Trowers & Hamlins: Keeping them keen

Trowers & Hamlins: Keeping them keen” />The legal market’s biggest challenge will be keeping assistants happy, warns Malcolm Lewis, head of HR at Trowers & Hamlins.

Lewis sees a new Generation X developing, which will defy the traditions treasured by the established partnership.
“The young have different expectations and ideas about work to the partners in their 50s, and that represents a few challenges,” he says. “They’re concerned with work flexibility and career gaps.”

Just throwing money at assistants is not likely to work. Lewis believes they want a combination of good-quality assignments to get their teeth into, client contact, partner contact and responsibility.

For the past four years, Trowers has organised parties for the three to five year-qualified solicitors to meet their opposite numbers in City companies and banks.

This approach has two benefits, says Lewis. As the law firm’s associates progress up the career ladder, so do their opposite numbers in companies. Once both reach the top, Trowers will have a generation of partners with senior in-house contacts.

The other advantage is that the assistants get involved in the business development process early on and feel useful and appreciated by the firm.

“If too many people reach the three to five years-qualified level and then leave, you won’t have the talent in the future,” says Lewis.
He advises law firms to stop worrying about partner-to-associate ratios and make up promising assistants or risk losing good people to competitors.

But Lewis and his 10-person HR team face other challenges as Trowers expands across the Middle East.
With offices in Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Egypt, Oman and Dubai, Trowers has to make sure it remains sensitive to cultural shock experienced by new recruits. All interviewees are asked how they will face potential differences in the way business is conducted in the Gulf.
Lewis says: “We expect our people to be sensitive and respect the local customs in terms of dress, behaviour and drink.”

A symptom of the firm’s Middle East strategy sees Lewis checking his email over the weekend, as Thursday and Friday are the days off for the overseas offices, which open instead on Saturday and Sunday.
He aims to get videoconferencing up and running in all of Trowers’ offices, from Exeter to Cairo, this year to keep tabs on all developments.