Partnership promotions suffer

Linklaters’ dip in making up partners reflects general trend across the magic circle; economic downturn held responsible

Linklaters has invited just 19 lawyers to join the partnership this year, 13 of whom (68 per cent) will be based outside London. The firm made up 29 partners in 2002 and 38 the year before that.

The firm’s decision is the most dramatic example of a downward trend, with less partners being made up than in previous years across all of the magic circle firms.

Linklaters senior partner Anthony Cann admitted that, like everyone else, the firm has been affected by the economic climate. “Partners are elected as the result of a complex set of criteria that includes merit and a strong business case,” he said. “Not everyone gets to be a partner at Linklaters. Our insistence on the very best makes the threshold for achieving partnership very high indeed.”

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer promoted 23 lawyers to partner level globally, compared with 29 and 43 in 2002 and 2001 respectively. Of those made up this year, nine will be based in London and 10 in Germany. The proportion of partners made up in London and Germany has been roughly the same over the past three years, taking the total promoted in Germany to 31 and those in London to 30.

Meanwhile, Clifford Chance, which like Linklaters has reduced its headcount, elected 31 lawyers to the partnership earlier this month, compared with the 39 new entrants to equity in 2002 and 38 in 2001. London, like last year, announced the largest number of partner promotions, with nine associates joining the partnership, which is down from last year’s 15.

However, John Barnard, global director of HR at Clifford Chance, denied that the dip in partner promotions was connected to the headcount reduction currently being undertaken in London.

At Allen & Overy (A&O), 29 were promoted to the partnership, and although this is marginally down on last year, it is in fact higher than in 2001, when 28 lawyers were made up.

A&O also made up the most number of female partners in the magic circle.

“Whatever the economic climate, the firm is committed to maintaining the numbers year-on-year of new partners. Globally, we’re able to offer a true route to partnership across our international network. This is reflected in this year’s new partners,” said a spokesperson at A&O.

Barnard said the relationship between the state of the economy and the number of partners promoted is not quite as direct. “Taking a snapshot of today can distort and cause the organisation to make the wrong decision,” he said.