Added-value solicitors making partner grade

A SERIES of leading law firms have announced their annual partnership appointments amid claims that the criteria they are looking for in their new partners have changed so that they must now be good managers as well as being good lawyers.

Clifford Chance has appointed 22 partners this year, plus George Staple who returns after a stint as Director of the Serious Fraud Office.

Managing partner Geoffrey Howe said: “Being a good lawyer isn't enough anymore. We look for people who will contribute significantly to the firm in the future – they must be good man-managers and business-minded too.”

He added that selection was “more objective and more rigorous”.

Terence Kyle, managing partner at Linklater & Paines, which has invited around 20 lawyers to partnership, said: “There is a greater emphasis on business-getting ability. The international practice is clearly a greater factor.”

Herbert Smith has appointed 12 new partners. Richard Bond, head of the corporate department, said a firm's success “can be measured by the rate of partner growth”. He added that the firm “strategically targets traditional areas of strength like litigation, banking and international corporate finance”.

Eversheds is appointing up to 15 new partners nationally. This is “par for the course”, according to Nimble Thompson, chair of the partnership committee.

Selection is extremely structured with candidates coming through the regional selection process to face a “rigorous panel interview” by Thompson's committee.

He said he looked for the “business managers of the future”, adding that this year's appointments “are across the board, but the Birmingham and Leeds offices are well-represented reflecting the buoyancy of those regional markets”.

Eversheds leads the table for number of partners but Thompson insists that the “numbers reflect our needs and that of the clients not the needs of any league tables”.

In contrast to other high profile firms, Slaughter and May has only appointed three new partners. Senior partner Giles Henderson said that in the 27 years he had been a partner the number had never exceeded 10.

“We essentially make partners when the right candidates are available. Several firms have appointed huge numbers of partners for the past five or six years. Ten years ago they had similar partner numbers and seemed the same size to us, whereas now they have double the amount of partners.”