If you stay with it long enough, a practice that goes out of fashion will often come back around again. Those of us of a certain age remember when the first year or more at a big law firm was spent "rotating" around departments to get a good feel for the full range of legal practice. That quaint practice was drilled out of most firms with the arrival of big ticket associate salaries and the push for faster and higher realization of revenues on their time.
Now we hear from across the pond that Linklaters is proposing countering "damaging over-specialisation" by having junior associates spend time in different practice areas in their first few years, a practice that Allen & Overy is also considering and Slaughter and May has already adopted.
“There was an awareness that people are specialising too early and there’s a desire to see people get a more rounded experience in their early years,” a senior partner at Linklaters was quoted as saying. However, it was noted that the move "should not be seen as a reaction to the economic climate."
With due regard to that Linklaters partner’s opinion, whenever this "new" practice is discussed at the law firms we advise stateside, it is raised expressly in the context of the current economic climate–one of the reasons being to position associates to be able to move more quickly out of and into practice areas depending on the firm’s needs.
Non-equity partnership tiers have been the fastest growing population segment of law firms during the past decade, but those partners are sometimes specialists in areas where firms can no longer reliably provide sufficient work. And, like specialized associates, those non-equity partners are often difficult to re-deploy quickly to where the firm’s work is. Many firms are therefore considering limiting or eliminating entirely that tier, moving to an all-equity partnership like back in the old days. Addleshaw Goddard intends to put that reversion in place next year. And a similar noise is being made as DLA Piper reviews its entire firm structure, with unattributed partners saying that the firm could move toward a single tier of partners, eliminating both tiers of income partners in its current model.
The wheel goes round and round.