Career Development Special

Can law deliver the career you desire? Can a City firm meet your personal and professional needs, in terms of training, flexibility, freedom of choice and future career development? In this special issue of Lawyer 2B, we assess how firms are faring in the HR stakes as well as benchmarking the profession generally against other industries, from investment banking and accounting, to telecommunications and engineering. It looks at innovations in working practices, at how women are starting to dominate the profession and at the impact on the future of the profession of two highly significant developments, Sir David Clementi’s review of the regulation of legal services and the Training Framework Review. Could your future be in delivering legal advice from aisle 13, and will you be able to take up your employment in the local Tesco without having to undertake the very expensive LPC?

This Career Development Special is designed to allow you to make an informed decision about your choice of career and be better armed to assess individual firms’ offerings – not just on salaries, but all associated benefits and working practices.

Law firms have certainly been working hard to improve working conditions and to offer flexible working environments. This, of course, has nothing to do with any altruistic concern for their young employees, but is necessary for them to continue to recruit – and keep – the very best candidates.

Leading the charge is Simmons & Simmons. In March, Lawyer 2B’s sister title The Lawyer revealed Simmons’ consideration of radical plans to revolutionise the route to partnership.

“This is a business issue and you can’t ignore it because you’re losing talent, and it’s very expensive talent,” Simmons senior partner and employment expert Janet Gaymer told The Lawyer.

The plans under consideration include radical new contracts aimed at offering lawyers an alternative career route to partnership. Essentially, Gaymer wants her firm to embrace flexible working for men and women from the moment they arrive at the firm, up to and including partnership. This means revolutionising the pyramid structure of partnership and solving the perennially difficult problem of giving senior lawyers status even if they are not in the equity elite.

“One of the pressing issues that we have at the moment is the retention of lawyers at three and four years’ post-qualification experience, who basically reject the traditional model. That’s not a gender issue – it’s actually applicable to both male and female lawyers,” said Gaymer.

It also means tackling the general assumption that flexible working is associated with low profitability. Simmons is poised to reveal an astonishing turnaround in its financial performance, with projected average profit per partner up 35 per cent to 371,000, so there seems little reason for its City counterparts not to follow suit.