Clifford Chance seeks Chinese megafirm merger in bid for global domination

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Firm declines to comment about reports that it wants to rise above the magic circle


Elite magic circle outfit Clifford Chance is eyeing up possible Chinese suitors in a move that would bring it one step closer to global domination.

If reports are to be believed, the City giant, which already has 36 offices in 26 countries, is looking to further strengthen its position within the lucrative Chinese market by merging with one of the country’s top law firms.

According to The Lawyer (registration required), Zhong Lun — a top earning law firm in China with over 220 partners working out of 12 offices — held discussions with the Canary Wharf-based giant over a possible tie-up last year. The Chinese firm — founded in 1993 — was one of the first private law firms to be approved by Ministry of Justice of the People’s Republic of China.

However, Clifford Chance, which has a swimming pool at its London HQ, was unable to reach a deal with partners at Zhong Lun, whose name comes from the annals of Confucius and means to keep in compliance with ethical issues.

Undaunted, Clifford Chance’s plans to ascend beyond the realms of the magic circle and become one of the most powerful law firms on the planet continues as it assesses possible partners in a bid to expand on their two Chinese outposts in Beijing and Shanghai. Clifford Chance declined to comment on the reports.

Last month, global law firm Reed Smith confirmed that it is in talks with US outfit Pepper Hamilton over a possible link-up. With discussion at a preliminary stage a spokesperson for Reed Smith revealed that both sides saw many “potential benefits” for joining forces.

Meanwhile, Clyde & Co — hopping aboard the merger bandwagon — also revealed that it was looking at a transatlantic tie-up. Unwilling to reveal specifics, the shipping and insurance stalwart did confirm that it was “talking to a number of firms in Miami”.