Barlow Lyde & Gilbert (BLG) made up a record eight staff to the partnership this year, all of whom were previously associate directors (AD) – a role brought in at the firm 12 months ago.
Now, as The Lawyer can reveal, BLG has made up 18 more to the quasi-partner role after promoting 36 to associate director last year.
The firm’s human resources director Julie Leeper says there has been a high number of promotions to the new role in the past two rounds, but this will change as a plateau is reached.
“We’re reaching four to five associates for every associate director, so will see a natural reduction in the number of ADs in the future,” she explains.
Commercial and technology partner Paul Hinton, who was one of the first ADs to be promoted to the partnership this year, is an example of the type of lawyer BLG is putting through its new path to partnership.
Hinton showed he had the basic business acumen to make partner while he was still an associate by wooing new client the London Stock Exchange. “The jump between associate and partner can be daunting even if it’s felt you have the raw elements to make it,” says Hinton. “What becoming an AD was great for was giving you a focus on ways to build up your practice. You’re given a budget of your own for entertaining, events and general communication, as well as for acting as the link between partner and associate.”
Hinton says BLG also gave him more freedom within the AD post to do his own thing, adding: “Of course there’s a role in supporting partners in developing their practices, but there’s much more autonomy.”
This autonomy has led to ADs outside of formal firm-organised networks setting up their own social event paid for by BLG.
“It’s one big party here,” jokes Hinton, who compares the role of AD to that of a sergeant major. “But seriously, these informal meets have meant the ADs are communicating much better, which has led to a lot more cross-selling between teams, winning us clients.”
During Hinton’s year as an AD, the clients brought in by his rank have been significant for BLG. These include the project management recruiter Practicus, the London Energy Brokers’ Association (LEBA) and the Wholesale Market Brokers’ Association (WMBA).
Hinton adds that in addition to cross-selling, the title itself helped open doors and bring in more business.
“It’s simple. Having an AD badge says you’re recognised in the firm and, like with a partner badge, it does help build client relations.”
Leeper, however, emphasises that being an AD is not an automatic route to partnership and is not compulsory.
“It’s still possible that associates can jump straight to partner,” she points out. “It’s just that in some cases lawyers may prefer to take smaller steps to partnership or for whatever reason don’t want to become an equity partner.”
BLG’s aim with the introduction of the AD role has been simple: to reward lawyers and hone their skills while drawing in new business and building client relationships.