Move On Up: Walker Morris

Steady as she goes is the theme at Leeds firm Walker Morris, with high profitability offering a clue as to why so few partners move on

Leeds firm Walker Morris has had a remarkably stable few years, with little change in its partnership. Only eight partners have left the firm in five years, and just two of them quit for another firm, both in the 2010-11 financial year.

However, there has been one bumper year of promotions in that time, and the number of internal ­promotions across the five-year ­period averages out at just over two a year.

The spread of internal promotions has been broad, across several practice areas with no single focus. The emphasis has been primarily on real estate and planning, with three promotions in the real estate team and two in planning over the years, representing more than a third of the 13 new partners.

Finance has also been a theme, with one new finance partner in each year from 2007-08 to 2009-10.

The biggest year for internal promotions was 2007-08, when Walker Morris made up six associates to partner, while the two succeeding years saw just one promotion. The most ­recent financial year, 2010-11, saw three promotions.

Walker Morris had a partnership of 51 in the last financial year, with 10 ­female partners, or just under 20 per cent. The number of women ­promoted since 2006 is just three, but that represents 23 per cent of internal promotions so is a little better than overall figures.

Two women, Jeanette Harwood and Jacqueline Seddon, were made up in 2007-08 and one, Louise Power, was promoted in 2010-11.

While the firm has not made up a huge number of partners recently, it has not resorted to lateral hiring as a means of growth either. Only two partners have been recruited from other firms in the past five years.

In November 2008 Walker Morris recruited Addleshaw Goddard partner Jo Ratcliffe in a bid to extend its pensions capabilities. Ratcliffe had previously been head of Addleshaws’ Manchester pensions team.

Its recruitment in July 2010 of Hammonds’ Leeds commercial ­disputes head David Williams was a similar coup. Williams’ arrival brought the number of commercial litigation partners at Walker Morris to three.

Jo Ratcliffe, pensions partner
Ratcliffe moved to Walker Morris from Addleshaw Goddard in 2008

David Williams, litigation partner
Former Hammonds partner Williams was recruited in July 2010

Peter Smart, chair
Smart stepped down as Walker Morris’s chair in 2010 after nine years in the post