CC salaried partner revolt wins promotion shake-up

Partnership ballot on second gateway to equity abolished; three-year track rolled out worldwide

Clifford Chance

salaried partners have scored a victory over their status as the firm prepares to introduce a simplified system for reaching equity.

The new process arrives after months of consultation, led by partner John Barnard, following a backlash from salaried partners a year ago.

Under the new process most salaried partners, except in exceptional circumstances, can expect to reach equity after three years. While the standard has been set on a firmwide basis, local offices have flexibility to assess cases on an individual basis.

The firm has also done away with the need for salaried partners to be voted into the equity, in effect reducing gateways to equity from two to one.

In the old system, on making the step into equity, salaried partners were subject to a vote, soundings and interviews with the partnership selection committee, currently headed by banking and finance partner John East, who is to be replaced in the role by corporate partner Kate Howles.

Prospective equity partners were also subject to a two-day ‘boot camp’, where lawyers would be assessed on different tasks.

These hurdles will now occur only when an associate is being considered for salaried status. Once a partner reaches the salaried level, they will be regularly reviewed by the head of the practice group.

On the cusp of gaining equity, partners will still be subject to soundings, interviews and the business case will be taken into consideration, but it is hoped that regular individual assessments will make the process easier.

As revealed by The Lawyer (4 August), salaried partners rallied against the management due to confusion over whether lawyers were required to stay as salaried partners for two or three years and a lack of transparency with the old system. It is understood there were concerns, particularly in corporate, that it was taking longer to reach equity compared with other groups such as finance, where lawyers were seen to be being promoted after two years rather than the three years others were serving.

Clifford Chance declined to comment.