The truth about partnerships

The run-up to partnership is one of the most stressful periods of a lawyer’s career. One ambitious young associate, when approaching his second bite at the partnership cherry, put on three stone as he comfort-ate his way through the gruelling process.

This is make or break for a young lawyer’s career. Many City firms have made some moves to lessen the ‘up or out’ culture with the introduction of counsel or director roles, but there is some confusion about these newfangled positions. Is it a waiting room for partnership, a consolation seat in the departure lounge or a real alternative? The answer will vary depending on the firm, but not all firms are very good at communicating the answer – externally or internally.

But anyway, for most people, partnership is still the ultimate goal.

At Allen & Overy (A&O) you might have invested a third of your life in the firm before getting rejected. There’s always the consolation prize of partnership at Simmons & Simmons, for example, which really is not that bad (until its next partnership cull), but that’s not going to soften the blow for a while.

This year’s race was even more stressful for many who thought that partnership had been ripped from their grasp by the credit crunch.

This is why TheLawyer.com’s Partnership 2008 blog has been one of the most hit-upon parts of our website. And it’s thrown up some fascinating snapshots of a market in flux:

• Three-quarters of Slaughter and May‘s new partners were women. Which is not significant in any way, according to the firm’s senior partners.

• Two-fifths of Nabarro‘s promotions were Antipodean.

• Lovells promoted more IP associates to the partnership than from any other practice area. Is it reinventing itself as a global IP boutique?

• By contrast, neither A&O nor Clifford Chance promoted a single IP associate.

• Four out of Olswang‘s 10 promotions came from the corporate department. None in real estate.

Sorry Slaughters, one way or another, it’s all significant.