Wilde Sapte plans to relax partner exit rules

Wilde Sapte is reconsidering its controversial rule that only allows two partners a year to leave the firm.

Sources say the firm's board will propose the changes to partners at a meeting at the end of this month.

A Wilde Sapte source says the firm's management is “actively considering” modifying the restriction, which has earned the firm unwanted publicity in recent months.

A rule change could be good news for partners Tom McDonald and Bruce Johnston.

In July, McDonald, who is based in Wilde Sapte's Paris office and has been trying to join White & Case since June 1998, was disappointed in his bid to have the restriction overturned in the Paris courts (The Lawyer, 7 July). And under the terms of Wilde Sapte's partnership deed, Johnston may have to wait until December 2001 to join Weil Gotshal & Manges.

The Lawyer understands the rule is likely to be changed rather than abolished, allowing Wilde Sapte to bind its heavy hitters to the firm but giving more flexibility for others to leave.

Wilde Sapte senior partner Mark Andrews denies that the firm is considering a rule change.

However, sources say it was originally introduced to make sure there was enough equity within the firm, but that in today's more volatile market it is now seen as too inflexible and is causing unrest within the firm.

Wilde Sapte first introduced the restriction on partner departures in the late 1970s, allowing three partners to leave the firm each year. The number was cut to two when it moved to premises in Fleet Place in 1994.