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Tight at the top

Posted by: Laurence Simons 24/08/12

The climb up the legal ladder is, it seems, getting cluttered up near the top.

As a recent Laurence Simons survey found, one in three private practice lawyers are frustrated at their rate of career progression. And the main reason? With the number of partners retiring reduced by a third in the last 15 years and fewer senior partners moving to external firms, those on the partner track are finding their career progression hindered by the number of seniors ahead of them in the pecking order. Basically: once you get up the ladder, you can't move for old heads. A bit like Prince Charles, fretting after the throne.

"Many solicitors are finding their career path blocked by those who have already made partner," said Laurence Simons' private practice director co-head Guy Adams. "The decrease in retirement figures has had a negative effect on promotion opportunities at all levels."

So with the path to the top being diverted, the answer could be to consider alternative career strategies. Think of it like this: analysis showed that the average partner was 44 years old and had been with their firm for 11 years, or 'old school in-housers'. However, 25 per cent of top 200 partners had been with their current firm for fewer than three years, meaning they probably went the external route and parachuted in at partner level. The kicker? Their average age was four years younger than their in-house brethren, meaning externals hit the golden partner path at around 40.

If you're hoping to fast-track it to partner but you see a lot of old person-shaped hurdles in the way, it might be time to consider your options. Fancy a change? Speak to our Partner team.