As UK firms expand globally, are City promotion prospects on the wane?
Last week Ashurst, Norton Rose and Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) all announced their global partner promotions rounds for 2013. All three UK-headquartered firms expanded overseas through international tie-ups last year.
As the promotion season gets into full flow it is appropriate that City associates should assess how expansion will affect their prospects. In a nutshell, the three promoted fewer partners in London than the previous year, both in numbers and in the ratio of London to non-London lawyers.
Looking at HSF, over half the promotions are in Asia Pacific, where it has merged with Australian firm Freehills. There is a definite eastern focus to the merged firm. A comparison of lawyers promoted at legacy Herbert Smith offices shows 36 per cent of promotions in London, down from 44 per cent in 2012.
Norton Rose’s figures tell a similar story. Only five of the 33 promoted at the global group are in London. Using the same method, London lawyers promoted this year only account for 38 per cent of the total made up across Norton Rose UK offices, down from last year’s 57 per cent.
At Ashurst, yet to fully merge with its Australian arm, seven of the 12 promoted partners are in its City office, but this represents a clear fall from last year’s 11 London promotions out of a total of 16.
As firms globalise it is inevitable that more promotions will be made outside the capital – just look at the magic circle. Allen & Overy promoted six City associates, the equivalent of 30 per cent of its total promotions this year. That is consistent with Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, where a quarter of its 25 promotions are in London.
However, there are some that buck the trend. Both Slaughter and May’s promotions this year were in London, although only two lawyers made the cut.
So don’t let falling promotion rates in London put you off joining the firms racing to become global players. You may still stand a better chance than at those without a global presence.