‘Alternative career paths required’

Some of Iberia´s leading lawyers support moves to develop new career paths for assistants, according to the latest survey of Iberian Lawyer´s {overlib linktext="Group of Experts" text="Iberian Lawyer’s Group of Experts are 100 of the leading partners in law firms in Spain and Portugal. For every issue of Iberian Lawyer, we ask them a question relating to the practice of law or the management and development of their practice areas." title="Who are the Group of Experts?"}.

La mayoría de los socios que trabajan en los despachos líderes del mercado ibérico comprenden la razón por la que los asociados senior deciden cambiar de despacho. La mayoría de socios del Grupo de Expertos de Iberian Lawyer afirma que el desarrollo profesional es la principal razón de su marcha, por lo que más de la mitad de las firmas proyectan ofrecer puestos o tareas adicionales a los asociados para asegurarse de su permanencia puesto que el convertirse en socio ha dejado de ser el objetivo final de todo abogado.Almost half of the major Iberian law firms responding say they are considering plans to give assistants alternative roles as the traditional career path to partnership appears to be losing its attraction. Gonçalo da Cunha at F Castelo Branco & Associados reflects the views of many when he says, “Widening the range of career options for senior lawyers seems to be a solution which needs to be considered more and more seriously. If young lawyers spend longer and longer as associates and senior associates, their permanence in such positions needs to be compensated and made attractive.”

Clifford Chance and DLA Piper are among the firms who said they are exploring alternatives to the usual ‘up or out’ method by which assistants either reach partnership or leave the firm. For DLA Piper’s Madrid Managing Partner, Juan Picón, “There is a new generation of lawyers that are not particularly motivated by the non-legal work associated with a partner position, they have a much more narrow focus with regard to what to commit in their working life. Money, compensation and status are no longer the main driver for some associates when considering their careers and widening the range of career options is, in my opinion, a must.”

While embracing flexible working, including part-time positions, Garrigues believe these roles are best incorporated within wider categories of partnership without the need for new and more junior positions. In Portugal, PLMJ are considering new job titles and roles. “We have some women associates that want to have more time for their very young children. Therefore some flexibility will eventually be of interest to them and PLMJ,” suggests José Miguel Júdice.

For Francisco Prol this is more an issue for larger firms. “If they don’t manage to make partner they feel it is because they are not trusted or appreciated,” he says. “In the small firms they can feel more integrated, although they don’t have the title of partner.”

As usual, some of the strongest opinions were anonymous. “Pressure on partners, particularly junior partners, to bring in work and have billable hours is enormous,” writes one Expert. “Climbing to the position of partner and then staying on top of expectations takes a massive toll on lifestyles and personal relationships. This indeed makes the prospect of partnership unattractive for many.”