500 employees in 28 offices in 19 countries. Oxford Analytica drew up three different geopolitical scenarios designed to allow the law firm’s management to consider how its work — and that of its clients — could be affected over the next decade.