Clifford Chance ramps up tech focus with new 400-lawyer cross-practice team

Clifford Chance (CC) has pulled together 400 of its lawyers to form a new technology group, to meet growing client demand for legal advice around technology and the regulation of data.

The cross-practice group draws together lawyers from across the firm, with CC hoping to put technology at the heart of its entire client offering amid developments such as the forthcoming introduction of new European data protection laws and fintech innovation.

About 200 of CC’s 570 partners will sit within the group from practices including IP, fintech, corporate M&A, competition, cyber and risk, with the firm hoping to offer its services to all clients – not just tech.

It is being led by 13 partners including London, technology and corporate partner Jonathan Kewley (pictured), competition partner Nelson Jung and IP partner Stephen Reese, who joined the firm from legacy Olswang last year.

London disputes senior associate Samantha Ward is also part of the leadership team, while global corporate head Guy Norman is the executive leadership sponsor.

We need to make sure we have tech at the core of bank relationship teams

“Technology has shot up the agenda over the last three years, and there are many legal questions around it,” says Kewley, who made partner at the firm this year, having joined from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer as an associate .

“One area where we are seeing a rise in demand is fintech. That is the area of law with the most regulatory impact. We are in a different world – the next wave of regulation will affect the way we use financial services. Clients could face investigations around data use, so it is not good enough to have litigators that are not aware of tech issues.

“Private equity interest in tech M&A and tech risk is also off the scale. Their focus on this is rising as they don’t want to find, for example, that what they are buying does not comply with regulatory frameworks.”

Jung adds that the looming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) changes, which will make companies in Europe more accountable for how they handle client data,  was another trigger for the launch of the new group.

“It is data and technology driven and there is clearly a GDPR as well as an antitrust and IP angle. There is also an opportunity to work with regulators themselves more closely, including the Information Commissioner’s Office, the Financial Conduct Authority and the Competition Markets Authority (CMA).”

Jung joined CC last year from the CMA, the UK’s competition watchdog, where he was director of mergers. He has led merger investigations into several technology deal’s such as Google’s acquisition of Waze in 2013 for $1.1bn (£800m).

The firm will deploy the group across different practice areas. For example, in banking, Kewley says there will be a stronger technology presence during meetings. “We need to make sure we have tech at the core of bank relationship teams. We don’t just want a finance relationship head.”

Members of the group have already advised Credit Suisse on the launch of its digital private bank in 2014-15, and in 2016 they advised on the bank’s partnership with fintech company Mesitis Pte.

Other key partners in the group include Paris corporate partner Dessislava Savova, New York capital markets partner Anand Saha and, in Singapore, Luke Grubb, who was formerly Latham and Watkins’ Asia head of technology, media and commercial. Grubb joined CC in November as a technology partner.

The launch follows a spate of lateral hires such as Grubb and Reese, all of whom will play key roles developing the group. CC also plans to add further lateral partners to the team going forward.