It’s tough at the top

Who on earth would choose to be a managing partner nowadays?

Catrin Griffiths

Who on earth would choose to be a managing partner nowadays? The job description currently encompasses psychotherapist, goodwill ambassador, spin doctor, economic forecaster, cheerleader and executioner. I don’t think even the Harvard MBA can give you that particular blend of skills. So in this commercial climate I sympathise with those who have recently been elected to the top jobs. There have been quite a few recently: Tim Eyles at Taylor Wessing, Charles Martin at Macfarlanes, Mark Brandwood at Brabners Chaffe Street, Chris Jackson at Burges Salmon, Paul Devitt at Addleshaw Goddard, and of course Simon Davies at Linklaters.

Which takes us to the papal election at Travers Smith. One of the trickiest tasks in the City will be succeeding Chris Carroll as managing partner. Travers has been a poster child for the boom, and its partners happily admit that their business is feast or famine. Last year PEP was £755,000; this year it could be half that. Luckily for Travers, though, it’s the sort of place where the partners still all know each other’s names and who seem to accept that profit might occasionally go down as well as up.

Whoever emerges as the firm’s leader (and there’s no shortage of eligible candidates, although many of them would probably prefer client work) would be best advised to emulate Carroll’s candour. He recently made an apocalyptic presentation to his partners and, rather than ending with some bogus management claptrap, concluded by saying: “But you know, let’s all enjoy the things that are free. Walking. Reading. That sort of thing.”

That’s what I call managing expectations.

Today we publish the shortlist for The Lawyer Awards 2009. We were a bit pessimistic, to be honest: we didn’t think we would have that many entries given the economy, but as it turned out we had nearly 400 organisations apply, and whittling them down has been hellishly difficult.

To see who’s made the initial cut, click here. It’s a satisfyingly wide selection of firms, chambers, legal departments and individuals. Congratulations to everyone featured – there’s some truly excellent and creative work going on. It makes a change to have something to celebrate.