find the latest legal job
Corporate Counsel and Company Secretary
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: Newcastle, Maitland & Hunter NSW
· Highly-respected, innovative and entrepreneurial Not-for-Profit · Competency based Board
View details
Chief Counsel and Company Secretary
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: Newcastle, Maitland & Hunter NSW
· Dynamic, high growth organisation · ASX listed market leader
View details
In-house Projects Lawyer | Renewables / Solar | 2-5 Years PQE
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: All Australia
· Help design the future · NASDAQ Listed
View details
Insurance Lawyer (3-5 PAE)
Category: Insurance and Superannuation Law | Location: Brisbane CBD & Inner Suburbs Brisbane QLD
· Dynamic organisation ·
View details
Legal Counsel
Category: Corporate and Commercial Law | Location: North Sydney NSW 2060
· 18 month fixed term contract · 3-5 years PQE with TMT exposure
View details
Senior associates locked out of partnerships

Senior associates locked out of partnerships


It is becoming harder to make the leap from senior associate to partner – and switching firms doesn’t help, according to the managing director of Mahlab Recruitment.

Speaking with Lawyers Weekly, Katherine Sampson said senior associates were lining up for partnerships but that the tougher economic climate was reducing the number of promotions.

“At the moment at the really big firms there's a queue of those people [seeking partnerships],” Ms Sampson said.

“Because we've had slower economic conditions there is a pent up demand in that senior associate rank to become a partner. But you've got to have a business case to become a partner. So if you've had slower economic conditions it is much harder for you to show to your firm […] they should make you a partner.”

Meanwhile, partners are less inclined to delegate clients or large transactions to senior associates, she continued.

“So you get this rolling problem because senior associates have to develop a business case, but if the partner doesn't delegate work then it is very hard for them to [do that],” said Ms Sampson.

Firm hopping is not necessarily a solution for frustrated senior associates seeking promotions, according to Ms Sampson.

“They have the same business case issue at another firm with a bunch of people that don't know them, don't have a history with them and it is very hard for a senior associate to move clients,” she said. “They can do it, but it's hard.”

However, one way to “catapult” up the ranks is to move from a large firm to a smaller firm, where there is less competition, Ms Sampson said.

Partners on the move, clients staying put

Switching firms at the partner level used to be all about bringing across clients but, according to Ms Sampson, this is changing. 

“It is probably less important now than it used to be,” she said.

“Yes, it would be lovely to have a client following but often when they are moving from one big firm to another big firm it is the reputation that they bring that is more important than the actual revenue base.”

It is actually more difficult for partners to maintain a client following during a move these days, according to Ms Sampson.

To counter “enormous competition” in the market, firms are now actively encouraging brand loyalty from clients by “making sure that those clients are embedded across the firm”.

“It is not easy these days for a partner, let alone a senior associate, to walk out with clients,” she added.

What firms are really looking for in a lateral hire is to change the way clients view their firm, according to Ms Sampson.

“It used to be that unless you had a million-plus in fees to follow you and preferably two to four million, then forget it – there's no point trying to move,” she said.

“But these days some firms have got lots and lots of clients and […] what they really want to do is lift the reputation of their group. Or they want to lift the energy levels of their group.”

Like this story? Read more:

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

The legal budget breakdown 2017

Senior associates locked out of partnerships
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
LCA president Fiona McLeod SC
Aug 17 2017
Where social fault lines meet the justice gap in Aus
After just returning from a tour of the Northern Territory, LCA president Fiona McLeod SC speaks wit...
Marriage equality flag
Aug 17 2017
ALHR backs High Court challenge to marriage equality postal vote
Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) has voiced its support for a constitutional challenge to ...
Give advice
Aug 17 2017
A-G issues advice on judiciary’s public presence
Commonwealth Attorney-General George Brandis QC has offered his advice on the public presence of jud...
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...