Youth takes helm at City firms

TWO young lawyers have been appointed managing partners of top City firms Wilde Sapte and Baker & McKenzie.

Baker & McKenzie has elected 38-year-old Nigel Carrington, who created a special think-tank to develop the firm's international strategy.

The outgoing managing partner, Bruce Porter, will sit on the international executive committee.

Wilde Sapte has appointed Steven Blakeley, also 38, to replace Philip Brown, who steps down after spending six years in the top job.

Carrington says: “Managing partners are getting younger and younger. The role of managing partner used to be given to a partner who was in the last stages of his career before retirement.

“These days, the pressures of the job mean that you really have to be in the thick of client work to know the market well enough to be managing partner. My election is a reflection of that trend.”

He says a small senior management committee of non-lawyers will help him in his new role, allowing him to spend about a third of his time in practice.

At Wilde Sapte, Blakeley says he wants to expand the firm's banking, finance, aviation and shipping work.

Brown says: “It is not completely true to say that you need to be young to be a managing partner, but you do need energy and endurance and of course these qualities are associated with youth.

“Steven relates very well to the younger generation which is coming through in the firm – the average age for a partner is about 40 and that's his generation.

“But I've told him that although he may be 14 years my junior, in two years' time I will look five years younger than him.”

CITY firm Cameron Markby Hewitt is taking major steps forward in trainee recruitment, including a two-stage process involving new tests and an equal opportunities policy.

The firm, known for its progressive personnel approach, says the latest changes are part of an on-going series of developments and are due to be in place later this year.

Personnel director Roy Lecky-Thompson says: “Each year we have developed our procedures to make them more helpful and objective.”

The latest changes include a two-stage interview process, with a discussion group and numeracy test included in the first stage.

“We are focusing on what makes candidates successful, including numeracy and a strong business instinct.

Organisations often don't test those, or use untrained interviewers,” says Lecky-Thompson.

The firm set up an equal opportunities system for women through a 'career break' policy four years ago. Since then it has monitored the progress of ethnic minority applicants to prevent indirect discrimination. It now exceeds the Law Society recommended 10-15 per cent ethnic minority intake.

A draft equal opportunities policy document is hoped to be completed soon.

All firms will be required to have such documents next year if a new Law Society rule is accepted by the Lord Chancellor's Advisory Committee on Legal Education and Conduct.