With the launch of its organic growth strategy, Shearman & Sterling‘s London office hopes to offer improved career prospects to associates and trainees.

Promotions to partnership within the office have averaged just one a year over the past three years. However, London managing partner Kenneth MacRitchie recently promised to shift focus to organic growth rather than lateral hires, which were previously favoured (The Lawyer, 29 October).

Only one counsel, M&A specialist James Comyn, joined the partnership during this year’s promotions round. This followed the now head of the UK derivatives group Patrick Clancy in 2006 and capital markets expert Warden McKimm in 2005.

With no salaried partner position in London, Shearman is instead placing emphasis on the role of counsel as an alternative or step towards partnership. It is a position that MacRitchie believes holds as much sway as partner, both internally and externally.

“Counsel members are regarded as just as skilled as partners,” he says. “They have the technical know-how and are just as important and significant to the firm.”

The London office promoted 14 associates to counsel in London in 2006.