Fosters legal chief tells firms to think global or lose partners

Law firms must develop global capacities if they are to stop the latest generation of lawyers moving from private practice to in-house, says Peter Turner, head of legal at Fosters Brewing Group.

Turner warns that national firms face being unable to keep pace with their clients' increasing global interests.

Turner says: “Law firms are risk-averse and have problems identifying where their strengths lie.

“When we place an advert for in-house lawyers, 80 per cent of the applications come from law firms.”

He says in-house departments are attractive to lawyers because they are increasingly doing the more relevant corporate international work.

“People don't want to spend all their waking hours doing due diligence,” he says.

But he adds that global firms are also an attractive option. He says: “Globalisation of law firms is helping them [young lawyers] to follow their own careers.”

One of their drawbacks, however, says Turner, is that many young lawyers think such global firms are often run by out-dated systems such as lockstep rather than performance-related pay.

However, James Silkenat, partner at Winthrop Stimson Putnam & Roberts and member of the American Bar Association board of governors, warns that globalisation will split the profession because it is not an option for all firms.

Silkenat says: “The family lawyer in Desmoines, Bristol or wherever will have no understanding for what the multi-jurisdictional firms are doing.

“In the next few years people will start asking whether the same ethics and practice rules should apply to both sections of lawyers.”