Clifford Chances International Expansion Case Analysis

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When Clifford Chance's management decided to expand to the international legal market, its vision was to become an international firm that offers law services to as many parts of the world as possible. In the past years, it has strived to achieve this through many ways. However, it seems that its vision is far from being realized because it is not the "one firm" that it aimed to becoming. One of its goals that were in line with its vision was to have its international offices have local lawyers forming around three quarters of its lawyers. However, this was not achieved by the year 1993 because eighty percent of its lawyers were Britons (Dee et al, 1994).

Causes of the problem

Clifford Chance's failure to achieve its goals was fully or partially due to unintentional practices that the firm's management committed. The analysis of the causes of its major discrepancy between its set goal in its recruitment of local lawyers and the actual number of those recruited helps ascertain the alternative ways that can be used to help the organization in the realization of its goals and solve the problems.

The case study demonstrates how a firm may be working against its goals and objectives without the knowledge of its management. This is because the need to operate in the international legal market with many offices all over the world was faced by several challenges that were caused by the management's decisions and actions. These challenges were a major cause of its failure to achieve its goal of local lawyers forming majority of the lawyer's population in its offices.

In respect to the reasons behind the failure to realize the vision of the firm, it is clear that the management did not put into consideration, the employee lawyers and their associated behaviors. For instance, the firm faced a problem of recruiting. Most of the lawyers that it sought to recruit were afraid of working in the firm offices that were located far from the headquarters. This can be explained using contingency organizational theories that spell out that the best organizational performance is achieved when humans are best suited to the environment. In respect to this, less adapted workers, in this case local lawyers, would be less willing to work as lawyers with a new, international firm. This made the company not grow as fast as it had planned in foreign countries and states because no lawyer would be willing to work in an office that he never knew where the headquarters were located.

Second, the managers, and more especially the CEO of Clifford Chance, Howe, had a perception that all would be fine on landing in the international market. Precisely, the firm's management believed that it would be easy to integrate home lawyers with the law system in other states and countries. To the surprise of the Clifford Chance's management, the cultures in many countries were different from those in the mother state (Dee et al, 1994). In this respect, the lawyers who were familiar with common law were not in a position to practice civil law. In essence, it was hard to integrate its law culture from the mother country in an international context, a problem that barred its international growth (David & Hugh, 2006). This made it difficult for local lawyers to be incorporated in the common law when they were trained in civil law.

There was a perception that the firm would not unseat other established firms in local markets. This perception, as it was reflected in Joost Van der Does de Willebois' words that, a newcomer firm cannot win the legal market in a foreign country, was a major factor that slowed the growth of the firm in a number of international markets like Holland (Dee et al, 1994). In connection to these believes, local workers would not want to be associated with a newcomer law firm when they were aware that other firms would be stronger than the existing ones (Rodney, 2006). According to human behavioral theories, human beings take time to adapt and feel better when working for familiar organizations (Rodney, 2006). This theory helps explains the reason that Clifford Chance had not attained the number of local lawyers it had aimed in the international market.

Moreover, the firm's management perceived and believed that its collaborations with financial institutions was enough strength that would be used to grow and expand in the international market. This forced the firm to invest in some places that were not cost effective to them to utilize the perceived strength, a factor that led to a lack of financial sustainability of some offices (Dee et al, 1994). In addition, this meant that the firm would only grow in areas that the financial institutions expanded to. In other words, this meant that the expansion of the firm's operations would be depended on that of the affiliated financial institutions and not the availability of local lawyers, which would be in line with the firm's goals.

In addition, the formal organizational structure in Clifford was a major barrier in winning lawyers to work for Clifford Chance. The fact that every lawyer was considered as a junior so long as he or she was not a Briton would make many lawyers less willing to work with Clifford. According to Max Weber's beaurocratic theory, the junior's close supervision by the seniors would demotivate the juniors who would turn down from working for the firm (Peter, 2004).

Solution to the problem

The effort of Clifford Chance's management to solve the above problems and issues is no doubt a way of ensuring that the firm gets back to the track towards the realization of the international market related goals. This is because if a majority of the lawyers working in its international offices are Britons, then this means that the international population will view this as an organization that offers legal services to the English population. This would mean that its offices will be located abroad but it will not be operational in the international market. Therefore, this calls for solid ways in addressing the above problem. The best way is to address the root causes of the problem, a fact that would ensure that the problem is dealt with in the most appropriate way. The appropriate long term and short-term solutions may be explained as under.

Long-term solutions

First, the Clifford Chance's management should ensure orientation and adaptation of the local lawyers to the organizational policies and culture (David & Hugh, 2006). This may be done through ensuring that local lawyers are trained in the common legal system in London. A program may be set to help local law students learn this legal system and recruit them later in their offices in their countries or states.

Second, the management should embrace a multicultural perspective in addressing its legal practice. This is because any firm that plans to participate in international operations should consider that different states and countries use different cultures (David & Hugh, 2006). This can be done through recruitment and training of lawyers who are versed in a variety of cultures that the target nations are familiar with.

Organizational change would be vital in Clifford Chance. This may be done by the firm's management. Some of the aspects of the firm that may be added include the involvement of intermediate managers in the firm's operations in the international markets to oversee the activities in those markets. This may also be accompanied by removal of some aspects such as withdrawal of the offices that were built in cost ineffective places. According to Lewin's Force-field Theory, this type of organizational change would result to organizational effectiveness towards the achievement of its goals (Warner, 2010).

Short-term solutions

It is the role of the firm's management to make its firm an extraordinary one in the target international market rather that comparing it with native firms in the international market. This can be through a thorough SWOT analysis of the firm. Through this, the company is able to manage its weaknesses and threats, and maximize on its strengths and opportunities, an effort that would serve to place the firm most competitive edge in the international legal markets and thus attract international lawyers (Daft &Willmott, 2010).

In addition, the firm's management should consider creating new and determining the available opportunities in the international markets. This would help it cling on them rather than relying on the alliances that it had build with the financial institutions to expand. This is a sure way that it will be able reach as many international legal markets as possible and thus motivate international lawyers to join the firm (Daft &Willmott, 2010).

Moreover, it would be helpful if all lawyers were considered as equal and that supervision was used to ensure that junior lawyers worked. Therefore, the management should embrace good delegation process to the lawyers regardless of their culture and ethnicity who would then assume responsibility while the management assumes the necessary accountability (Robert & John, 2008). This is because the beurocratic policies that ensured that others supervised lawyers would be linked with demotivation of the lawyers who were considered as junior lawyers and thus would not be willing to work with Clifford Chance, a factor that would be against the vision of the firm.


From Clifford Chance's case study, it is clear that the firm's management was unintentionally involved in several practices that were not in line with achievement of its goals. One of these goals that were not favored by these practices was ensuring that the local lawyers would form 75 to 80 percent of all lawyers in their international offices. However, by 1993, this was not realized because 80 percent of the lawyers were Britons. This was fully or partially because of several reasons that may be explained using organizational human behaviors, organizational theories and theories and concepts of human resource management, solution of which would suffice in correcting the problems and facilitate the achievement of firm goals and objectives.