While Mahlab Recruitment managing director Katherine Sampson feels that senior associates are being locked out of partnerships, Burgess Paluch Legal Recruitment director Doron Paluch believes there are ways for lawyers to beat the odds.
Speaking with Lawyers Weekly, Mr Paluch said that switching firms is the best way for a senior associate to gain that promotion to partnership.
“Unless a senior associate is confident about his or her position and unless the firm has been transparent, the senior associate should not wait their turn at their firm. Their turn may very well never come,” Mr Paluch said.
“It is often better to move sideways to a firm in which a lawyer’s skills may be more highly valued, or to a firm which is less top heavy or more inclined to promoting partners.”
Partnership is generally no longer granted purely as a result of years or level of experience and there are a myriad of other factors that firms have to consider, according to Mr Paluch.
“Law firms analyse the senior associate’s level of experience together with the senior associate’s ability as a lawyer, client following, and overall contribution to the firm,” he said.
“The firm obviously also considers its own requirements, and whether or not it wants or needs to add to its partnership numbers.”
Mr Paluch said over the past 10 years we have seen firms, particularly some of the largest firms, becoming more reluctant to ‘break up the pie’.
With this in mind, senior associates can improve their chances of promotion by moving to another firm that is looking to expand its partnership or has gaps in the senior associate’s area of expertise, he said.
“It can be far more risky to continue treading water than to move to a new firm. But the obvious risk in changing firms is the possibility that a senior associate may need to reprove himself in a new environment.”
While a senior associate at one large firm is unlikely to be promoted immediately upon moving to another large firm, Mr Paluch said that in many situations a senior associate can leave one firm for immediate partnership at another if the new firm is not top tier or global.
“The senior associate’s chance of promotion is likely to be far greater if he or she were to move to a firm of a different size, culture, and nature,” Mr Paluch added.