Partnership snub sparks mass counsel walkout at Shearman

US firm Shearman & Sterling is struggling with an exodus that has seen nine counsel quit the firm since it introduced the role to reward associates who do not make partner.

A former partner at the firm told The Lawyer that, with partner opportunities at the London office being few and far between, discontent is rife, encouraging many counsel to seek partner opportunities elsewhere.

Finance counsel Elisabeth Baltay was the latest to quit last week when she joined former Shearman partner Stephen Peppiatt at US firm Bingham McCutchen.

It is understood that, of the 15 associates promoted to counsel, nine have left since 2004.

Although some Shearman offices use the counsel title as a stepping stone to partnership, the London office very rarely promotes counsel to partner.

All nine of the previous Shearman counsel left to become partners at other firms, including Adam Cooper at Simmons & Simmons, Stephen Jurgenson at Dewey Ballantine and Angus Rollo, who starts at Sheppard & Wedderburn today (21 May).

The firm has also lost key partners such as Adrian Knight, who is now at Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom, and Nigel Thompson, who moved to Baker Botts.

Shearman did not return calls for comment.