Clifford Chance appoints City finance head to replace Bickerton as London managing partner

Clifford Chance (CC) has appointed City finance head Michael Bates to succeed David Bickerton as London managing partner when he steps down at the end of the year.

Bates, who has been London finance head for the last seven years, will take up a four-year term at the helm of the magic circle firm’s City office on 1 January next year.

It is understood that there was no formal election process, with the appointment made directly by the firm’s senior management. Bickerton will now return to full-time fee-earning.

Bates, who joined CC in 1991 and made partner in 2001, became co-head of CC’s City finance practice in 2010 alongside Rob Lee. Since 2014, he has been the sole head of the practice, when Lee took the role of global head of financial markets.

He will be replaced as City finance head by Emma Matebalavu, who has been a partner at the firm since 2008.

Separately, Simon Sinclair has also been reappointed as CC’s practice area leader for capital markets in London, after serving one term. He has been a partner since 2004 and head of the practice since 2013.

Managing partner Matthew Layton said: “Michael’s extensive leadership experience and his strong connections with some of our largest clients in London mean he is well placed to work with the partners and our wider team to help us grasp the opportunities this change presents – whether as a result the UK’s exit from the EU or the fast-evolving role of technology.

Bates added: “Our London office has a fantastic team and is in a very strong position, doing our best ever client work. I look forward to collaborating with clients and colleagues as we further enhance our position in the UK market, and as part of the firm’s incredibly powerful global platform.”

Bickerton was first elected as London managing partner in 2009, officially taking up the role on 1 January 2010. He was appointed after a contested election, seeing off competition from then finance chief Mark Stewart, who has retired from the firm, and former capital markets partner Stephen Roith, who quit for Sidley Austin the following year.

Four years later, he was reappointed unopposed to serve a second four-year term in the role.

Under Bickerton’s watch, CC has enjoyed a number of successes. In 2015, the firm sealed a deal to leased 400,000 sq ft of office space – nearly half of its 1,000,000 sq ft offices – to Deutsche Bank. The following year, managing partner Matthew Layton credited this moveas “a major factor” in cost reductions.

In 2013, the firm was also appointed as the official law firm of the Rugby World Cup 2015 after a competitive pitch process.