Freshfields bows to associate power

Associate-led groups are to be set up to discuss best working practice at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer as a result of last Friday’s (23 March) inaugural associate conference.

As revealed on www.thelawyer.com (22 March), the magic circle firm hosted its first away-day for its London associates as part of a range of measures designed to improve engagement with its more junior lawyers.

People partner Hugh Crisp, who was instrumental in planning Friday’s event, told The Lawyer: “What was encouraging is that we already do certain things well in certain areas. These small groups will be set up to identify best practice and help roll it out across the firm.”

Positive areas identified by the 200 associates attending Friday’s event included work allocation and appraisals. These areas will be included in the groups’ focuses going forward.

Competition associate Dan Burton, who is part of the associate engagement group that the firm set up ahead of Friday’s conference, said: “I think it was very helpful to both partners and associates. We had about 40 partners and team heads come along in the afternoon, and the feedback they gave was positive.”

Ten topics, including career paths, pay, work-life balance, appraisals, training, knowledge management and business development, had been slated for discussion at the conference by the engagement group, which is made up of 12 associates and four partners from across practice groups (see The Lawyer, 26 March).

The associates from the group each made a presentation on one of the topics, which was then discussed by the 200 associates attending. The firm’s chief executive Ted Burke closed the day with a speech.

The firm is considering whether or not to make the conference an annual event. “We’ve really enjoyed the listenting and conversation stage,” said Crisp.