Russell Jones advertises externally for non-lawyer managing partner

Russell Jones & Walker is advertising for a senior management executive to conduct a “radical reappraisal” of the firm in a role equivalent to managing partner.

Currently John Webber juggles both senior and managing partner positions at the practice.

But an advertisement in the Financial Times said Russell Jones was seeking to appoint a senior corporate executive whose responsibilities would include undertaking “a thorough analysis with a view to rationalising all aspects of the business and overseeing the implementation of recommendations”.

Russell Jones has grown rapidly over the past decade, expanding from 40 to 250 staff and opening offices in Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham and Bristol.

Webber said the firm was appointing a non-lawyer managing partner because it had no “natural internal candidate” for the position, but also because the firm's partners believed an outside appointment would provide it with the “radical reappraisal” it was seeking.

“It is a stage you reach,'' he said. “I have been doing the two jobs of managing partner and senior partner since 1978 and the two jobs are ultimately conflicting.”

Webber said all aspects of the firm's operations would be scrutinised, from management techniques and functions to decision-making and the way the business is run. He said that no staff cuts would be made, adding that: “We hope for further expansion.”

The move by Russell Jones appears to be part of an emerging trend in non-legal appointments to senior positions and changes in senior management structure in a number of leading law firms.

Management specialist Professor Martin Reed was hired by Liverpool- and Birmingham-based insurance litigation firm Weightmans in January as its first chief executive. At the time, the 33-partner firm said it wanted to appoint an outside chief executive rather than require one of its partners to relinquish his or her fee earning duties.

In February 1996, city firm Simmons & Simmons appointed its finance director Alun Morris as managing partner because it felt that although lawyers who became partners were always technically very good, they were not always the best people to manage a business.