Few are chosen – is partnership still worth the contest?

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Partnership prospects continue to decline in a gloomy economy, while UK law firms are increasingly promoting abroad or associates hired from other firms. Legal Business investigates whether the odds of making partner make it still worth the contest

When a trainee joins a firm, aspirations are high and the road to success is inviting. The route is mapped out from the start – train at the firm, become an associate, rise up the ranks to the ultimate goal – partnership. Sounds perfect.

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Guest post: Forget Dewey – what you need to be assessing on strategy and partner pay

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Law firm managers who are planning large-scale, hubristic expansion-by-acquisition should study the Dewey & LeBoeuf morality play very closely. The rest of us should not. It’s a distraction that diverts attention from what matters closer to home.

Permit me to analogise: those of us who are dealing with the daily stresses and strains of keeping a marriage healthy could, I suppose, closely study the example of Tiger Woods as a way of understanding how marriages fail in a spectacular explosion of adultery. Continue reading “Guest post: Forget Dewey – what you need to be assessing on strategy and partner pay”

Comment: Things I would have said about the future of law if I hadn’t forgotten my notes

I was recently asked to speak on a panel debate for Georgetown Law at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s City office to discuss the big issues facing the profession. As the panel’s host, Freshfields managing partner Ted Burke, sent the speakers some outline topics and questions beforehand, I sketched out some points to help order my thoughts.

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Paul Hastings: Paul Who?

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Ronan O’Sullivan joined the small London operation of Paul Hastings as a senior associate seven years ago; now he’s running the office. LB meets the man with plans to give the top-30 US firm the success it craves on this side of the pond

Paul Hastings’ Ronan O’Sullivan is an ambitious soul. Described by peers as ‘punchy and hard-charging’, the firm’s slick and charismatic London chair talks confidently about doubling the office’s 50-lawyer headcount in the next five years.

‘I think we’ve got to the stage in London where we are part of the community. We are doing very high-end work. The challenge for us is the next five to seven years,’ says O’Sullivan. ‘Doubling in size; that would be our expectation.’

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It’s all in a name: why branding matters

Over the past few months CMS Cameron McKenna’s managing partner Duncan Weston has been on a charm offensive. Through lunches and presentations, he has been trying to convince the legal press that the European-wide CMS network is not just a disparate alliance, but is in fact one firm, no different to, say, Norton Rose or Squire Sanders.

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Trowers unveils new strategy as Adlington bows out

Trowers & Hamlins senior partner elect Jennie Gubbins has told LB that she is looking to raise the firm’s corporate profile in the City and repair its ailing international offering after a bruising few years.

The firm’s current senior partner, Jonathan Adlington, has announced that he will be retiring next year. Gubbins, currently head of corporate at the firm, will replace him in March 2013.

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Making Headlines

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General Pinochet, Nick Leeson and Ian Maxwell are all former clients.

More recently, Rebekah Brooks and UBS rogue trader Kweku Adoboli have called in Kingsley Napley for help. LB speaks to managing partner Linda Woolley about a firm where the clients make the front pages.

The reception area at Kingsley Napley’s offices in Clerkenwell very much reflects the character of the firm. It’s small, but big enough to serve its purpose. It lacks the ostentation of many City rivals but isn’t too Spartan either. In fact, it’s just about right. Kingsley Napley hasn’t gone for the wow factor, which is probably just as well. Unlike some of its larger City neighbours, many of the firm’s most high-profile clients won’t ever step foot inside its office.

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Out of the shadows

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Michael Greville is the leader of Watson, Farley & Williams, an under-the-radar UK mid-market firm that has been going through an identity crisis. The last few years have seen merger talks aplenty – both transatlantic and domestic – but organic growth is now firmly on the agenda

Some law firms have the ability to hog the media spotlight with a mere stub of a press release – think PR-savvy brands like DLA Piper and Eversheds. Other City stalwarts pride themselves on following a deliberately low-profile path, to the extent that by looking at its website you would never know that Slaughter and May even has a PR function.

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Cards on the table

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Wragge & Co’s decision to launch in Paris sees its notoriously prudent partnership taking a rare gamble. Legal Business reveals the ambitious new strategy now underpinning Birmingham’s largest legal powerhouse

If you’re wearing a suit when you meet Quentin Poole you’ll feel overdressed. He looks more like a teacher than a lawyer: no jacket, top button undone, no tie. The softly-spoken senior partner of Birmingham’s biggest firm perfectly personifies the self-styled benevolent culture of Wragge & Co, a culture that ensures it is a permanent feature on the Financial Times’ best places to work list. But, like the firm, Poole’s unassuming demeanour masks a resolute efficiency that it is a mistake to underestimate. Wragges’ business ambitions are far from modest.

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