Clifford Chance PE head steps down

Seasoned private equity lawyer David Walker has left the magic circle firm to join Latham & Watkins.

Clifford Chance’s private equity practice is set for further shakeup:  David Walker has ended his 13-year career with the firm to join US-headquartered Latham & Watkins. As the global head of the firm’s private equity practice, Walker helped manage key clients such as The Carlyle Group and Equistone Partners Europe (previously known as Barclays Private Equity). 

Walker is considered one of the premier M&A/private equity lawyers in Europe, and was responsible for overseeing the practice voted as Europe’s best deal advisory team for 12 years running in Private Equity International’s awards. 

David Walker

Latham & Watkins’ London office managing partner, Nick Cline, said in a statement the firm was “delighted at the prospect of [Walker] joining our team. His arrival marks another milestone in the expansion of our vibrant and growing London office, which is approaching 250 lawyers.” 

Clifford Chance confirmed the departure but was not able to provide details on Walker’s official leave date, which is still undergoing negotiations. A Clifford Chance spokesperson declined to comment on who might replace Walker, but a source close to the firm hinted it would be an internal promotion as the title is not a formal role voted for by partners.

Walker’s departure also speaks to a wider trend in the market for private equity lawyers. A number of US law firms are launching offices abroad by poaching talent from foreign rivals. The strategy offers US firms a quick way to build their market reputation in foreign markets dominated by entrenched local players. According to legal sources, fueling the trend is the need for law firms to globalize their presence as M&A deals and fundraising becomes more international endeavors. 

Clifford Chance has already experienced this, having lost the head of its fund formation practice, Jason Glover, to US firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett in 2010. In similar fashion, Clifford Chance lost four fund formation partners, including Ed Gander, to rival US firm Weil Gotshal & Manges in the summer of 2011.

“Given that the US had historically been, and continues to be, the largest market for investors – as well as the most complex regulatory environment – it was inevitable that managers were looking for advisers who not only understood the US regulatory position, but also had extensive knowledge of applying those rules in practice,” Glover told PEI last year. “Clients wanted to really know what was happening on the ground – and that’s where the UK firms with small or separate US capabilities were struggling, because they just weren’t as experienced at dealing with the day-to-day issues as their US-headquartered competitors.”