16 Dec 2021

Clifford Chance elects successor to long-standing global managing partner Layton

European head to take over on 1 May at end of Layton's second four-year term

Incoming managing partner Charles Adams Image courtesy of Clifford Chance

UK Magic Circle law firm Clifford Chance has elected banking and finance lawyer Charles Adams to succeed Matthew Layton as its next global managing partner.

Milan-based Adams currently serves as Clifford Chance’s regional managing partner for Continental Europe and will assume the role on 1 May 2022 following the end of Layton’s second four-year term.

Adams, who is also a member of Clifford Chance’s executive leadership group, joined the firm in 1992 and became a partner in its global financial markets practice eight years later. Multilingual and dual qualified in Italy and England and Wales, he advises clients including BNP Paribas, ChemChina and Pirelli on Italian and pan-European financings and restructurings, as well as on infrastructure financings across Latin America.

Adams described his election as “an absolute privilege”, adding: “The past few years have shown what we can achieve and I see many opportunities to work with partners and all my colleagues across Clifford Chance to build on that success. At the heart of all we do will be ensuring that we are the absolute first choice for our clients and for the best talent in the market."

Layton has overseen a period of significant growth at Clifford Chance following the introduction of a new strategy in 2015, which the firm said led to a rebalancing of its client base, extended reach amongst the financial investor community and investment in high priority areas including advising clients on tech and ESG-related matters. It also opened a new R&D hub earlier this year to speed the development of digital products for the firm and its client base.

Since 2015 the firm has reported global revenue growth of 35% to £1.83bn against a rise in profit-per-equity-partner of 65% to £1.85m. Last year, however, growth of 1% was the slowest of the four global Magic Circle UK firms – the others being Allen & Overy, Linklaters and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer – although it is still well ahead of the pack in revenue terms.

The firm is yet, however, to make a comparable stratgic statement in the crucial US market to those made by Freshfields and Allen & Overy, which have both launched West Coast practices in the last 18 months.

Layton joined Clifford Chance in 1983 at the start of his career and prior to becoming managing partner in 2014 served as global head of its corporate practice. He specialises in domestic and cross-border public and private M&A, with a particular focus on private equity transactions.

Of his successor, Layton commented: "I know Charles' priority is ensuring Clifford Chance remains in the vanguard of our industry. He has an innate appreciation of our special culture and is highly motivated to ensure that this continues to set us apart as the law firm of choice for our clients and for our people."

He added that it was an “honour” to serve as Clifford Chance’s managing partner and he was “immensely proud of what we collectively continue to achieve thanks to the energy, dedication, teamwork and phenomenal expertise of so many colleagues."

In September, Magic Circle firm Slaughter and May said it had elected M&A head Roland Turnill to succeed Steve Cooke as its next senior partner when he steps down in May 2024. The news came hard on the heels of Deborah Finkler’s election as the firm’s first-ever managing partner as part of a shake-up in the structure of its executive function that will also see the appointment of a chief operating officer from outside the partnership. 

Linklaters and Freshfields have also recently changed their leadership, notably, like Slaughters, appointing women to top management roles. In May, Linklaters elected global head of corporate practice Aedamar Comiskey as its first female senior partner, shortly after Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer's Georgia Dawson became the first woman to lead a Magic Circle firm.

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