Meredith Connell nabs Clifford Chance executive as next CEO

Her arrival completes leadership plan to bring through next generation

Meredith Connell nabs Clifford Chance executive as next CEO

Following a six-month search, top litigation firm Meredith Connell (MC) has nabbed Clifford Chance’s COO Sophie Schwass as its next CEO, effective February 20, 2023.

Schwass will be returning home to New Zealand to start the role after spending 13 years in several leadership positions at Barclays, Lloyds Banking Group and Clifford Chance in London.

At Clifford Chance, she was the chief operating officer for the UK region and a member of its Global Executive Operations Group. In 2020-21, Clifford Chance had the highest revenue of any London “Magic Circle” firm at NZ$3.9 billion. It ranks as one of the world’s 10 largest law firms in both revenue and number of lawyers.

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“I am excited to be coming home and joining Meredith Connell as CEO,” Schwass said. “It is rare to have the opportunity to lead an organisation that plays such an important role in upholding trust in our communities combined with being a successful commercial organisation with an appetite to grow and innovate. I am honoured that the partnership are entrusting me to take up the leadership of the firm and impressed by the commitment to shaping MC’s future success.”

According to managing partner Steve Haszard, the appointment followed an extensive search for a CEO that could take MC to the next level. It has been six months without anyone at the helm after Kylie Mooney stepped away from the CEO role in March.

Schwass will directly report to the management board and absorb Haszard’s role when he retires from the partnership on June 30, 2023, after almost 25 years with the firm.

“Sophie agreeing to return to New Zealand to take over the firm’s leadership is a major endorsement of MC as one of Aotearoa’s top law firms and number one in litigation,” Haszard said. “For our partners and all our team, Sophie’s appointment is a huge opportunity to work with and learn from one of the world’s most accomplished leaders in the management of professional-services firms, and underlines our ongoing commitment to generational change, continued evolution and growth.”

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