Will some things never change?

The profession is modernising fast. Often reluctantly, sometimes resignedly, management, conditions, practices and reward structures are being dragged into the 21st Century. But there are still pockets of esoteric legal rituals and practices that stubbornly refuse to change. Even in the ultra-modern, high-tech business world of the City law firm some things are still done the way they have always been done, such as the selection and appointment of partners. As we report this week, the process can become mired in personality issues, politics and shifting criteria.

Last week, The Lawyer reported that Regus was slashing its panel from 50 firms to just two. The company’s head of legal subsequently told The Lawyer that one of the key reasons for picking the final two – Andersen Legal and White & Case – was that the firms had a global partnership structure.

Global clients need to be able to predict the costs of using a firm’s offices in different areas. With global partnership structures – although profitability in one region can affect that in another – the client knows where it stands.

As firms continue their overwhelming expansion through mergers, their partnership structures become ever more complex, especially for the clients thinking of instructing them.

This week Richard Bond takes charge at Herbert Smith. He is promising a root and branch review. He is also leading the firm in the race for a German merger. Bond would be wise to consider that the internal workings of a global firm may well affect its external attractiveness to clients.