Responding to demand from senior lawyers for an alternative career path to partnership, Freehills has created a new "executive counsel" role.
The role - which is salaried - is designed to provide an alternative promotion opportunity for senior associates who do not wish to become equity partners.
The firm's managing partner for people, Peter Butler, said that the firm has been losing high-calibre, senior lawyers who didn't want to become partners because it couldn't offer an alternative for career progression beyond the senior associate level.
"We lose these very senior lawyers because, while they don't aspire to be partners, they regard a role less than that - senior associate for instance - as being sub-optimal," he said.
"We want this executive counsel role to be positioned so that it carries very considerable status internally and externally. That it's regarded - as it ought to be - as a partner-quality role. It offers a real alternative to partnership to those who don't necessarily aspire to be partners."
Butler explained that, similarly to partners, executive counsel will be involved in managing teams and mentoring junior lawyers, but they will be less involved in business development and bringing in new work. He said the role also differs from special counsel roles, which, at least at Freehills, are reserved for senior lawyers with highly specialised niche practices. In contrast, executive counsel would - much like partners - have broader expertise.
According to Butler, the introduction of the role has been well received, particularly by senior legal staff. "The feedback we've had has been very pleasing. There's no doubt there's a need for this role. The fact is that these days not everyone wants to be a partner. In fact many say that it's just not for them. We would like to give them a role in this firm where they feel they've been successful and they're acknowledged in the market as being successful, too.
The firm will announce the appointment of its first executive counsel in late June, at the same time as the new partners, special counsel and senior associates are announced.
- By Zoe Lyon