Taylor Wessing: partner hiring spree will not hinder internal promotions

Taylor Wessing’s recent capture of a high-profile trio of partners from Barlow Lyde & Gilbert (BLG) is the latest sign that the firm has pushed lateral recruitment at the highest level to the top of its agenda.

Tim Eyles
Tim Eyles

Commercial disputes pair Julian Randall and Andrew Howell, along with financial services partner Tim Strong, take the number of lateral hires in 2010 alone to nine, with several other searches understood to be active.

The recent push to bulk up in certain key areas ­represents the fruition of a policy that started back in the summer of 2009, when Taylor Wessing launched a strategy overhaul.

However, with incoming partners beginning to ­outnumber those made up through internal promotions, the question persists as to what effect the rash of recruits is having on the career prospects of ­associates at the firm.

Since 2008 there have been 16 lateral partner hires into the UK practice (including the BLG trio, which have yet to officially join) compared with just 11 newly promoted partners.

Last year saw the firm promote just two associates to partner in its City office.

But according to managing partner Tim Eyles, the strategy devised 18 months ago is based around ­building up specific parts of the business, irrespective of whether this was through internal promotions or external recruitment.

“We build the firm through a mixture of the two,” Eyles explains. “The strategic direction is about strengthening the sectors we wanted to be in. A key factor is that they have to fit with the culture here.”

The areas Eyles identifies as those in which the firm has grown, and will ­continue to grow, include private equity, insurance and ­reinsurance and real estate finance.

Each of these areas has seen at least one lateral hire in the past 12 months, but Eyles says that the new blood could actually improve the chances of the internal ­promotion of candidates.

“The new partners bring client relationships to us, so you need more people to support that,” he says. “The message is extremely positive for prospective partners within the firm – the more work we get, the more opportunities it creates.”

Eyles adds that one of the deliberate consequences of Taylor Wessing being seen to bulk up in its target ­sectors and practice areas is to raise the profile of what the firm does.

“People are more aware of where we’re trying to grow now,” he continues. “That’s facilitated a lot of approaches to us. If they’re relevant approaches we’ll be opportunistic.”

Away from the BLG gang, other recent hires include private equity partner Emma Danks, who joined from Clifford Chance in September; finance partner Richard Williamson, a July capture from K&L Gates; and restructuring and corporate recovery partner Claire ­Martin-Royle, who joined in October.

Martin-Royle’s case ­illustrates how important retaining its culture is to Taylor Wessing. She joined the firm initially as a ­barrister in 2001 before moving to Jones Day five years later, returning as a partner last month.

“I think they’re very keen not to change the culture or ethos of the firm,” comments one recruiter on Taylor Wessing’s strategy. “It’s not one of those situations where they bring in key ­people to head up groups. That can be unsettling. They’re happy to make people up, but they haven’t necessarily got the people at the right level in some areas.”

The firm stresses that associates have been fully engaged in discussions over strategy, particularly with regard to recruitment.

One partner made up in the past few years says that there is not a sense in the associate ranks that opportunities are being limited.

“There’ll always be some people who might feel like that, but I haven’t heard about it or got the sense that people feel that way,” adds the partner.

Eyles would not be drawn on the number of partners expected to be made up in next year’s promotion round. While the feeling is that the firm is more or less supportive of the current growth spurt, another restricted promotion round could rock the boat.