Since 2008, Mayer Brown has made up 231 partners globally, with 28 making the cut in London (12 per cent of the total). After Chicago and New York, London has seen the most promotions in the network in the last nine years.
In recent years, however, UK promotions have been relatively thin on the ground, with only one London associate per year made up in 2013, 2015 and 2015, and just two getting the nod in 2016.
Between 2008 and 2012, London saw almost the same number of partners promoted as the Chicago head office (23 versus 24). Since then, Chicago has made up 29 partners and London just five.
As the chart below shows, since 2013 the firm has concentrated on Houston, Hong Kong and New York over its European offices.
Particularly notable is the fact that between 2008 and 2012, Mayer Brown made up 15 partners across Frankfurt and Cologne – but in the four annual promotion rounds between 2013 and 2016, no partner has been made up in Germany.
Who gets made up?
Dispute resolution lawyers appear to have had the best shot at promotion of Mayer Brown associates in London in recent years.
Eight from that practice group have been made up since 2011, compared to two from finance, two from insurance and just one from corporate. Between 2012 and 2014, all of the three partners made up were litigators.
Mayer Brown is exceptional among large City firms in that of 28 partners made up in the last nine years, only two went to Oxford and none to Cambridge as undergraduates. Those two were both promoted in 2008, meaning that in the last eight promotion rounds, not a single newly-minted partner at Mayer Brown has been Oxbridge-educated.
In fact, the 28 new partners studied at 23 different institutions between them, with Birmingham the most-represented university. Twenty of the new partners studied law at undergraduate level with four reading history and the final four other non-law subjects.
Women have accounted for nine of the 28 partner promotions since 2008.
Around 40 per cent (11 of 28) of Mayer Brown’s partners trained with the firm. The rest came from a mix of mainly City firms, including Bond Pearce, Clifford Chance, Denton Wilde Sapte, DLA Piper, Herbert Smith, Norton Rose, Pinsent Masons, RPC, Slaughter and May and Wragge & Co.
What’s the partnership promotions process?
“I think our firm has an extremely strong record of a being able to give people the opportunity at a relatively early stage of their career,” says Mayer Brown’s global finance co-head, Dominic Griffiths. “If you look at other firms where the average is stretching out to 10, 12 years or more, I think we do have a pretty good track record.”
Sure enough, the length of time it has taken to make partner at Mayer Brown has remained relatively consistent in recent times. Four of the last five lawyers to be made up were 9PQE at the time of their promotion. The most junior person to be made a partner lately was tax partner Sandy Bhogal in 2008. He qualified at Norton Rose in 2002, joined Mayer Brown in 2005 and made partner in 2008 at 6PQE.
There is a combination of an official process and an informal one. “When senior associates hit around six years qualified, we sit down and have regular conversations with them about their ambitions and what they want to do – whether that’s an ambition to be a partner, or ambition to be counsel, or a long term senior associate, or something else,” says Griffiths. “That is outside of, and in addition to, the official appraisal process.”
“Then, when people come up to at least seven years qualified, if they still have a serious intent to become a partner or of counsel, there is a formal process.” That means there are forms that are required to be filled in, which run through things like candidates’ statistics and their past performance as well as their business plan and where they fit into the practice. That is supported and sponsored by relevant partners in that group.
At the same time, each group in Mayer Brown is run on a global basis by firm-wide practice leaders. Those individuals will be talking to the local practice leaders and identifying what candidates are on the radar, as well as looking at the viability of that promotion within the context of the longer-term strategy of the group.
A formal interview with the candidate follows, before the decision goes up to a promotions committee, named COPA.
“The appointments to COPA are from all areas of the firm, with senior partners, junior partners, and completely different offices and practices represented,” says Griffiths. “It’s a very well organised group and it looks at lots of different issues, including diversity, all of the paperwork that is prepared, and the performance of the individual.”
“They will then grill with great certainty and precision the practice area leaders who presenting to them on behalf of the candidate and the practice. That is, in my view, a very good and transparent process that involves not just the decision of people locally, not just the decision of the global practice area, but also the ‘neutral view’ from outside areas and different practices.”
The final decision is then made by the firm’s management committee.
Where do partners go?
Seven of the 28 partners made up at Mayer Brown since 2008 have now departed from the firm. Only two of those have gone to other UK firms – litigator James Fielden to RPC and corporate lawyer David bates to Taylor Wessing. Kristy Zander, made up in 2011, has returned to Australia with Lipman Karas while insurance partner Ian Roberts has joined Clyde & Co in Singapore.
The remaining three have left private practice: Rani Mina is in-house at HSBC, Bernadette Daley joined power company Cummins while Sangeeta Puran is a non-practicing solicitor at the Practical Law Company. Finally, Wendy Allen-Rodney, made up in 2008, is still at Mayer Brown but left the partnership and is now Of Counsel.