US firms more to offer than money

Money is not the main motivation behind UK lawyers switching to US firms, according to a survey conducted by IQ Research for legal recruitment consultancy Graham Gill

Instead, lawyers appreciate the lack of hierarchy with their US cousins, with 34 per cent of respondents moving and staying with a US firm for the collegiate, flat structure.
The survey of 100 partners who have experienced life at both UK and US firms shows that, despite general assumptions to the contrary, the bigger US buck is not the draw that UK firms often fear it to be.
The international environment offered by US firms was favoured by 22 per cent, and just behind that, 21 per cent said that the entrepreneurial style of the firm encouraged them to stay.
More money languished near the bottom of the options, as only the fourth most popular reason to plump for a US rather than a UK firm, receiving only 15 per cent of the votes.
Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom partner James Healy has had plenty of time to consider his decision, having swapped Freshfields for Skadden in 1995. He said: “The thing that I was struck by was that firms with a client base like ours could not fail to build a successful practice in London.”
He added that the quality of work and opportunities as a young partner to influence his office’s strategy has kept him at the firm.
In addition to assessing reasons for joining and remaining with a US firm, the survey addressed the issue of disaffection among those partners who had chosen to return to a UK firm. Almost half of the partners who had turned their backs on US firms stated that poor European strategy was the principal motivator behind their decision.
But returning to a UK firm for that reason could be premature. Two-thirds of the partners that remained with US firms said that their firm was committed to expanding in Europe.
Graham Gill’s Louise Wall said: “US firms have been criticised in the past for believing that setting up an office in London had achieved their strategic vision of a European operation. What we’ve seen over the past couple of years is a focused strategy for a number of leading US firms, such as Latham & Watkins and White & Case who now have offices in a number of European cities.”
Besides this problem, 19 per cent of those who have chosen the UK camp criticised US firms’ unrealistic financial targets. And the problem is exacerbated with 37 per cent believing that US rainmakers tend to keep work to themselves.