Public Affairs: Clifford Chance prepares to bring in first PA agency

Clifford Chance, the world's biggest law firm, has kicked off a search for its first public affairs consultancy, with a brief to provide policy support to both itself and the organisation's clients.

It is looking to take on an agency to provide assistance in London, Brussels and Washington DC.

Clifford Chance global head of public relations Anne Groves said it had begun 'sounding out people' for the account, which would 'extend the reach of what we do on public policy'.

She added that it would hold off staging formal presentations until September when Michael Smyth, partner and head of the firm's in-house public policy practice, returns from a sabbatical. Director of public policy Hilary Plattern is currently overseeing the practice.

Clifford Chance is eager to bolster its relationships with parliamentarians and policy makers across a range of areas.

The company was the first law firm to set up a public policy practice 13 years ago. The operation develops clients' understanding of the legislative process and has in some way redefined the business of a law firm by giving clients a voice among the law makers.

As opposed to waiting for governments to publish bills before advising clients on what to do, Clifford Chance's policy division aims to influence politicians before laws are made.

The search for a public affairs agency comes a year after Clifford Chance appointed Edelman as its first PR agency to manage its worldwide reputation.

The company was created in 1987 by the merger of London law firms Coward Chance and Clifford Turner. It went on to become the biggest global player in 2000 as a result of acquiring New York law firm Rogers & Wells and Germany-based company Punder Volhard Weber & Axster.

However, Clifford Chance has since struggled in the US, prompting UK-based global managing partner Peter Cornell to relocate to New York at the start of this year with the aim of turning State-side business around.

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