DAC tests potential partners

Davies Arnold Cooper is putting potential new partners through rigorous psychological tests to see if they are up to the job.

The firm's managing director, Nick Sinfield, admits he cannot be certain of spotting partners of the future. Instead candidates are subjected to days of extensive psychological testing to see if they have the right stuff.

Lawyers from the firm hoping to be included in the round of partner promotions are sent away to Manchester Business School where a special programme has been devised to test every aspect of a lawyer's skills and personality.

Although other firms use such testing for trainee recruits, DAC is thought to be the first firm to use it to decide on partner promotions.

“We decided to introduce it because we appreciated that the skills of being a lawyer had moved on considerably,” explains Sinfield.

“As well as having technical and academic skills, a lawyer now has to have a much broader range of talents.

“We certainly didn't feel that we, the partners, were able to assess that because we were coming to it from an old fashioned stance ourselves so we needed outside help.”

Eight partners this year have been through the selection process, which includes working through problems in a group, observed by a psychologist, who looks at how the lawyers interact and observes body language.

Sinfield admits that this year some of the lawyers who he thought were ideal partner potential had been rejected because of the test results.

“It is very hard and I am not sure I would want to go through it, but apparently they all enjoyed it,” he says.

The procedure was inspired by human resources director Catherine Williams who joined the firm from Arthur Andersen, which uses a similar recruitment procedure.

Adrian Fox, director of recruitment consultancy QD Legal, says that he has never heard of another firm using psychological testing for partner promotions.

He says: “Olswang certainly have used them for recruitment in the past, but generally we have to warn potential recruits if they might be facing psychological testing because lawyers are generally very confident in their own ability and don't see why they should be tested.

“I have had mixed feedback about the tests. Some people are convinced that it is the right way to go.”