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Clifford Chance’s website and the tale of the mysterious asterisk

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There’s a little secret about the magic circle firm’s law firm of the year boast. Read on …

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Something interesting about global giant Clifford Chance emerged from Legal Cheek’s exclusive unearthing yesterday of vintage law firm website home pages circa mid to late-1990s.

The walk down memory lane triggered a comparison between the old sites and their modern incarnations — which will be the theme of a forthcoming Judge Rules diatribe later today.

While on that cyber stroll, we discovered that today’s Clifford Chance home page trumpets:

“International law firm of the year.”

Step1

Fair enough — there’s bound to be a legal publisher out there prepared to award CC with that elevated title (see last week’s rant from the Judge on just that subject).

But hang on — what does that curious asterisk signify tucked up next to the word year?

Browsers can be forgiven for scratching their heads and giving up on that question. But the more eagle-eyed will have scrolled to the bottom of the page where they will have squinted and seen a small font navigation point reading “Legal statements” followed by an ever-so-minute asterisk as well.

Step2

Having clicked there, they are taken to a page that — in keeping with all legal statements — is designed to elicit the reaction: “Christ that’s dull — get me outta here.”

Step3

But the most tenacious will carry on to point 13 — “Statement on the home page”, which again bears the increasingly mysterious asterisk. The little devil keeps cropping up just like that red mac-wearing dwarf girl in Nicolas Roeg’s creepy thriller “Don’t Look Now”.

Gone on, click on it — we dare you.

step4

Now you’re at the bottom of the page and a world of enlightenment. We discover that the boasting on the home page should read: International law firm of last year … and … er … the year before that.

Step6

To be fair, CC is the reigning holder of the IFLR gong — the 2015 awards are scheduled for next month. And indeed, the Canary Wharf giants are again on the short list, up against magic circle rivals Allen & Overy, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Linklaters, along with Yanks Latham & Watkins, Weil Gotshal & Manges and White & Case.

But as far as the Chambers Global award is concerned, CC’s home page must really piss off New York’s Skadden, which is the actual holder.

All of which begs the question: just what is the CC marketing team playing at? If you have to place an explanatory asterisk next to a bold boast, it’s probably best not to make the boast in the first place.

Perhaps Clifford Chance should take a leaf from the book of just about every other City law firm marketing department and slap a rolling panel of banal images on its website home page and leave awards boasting in the bar on the night of the event itself.