Clifford Chance’s sidelining of iconic Californian lawyer Tower Snow is part of its new get-tough strategy aimed at turning around its West Coast offices.
It is understood that securities litigation expert Snow, who is also a member of Clifford Chance’s Americas management board, will leave the equity and move into a consultancy-style role, although sources say he will still retain the title of partner.
Sources state that Snow’s new position took effect as of 30 April, the end of the firm’s financial year.
Snow, the former chairman of the now defunct Brobeck Phleger & Harrison, led a team of 17 partners to Clifford Chance two years ago. However, during that time the West Coast has failed to make a lateral hire after predicting that it would grow the offices to 100 lawyers.
A group of West Coast partners, including Snow, were entitled to share in a 200-unit profit pool if they reached certain budgetary targets set for the financial year ended 2003, when the region recorded £30m in revenue. However, this bonus was never paid out.
As part of the shake-up, sources say the management has also informed its West Coast partners that it will no longer continue to support the Los Angeles (LA) and San Diego offices, which each house two partners.
Clifford Chance’s West Coast practice is spread across four locations and also includes San Francisco and Palo Alto. Sources speculate that LA and San Diego could be given a year to perform, although whether they may be closed sooner is not clear.
Sources say the firm is reviewing its entire global network and reassessing which offices it should keep on.
A spokesman for Clifford Chance claimed: “There’s no change to [Snow’s] status as a partner,” but CC internal sources note that the firm does not make an external distinction between equity and non-equity partners. The spokesman added: “There is no truth to any rumours that Clifford Chance will not continue to support its LA and San Diego offices.”