Clifford Chance Rogers & Wells is the American name of international law firm Clifford Chance LLP, which was formed in January 2000 by the merger of British firm Clifford Chance, U.S.-based Rogers & Wells, and Germany's Punder, Volhard Weber & Axster. The firm is known internationally as Clifford & Chance, except in some European locations, where it's called Clifford Chance & Punder. No matter what you call it, the firm as is the world's largest international legal practice, with 2,500 lawyers in 29 offices worldwide.
Before the merger: an impressive resume
Rogers & Wells traces its history to 1871 when attorney Walter Carter established an office in the New York Life Building to represent insurance companies bankrupted by the Great Chicago Fire. The firm took the name Rogers & Wells in 1973 when William Rogers and Jack Wells took control of the firm. Rogers is as big as they come in the legal profession. He served as Attorney General under President Dwight Eisenhower and Secretary of State under Richard Nixon. In between, he was appointed by Lyndon Johnson as the U.S. representative to the United Nations General Assembly and argued two landmark First Amendment cases, New York Times v. Sullivan and The Associated Press v. Walker. If that's not enough to impress you, note that he also served as chief counsel to the Permanent Senate Investigations Committee (originally known as the Senate War Investigating Committee or the Truman Committee) and as chairman of the commission that investigated the tragic 1986 explosion of the space shuttle Challenger.
Intellectual property heavyweights
In the U.S., Rogers & Wells has established a top-of-the-line intellectual property practice. The firm is DuPont's primary IP counsel and has represented the company in several cases, including a patent infringement case against Molecular Biosystem in Wilmington, Delaware. The firm also represented Genentech in a jury trial involving human growth hormones. Later, in National Baseball Hall of Fame v. All Sports Promotion, Rogers & Wells represented the Cooperstown, NY baseball museum against an alleged infringement on its trademark. In addition to AP v. Walker, Rogers & Wells represented the news organization in a fair use copyright case, Matheson v. AP. Finally, the firm successfully represented Honda against charges that it infringed on patents covering fuel-control systems.
Speaking of mergers
In addition to dealing with its own merger, Rogers & Wells has advised many other firms through the process. One example is the firm's representation of Siemens in its $1.53 billion acquisition of Westinghouse's power generation business. R&W was also counsel to the Hearst Corp. in the $1.2 billion merger of its broadcast group with Argyle Television and a later merger of Hearst-Argyle with Pulitzer Publishing Company, which was valued at $1.85 billion. Additionally, the firm represented Caterpillar in the $1.33 billion purchase of Perkins Engines, a unit of Lucas Varity. Internationally, it represented Swedbank in a $1.6 billion merger with Foreningsbanken, and is currently advising Amsterdam's United Pan-Europe Communications NV in its $2.8 billion purchase of SBS Broadcasting SA.
Sleeping with the enemy?
Clifford Chance's antitrust practice is headed by Kevin Arquit, who was once on the other side of the fence as Director of the Bureau of Competition of the Federal Trade Commission where he was responsible for antitrust enforcement. The firm has represented MasterCard International on two separate antitrust matters: a suit by 4 million retailers against MasterCard and Visa and a lawsuit filed against the two companies by the Department of Justice. Another client, Philadelphia-based options and brokerage firm Susquehanna Investment Group, was hit with an antitrust class suit alleging a conspiracy to fix the spreads on options traded on the American Stock Exchange. Rogers also successfully defended NYNEX and its subsidiary, New England Telephone & Telegraph, in an antitrust action in the District of Massachusetts.
Insiders say that Clifford Chance has historically been fairly selective in hiring, while Rogers & Wells was slightly more flexible. After the merger, the firm's standards are closer to those at Clifford Chance. "The firm has become more competitive since the merger," one New York associate says. "However," that source adds, "if you are nice, polite and have a good personality you have a better chance than if you are just number one in your class somewhere." "We are looking for people who will enjoy working here and match the personality of the work area," says a contact. One lawyer says that "demand for our international practice and expanded international M&A practice has increased the number of applicants enormously." Another associate says that the firm "is usually looking for additional language skills, bar admissions, international experience [and] business background." The firm contends that, given its vast amount of domestic work, applicants need not have international experience.
Attending a top law school is definitely an asset. "Getting hired at this firm is especially competitive if you are coming from an out-of-state second-tier school," notes a corporate attorney. "The firm pretends to be selective, but will hire just about anyone with a pulse from a top law school," fumes one lawyer.
A tale of two cultures
Whenever there's a merger, especially one where the participants are considered equals, there's bound to be a culture clash. The combination of the Brits at Clifford Chance and the Americans at Rogers & Wells hasn't led to a reenactment of the Battle of Bunker Hill - not yet at least - but firm insiders say the two firms have noticeably different cultures that haven't quite melded yet. One corporate associate says that as it currently stands, the firm is "schizophrenic" in the culture department. Another lawyer adds that the firm has indicated a "strong sense of trying to build cohesion with the merger."
"The old white shoe Rogers & Wells mentality is quickly losing ground to the more worldly, intellectual approach of CC," observes one New York lawyer. "Changes in partner compensation have [led to] people actually helping each other across disciplines." A former R&W associate remarks that "this used to be a family-type place where Bill Rogers still came to work every day. Now, since the merger, it has a rather British lilt to it and it is a very different workplace." Another ex-Rogers &Wells attorney ventures that "the very strong 'eat what you kill' culture that prevailed in the last few years may change with the merger."
Partners: a tale of two age groups
Associates at Clifford Chance Rogers & Wells give firm partners fairly good marks. "[They] are respectful and expect hard work but have had realistic expectations of what I can and can't do at this point in my career," says a junior-level associate. "It's the upper- and mid-level associates who sometimes can use a slap upside the head for their treatment of first-years." Adds another contact, "barring one or two abnormalities, the partners treat associates with great respect, both professionally and personally. Much of this is due to the young age of the partners."
"The work load is quite heavy, but I have never been asked to stay in the office any longer than necessary to complete billable work," reports one associate. "There is no such thing as face time here and clients' needs completely dictate my work schedule." "The impression that I get is that the hours of corporate first-year associates can vary widely for one's first few months, while first year litigators have a steadier amount of work from day one," says one corporate lawyer. "But after a few months things steady out somewhat and eventually everyone gets as much work as they can handle."
Pay: keeping pace
"I am overpaid," admits one DC attorney, "but I am not giving any back." While most Clifford Chance Rogers & Wells attorneys don't consider themselves overpaid, they do believe the firm is trying to pay on par with other large law firms, with mixed results. "The firm tells associates it's committed to remaining competitive with top-tier firms but in reality, they lag behind those firms," complains one lawyer. "In the senior classes [especially], they seem to really drop the ball." Not surprisingly, the firm maintains that associate compensation at all levels is and will continue to be competitive.
Free Florida vacation
Firm associates can expect cars and meals for working late, event tickets, and gym privileges - in other words, the typical large-firm perks. "We also have two condos in Florida which are available for a week per year for free to each attorney that signs up," reports one source. Additionally, in what insiders say may be a test for year-round casual, the firm recently announced a move to an all-casual summer (complete with discounts at local clothing stores). That, of course, brings the usual Mr. Blackwell-type critique of colleagues' dress. "They dress like the average inhabitants of Darien, CT dress on a Saturday," says one New York lawyer of his comrades. Another associate reports that "some [attorneys], even partners, dress more slovenly than one might expect." A Washington lawyer zings his colleagues, saying "people in DC can't dress; it's conservative highlighted by boring."
After the merger, some jumping ship
According to firm insiders, the Clifford Chance/Rogers & Wells merger resulted in the typical round of turnover as those unsure about life in the new firm looked for greener pastures. "People are generally apprehensive about the merger and there is a lot of talk about leaving," says one New York lawyer. "Moreover, the billing requirement is leading to people leaving in droves. How can someone sustain working 13-14 hour days (including weekends) for more than a few months? They can't pay us for the time we are putting in." Another contact says that while post-merger departures may be on the rise (Clifford Chance claims that turnover remains similar to pre-merger levels), "I expect it to be low to very low in the future."
Looking forward to the post-merger future
Despite the uncertainty surrounding the merger, attorneys at Clifford Chance Rogers & Wells seem satisfied with their firm - most complaints are typical of the law profession. "[I] love the job and the people," says one lawyer. "I am learning a lot about what it is like to be a big city lawyer but not getting killed by the hours or finding that I am limited to the office," adds another source. "A lot of the work seems pretty menial but I have come to accept that as part of the learning process. Overall, as long as I am at a big New York law firm, I will be at this one."
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