Promotions hail M&A recovery

Securing partnership might not be the all-encompassing goal it once was, but for the majority of associates it still represents first prize in the career game.

So the fact that The Lawyer’s research into this year’s promotions confirms that the odds on ­reaching partnership are shorter than ever will ­disappoint junior lawyers across the country.

But it can hardly come as a shock. Our figures – which show that, of the 24 firms in the UK top 30 that have announced figures, 19 have cut the ­number of promotions – confirm what most in the market suspected: the majority of UK firms have slashed the number of partnerships to the bone in response to the recession.

It’s hard not to draw the conclusion that these firms have embarked on a knee-jerk promotions-slashing spree to protect their own interests.

But, frankly, that would ignore the fundamental drivers behind any year’s partnership promotions: the business case and an individual’s quality. These are immutable. They are constants, regardless of the economic circumstances.

But something has emerged this year that is genuinely surprising. Given the dearth of big-ticket M&A and the general malaise in the UK ­transactional market, who would have put money on corporate turning out to be the biggest ­beneficiary of new partners this year?

Olswang managing partner David Stewart for one: “Corporate will lead most commercial law firms out of this recession,” he argues in our feature on page 16.
Looks like most of his rivals agree.

The return of the Sweet Sixteen There is something extra with your copy of The Lawyer this week, the second issue of The Transatlantic Elite.

This annual analysis of the performance of the world’s top firms and individual lawyers was launched when the world was a very different place.

Some of the peer group firms in our inaugural Sweet Sixteen have endured a particularly torrid time. So take a look at this year’s Transatlantic Elite to see how we think a year of layoffs and tumbling profits have affected the firms in the list that really matters.