The Legal 500

Clifford Chance

United States

Top-tier recommendations


  • United States: Real estate and construction > Real estate

Latin America: International firms

Top-tier recommendations

United States: Finance

Within Asset finance and leasing, Clifford Chance is a first tier firm,

Clifford Chance has a first-class reputation for asset finance work where it has an incredibly deep bench of experienced partners. The firm covers just about every corner of the market, including export credit agencies (ECA), investment banks, aircraft leasing companies, investors, and airlines. The nature of the firm’s work is therefore quite varied, and the team is often at the transactional cutting edge, advising on complex capital market offerings, securitizations and enhanced equipment trust certificate (EETC) issuances. The firm has recently carried out a lot of work for AWAS, one of the world’s largest aircraft leasing companies, and advised it on its first unsecured revolving credit agreement, worth $435m, to a Luxembourg borrower. Another highlight was representing Goldman Sachs as the initial purchaser on CIT Group’s $640m aircraft securitization structure, CIT Aviation Finance III Limited, backed by a portfolio of 28 aircraft. Transport and logistics head Zarrar Sehgal jointly heads the team with John Howitt, who is ‘an exceptional practitioner in this field’. They are backed up by a team of quality partners including Geoffrey White and Emily DiStefano. Additional clients include AerCap, Avolon and LATAM Airlines Group. All attorneys mentioned are based in New York.

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Within Capital markets: equity offerings , tier 4

Clifford Chance attracts praise for its ‘knowledgeable, timely and responsive approach’. The practice, co-headed by Jay Bernstein and Alejandro Camacho, is frequently singled out for its cross-border work with recent highlights including the $104m IPO of ADSs by Belgian tech firm Materialise and the $40m NASDAQ float of Edinburgh-based Quotient Biodiagnostics (Camacho leading the advice to issuers in both those deals). Clients also include a number of REITS, another area in which the capital markets team is active. All named attorneys are New York based.

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Within Capital markets: global offerings , Clifford Chance is a third tier firm,

The capital markets practice at Clifford Chance had an eventful 2014 both deal-wise and on the personnel front, with two new practice co-chairs in Kathleen Werner and Jon Zonis. Zonis advised the initial purchasers on the issuance by Banco do Brasil of $2.5bn worth of 9% perpetual non-cumulative junior subordinated securities. Former practice co-chair Alex Camacho remains as active as ever, and recently advised Belgian company Materialise on its $104m IPO of 1,200,000 ADSs listed on NASDAQ and also acted for Edinburgh-based Quotient Biodiagnostics on its $40m IPO, again on NASDAQ. Jay Bernstein, the other former practice co-chair, is recommended for his expertise in the real estate sector. All named attorneys are based in New York.

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Within Capital markets: high-yield debt offerings ,

Clifford Chance’s cross-border high-yield work stands out; in a recent example, new practice co-head Jon Zonis advised Credit Suisse and Citigroup as joint book-runners in the issuance by The Republic of Ecuador of $2bn worth of its 7.95% notes, the country’s return to the debt capital markets since its default in 2008. Gary Brooks, a high-yield expert, acted for Jefferies in FLY Leasing’s $300m issue of 6.75% senior notes due 2020, $75m of add-on 6.75% senior notes due 2020 and $325m of 6.375% senior notes due 2021. Issuer clients include the newly formed Sierra Hamilton, and Cimento Tupi. Brooks and Zonis are New York based along with the rest of the core practitioners.

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Within Corporate restructuring (including bankruptcy), tier 6

At Clifford Chance, lawyers provide ‘first-rate guidance, knowledge and responsiveness’, which ensures that ‘service is consistently outstanding’. In particular, clients recommend the ‘very smart’ Andrew Brozman, who heads the Americas financial restructuring practice, and the ‘very commercial, practical and experienced’ Jennifer DeMarco – both reside in the firm’s New York base. The team typically acts for lenders and creditors in restructurings and bankruptcy proceedings, with a recent highlight being its advice to Pacific Investment Management Company in relation to the collapse of Lehman Brothers. Other representative clients include AerCap, Hyundai Heavy Industries and Ocwen Financial Corporation.

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Within Financial services: regulatory, tier 6

Leveraging a huge global network which includes financial services expertise out of the UK, Europe, Middle East and Asia, Clifford Chance’s New York office is often a key cog in the firm’s ability to provide ‘business-friendly, efficient and responsive advice’ to international financial services clients seeking regulatory advice in the context of a multi-jurisdictional framework. In this respect, the firm is particularly strong at providing comparative advice on extra-territorial regulation to clients that operate internationally; for example, it is representing a consortium of 13 international financial institutions including Barclays and BNP Paribas, in relation to a multi-jurisdictional survey of privacy law and confidentiality obligations around the world. The team is also representing various domestic fund managers, including Fortress and JP Morgan Asset Management, on the implications of the EU Alternative Investment Fund Managers' Directive on their activities in the EU. Nick O’Neill is praised for his ‘broad industry and cross-market knowledge’ and is leading the firm’s efforts in both these matters.

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Within Project finance, Clifford Chance is a third tier firm,

At Clifford Chance, lawyers at all levels are said to be ‘responsive and smart with a strong business acumen’ and are ‘familiar with the latest developments in renewable energy, infrastructure and maritime financing’; this ‘deep bench of knowledgeable and hardworking associates’ represents ‘excellent value for money’. The global team puts emphasis on cross-border work, and is particularly active in Africa and Latin America. Recent work examples include advising the Spanish, Italian and Belgian export credit agencies and a group of commercial lenders on the $400m financing provided to Spanish-led consortium GUPC for the $5.25bn expansion of the Panama Canal. It is currently assisting various clients, including OPIC and US Ex-Im Bank, with the financing of four wind farms in Peru, that are being developed under the country’s Renewable Energy Resource Program and which, when built, will be the largest in South America outside of Brazil. The practice is global, with most of the US team located in Washington DC – key names include Americas co-heads David Evans and Christopher McIsaac, and Lori Bean and Fabricio Longhin. New York-based Jay Gavigan is also recommended. Gianluca Bacchiocchi recently joined from DLA Piper.

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Within Structured finance , Clifford Chance is a third tier firm,

Based out of New York and aided by a huge international footprint, Clifford Chance’s combined nine-partner securitization and derivatives offering excels at handling transactional and regulatory mandates, many of which have a multi-jurisdictional perspective. The firm’s global expertise has proved particularly useful in relation to ensuring that deals are compliant with both EU and US regulatory strictures, and this was brought to the fore when assisting Canaras Management with structuring its $350m Saranac CLO I in order to comply with European risk retention requirements for a non-EU-regulated originator. Team head Steven Kolyer is at the forefront of the CLO 2.0 market, and along with Robert Villani, has handled a number of mandates for leading portfolio managers (including Providence Equity and Allianz Global Investors) on the establishment of their CLOs to accommodate Volcker and risk retention rules. While the team’s focus on the CLO market has been in relation to corporate debt, it has also been involved in other novel deals such as establishing a US CLO backed by infrastructure loans. The arrival of both Robert Gross and William Cejudo from Bingham McCutcheon LLP in December 2014 is evidence of the firm’s expansive aims for the structured finance team and indicates a push towards the re-emerging RMBS market. David Felsenthal leads the firm’s two-partner efforts on the derivatives front, which has been particularly active in relation to ensuring compliance with the various regulatory provisions which have affected the industry. The firm’s expertise in the swaps industry is underscored by its high level representation of ISDA in drafting responses to the US and international regulators in respect of proposed rules and regulatory technical standards regarding margins for derivatives.

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United States: Industry focus

Within Insurance: non-contentious, tier 5

Clifford Chance focuses its ‘extremely responsive and exceptionally knowledgeable’ practice on high-value M&A deals, insurance start-ups, joint ventures, restructurings and regulatory advice with its ‘exceptional track record’ attracting clients including Assurant, Swiss Re, JP Morgan and MetLife. The New York office includes Gary Boss, whose ‘knowledge of capital-related transactions is unparalleled’ and Nicholas Williams who heads the practice. Boss led the team involved in the high-profile formation of Bermuda-based reinsurer Watford Re; the team is currently working on seven other transactions inspired by this structure. The firm also continues to advise Jardine Lloyd Thompson on its acquisition of Towers Watson’s reinsurance brokerage, valued at $250m. New clients include Axis, Providence and the Bank of Luxembourg.

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United States: Investment fund formation and management

Within Private equity funds, tier 4

With a notably strong REITS practice, Clifford Chance has particular expertise in the real estate sector, and recent highlights included group head Roger Singer and Kathleen Werner advising on a real estate debt fund for H/2, as well as assisting Long Wharf Real Estate Partners with its first fund following its spin-out from Fidelity. The group’s investor-side work is increasing, and Singer is assisting Universities Superannuation Scheme Limited with various limited partner investments in the private equity and energy sectors. In other developments, financial services regulatory expert Nick O’Neill is working with the firm’s London office to advise US fund managers on the impact of AIFMD on their activities in the EU.

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United States: Labor and employment

Within Employee benefits and executive compensation, Clifford Chance is a third tier firm,

New York-based Clifford Chance has two attorneys that focus on EBEC work – often relating to transactions and with strong cross-border capabilities. Practice head Howard Adler is well versed in designing and implementing arrangements related to equity-based, employment, separation and deferred compensation as well as related matters. Adler also advises boards of directors on their fiduciary duties and on governance matters with respect to their executives, and recently advised Oracle on the EBEC aspects of its acquisition of Front Porch Digital. Jardine Lloyd Thompson called upon the firm for the ERISA-related aspects of its acquisition of Towers Watson. Counsel Robert Stone advises on issues including the structuring of private equity and hedge funds under consideration of ERISA and the US Tax Code.

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United States: Litigation

Within White-collar criminal defense , tier 5

Clifford Chance’s white-collar practice benefits from the firm’s extensive and experienced global network and handles a substantial amount of work for major international financial institutions. One particular area of expertise is US sanctions compliance and the firm has been active advising on voluntary disclosures to OFAC, as well as settling penalties for breaches. As well as acting for banks and hedge funds, the varied client base extends to pharmaceutical companies, US defense contractors and film and drink distributors. The team also represents individuals and is currently defending a former Alstom executive in relation to violations of the FCPA, money laundering statutes, and the federal conspiracy statute. In the Washington DC office key players include managing partner David DiBari and Steven Gatti, who specializes in regulatory enforcement proceedings before the SEC and other securities regulators. In New York, Edward O’Callaghan and Christopher Morvillo are the names to note.

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United States: M&A/corporate and commercial

Within M&A: large deals ($1bn+), tier 8

Clifford Chance has a substantial presence in New York and leverages its unique international platform to work on a range of cross-border deals. Most recently, the firm has experienced an upsurge in cross-border investments and transactions involving Asia-based strategic acquirers and investors; this has been especially notable in respect of energy transactions. The firm is also strong in pharmaceuticals and medical devices, consumer goods and retail, technology, and real estate (including REITs). Key clients include Mondelez International, Phillip Morris, AEI Corporation, Assurant, Pfizer and Pernod Ricard. On the technology side, New York partner Robert Masella has an outstanding reputation and in 2014 led the team that advised iParadigms on its $752m sale to Insight Venture Partners and GIC. Telecoms expert John Graham headed the group that advised American Tower Corporation on its $4.8bn acquisition of Global Tower Partners from Macquarie Infrastructure Partners and PGGM. New York partner David Brinton is a ‘commercial and business-oriented lawyer’ and has ‘in-depth M&A experience and extensive knowledge about the energy sector’; in 2014 he represented Royal Dutch Shell on its $3.8bn acquisition of Repsol’s LNG portfolio in Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, and Spain. John Healy is a senior member of the team, while Sarah Jones, who is praised for her ‘solid knowledge’ and ‘business acumen’, has been the lead partner on a series of major transactions. Benjamin Sibbett is an up-and-coming partner. The group provides the ‘gold standard’, with an ‘extremely responsive and client-oriented’ approach.

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United States: Real estate and construction

Within Real estate, tier 5

The team at Clifford Chance is praised for ‘strong service, advice and advocacy’, as well as its ‘sheer depth of expertise’. A recent highlight was advising JSRE Acquisitions on a real estate acquisition program consisting of ten separate purchases of retail and office properties located throughout the US. The ‘brilliant’ Ness Cohen is ‘very experienced’ on private equity matters and led Almanac Realty Investors on the $150m convertible debt credit facility to Historic Restoration Incorporated, a leading developer of multifamily and hospitality projects. The group also receives instructions from Madison International Realty, CIBC and Berkshire Property Advisors. Department head Douglas Wisner ‘combines technical skills with a strategic approach to safeguard client interests’. Michael Seaton was promoted to partner.

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Within Real estate investment trusts (REITs) , Clifford Chance is a first tier firm,

Clifford Chance’s ‘exceptional’ REIT team combines ‘subject matter expertise, excellent business acumen and timely advice’, whether representing issuers or underwriters. The six-partner team, which is based in New York, is frequently involved in the market’s most prominent mandates. In 2014, very well-regarded practice head Jay Bernstein and counsel Jake Farquharson advised on the IPO of Polar Star Realty Trust, a US REIT which was formed to invest in office and industrial property in Norway and Sweden and filed with the SEC to raise up to $100m; the matter was another industry first for the longstanding practice, as it was the first time that a US REIT was formed to focus on European real estate assets. In other work, Andrew Epstein acted as issuer’s counsel to Reverse Mortgage Investment Trust regarding the acquisition of Reverse Mortgage Funding. The ‘simply terrific and extremely knowledgeable’ Kathleen Werner is ‘a trusted counselor on legal and business issues’, and Alan Gosule and tax expert Richard Catalano are also recommended.

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United States: Tax

Within Domestic tax, tier 4

Clifford Chance’s New York-based tax attorneys are ‘problem solvers’ and their advice on real estate-related matters is ‘as good as it gets’. One client in this sector is Empire State Realty Trust, which the firm represented in its filing with the SEC to become a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange; ‘knowledgeable and judicious’ practice chair Richard Catalano was the lead tax counsel on this matter. Catalano also represented C-III Capital Partners in the formation of C-III Capital Recovery Fund II. Donald Carden’s work included advising on the formation and funding of Watford Re and its holding company Watford Holdings. Another key member of the team is Philip Wagman, who advised Jardine Lloyd Thompson Group on its purchase of Towers Watson's reinsurance brokerage business. Wagman also advised AMC Networks on its definitive agreement to acquire substantially all of Chellomedia, the international content division of Liberty Global, for €750m.

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Within Financial products, Clifford Chance is a first tier firm,

Clifford Chance provides ‘excellent, integrated and structured transactional advice across tax and corporate matters’, and with its solid track record in a broad range of sub-practice areas such as CLOs, derivatives, commercial real estate, and insurance, it is a recommended ‘one-stop shop’ for complex mandates. As well as its cross-disciplinary expertise, clients are attracted by its pioneering approach. The team is led by New York-based Richard Catalano who is active in REITS and has advised clients such as Madison International Realty and Colony American Homes. The ‘very knowledgeable and responsive’ Donald Carden led the advice on the formation and funding of Watford Re (a Bermuda-based reinsurer) and Watford Holdings (Bermuda exempted company and holding company of Watford Re), in a transaction with an overall value of $1.13bn which has attracted considerable interest within the sector. The group’s list of clients also includes Citibank, Deutsche Bank and FBR Capital Markets.

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Within International tax, Clifford Chance is a third tier firm,

The ‘excellent and solid’ international tax team at Clifford Chance in New York is an essential component of the firm’s global network, which has lawyers based in key jurisdictions worldwide. Typical mandates include advising major foreign and domestic corporates on capital markets, M&A and investment fund management. In a recent work highlight it acted for Empire State Realty Trust in its filing with the SEC to become a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange in a $1bn operation. It also advised AMC Networks on its agreement to acquire substantially all of Chellomedia in a €750m transaction value. Richard Catalano leads the team. David Moldenhauer, Philip Wagman and Donald Carden are all highly recommended.

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Latin America: International firms

Within Projects and energy, Clifford Chance is a first tier firm,

Clifford Chance is widely known for its excellent standing amongst the agencies including ECAs and MLAs. These include IDB, IFC and the Latin American development bank Corporación Andina de Fomento (CAF). These and its many other lender clients engage the firm in a multitude of projects around Latin America. In 2013, the firm represented IDB and a group of commercial banks in connection with the $1.2bn financing of the Chaglla hydroelectric project in Peru being developed by Odebrecht. It was the largest ever power project to be project financed in Peru. The firm is also noted for its work in capital markets fund raisings including project bonds. The firm advised IDB, IFC and two other commercial banks as the sole placement agents of the $1.4bn B bond connected to the 305MW Reventazon hydroelectric project in Costa Rica. The B bond structure was the first to come to the Latin America market in many years and is expected to provide a model for many other similar transactions through multilateral agencies. Aside from being active in most of Latin America’s biggest economies, the firm has developed a notable reputation in relation to Uruguay, particularly in wind and solar financings as well as LNG projects. It was engaged in six wind power projects in the jurisdiction in the first and second rounds of the recent wind auctions as part of Uruguay’s initiative to develop 500MW of wind power by 2015. Further illustrating its expertise in renewable energy, the firm has worked on a series of wind projects in Peru, including the Marcona and Tres Hermanas wind farms. The firm provides ‘global firepower and depth of expertise in specific sectors’. The ‘top’ practice is ‘highly focused’, ‘proactive’, and ‘responsive’. The ‘strong agency team’ is also ‘sufficiently large’ to ‘react to peaks in workloads’, and is ‘highly knowledgeable of Latin America’. ‘Senior statesman’ and Washington DC partner Chris McIsaac is one of the top names in this sector and is supported by Washington DC colleagues Kate McCarthy, Lori Bean and the ‘up-and-coming’ native Spanish speaker Fabricio Longhin. Experienced Washington DC partner David Evans provides further expertise on the sponsor side, and São Paulo partner Chris Willott is a regarded name in Brazil and throughout Latin America.

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Further information on Clifford Chance LLP

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United States

Offices in Washington DC, New York, and Menlo Park

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