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Job News from Across the Pond

Vivia Chen

June 24, 2011

British_Flag Is the legal job scene more civilized or somehow better on the other side of the Atlantic? Doubt it. But judge for yourself. Here's a summary of what's going on in the U.K. legal market:

1. Top 50 U.K. firms show 38 percent increase in number of partners. Reports Legal Week:

Partner promotions across the U.K.’s 50 largest law firms by revenue increased by more than a third this year, buoyed by growing market confidence and a cluster of 
transatlantic mergers.

Total partner promotions across the group stood at 495 globally in 2011, compared with 358 the previous year--an increase of just over 38 percent.

As in the U.S., the rate of promotion for women at the big U.K. firms has been static: "In total there were 125 new female partners in 2011, equating to 25 percent of the total round--roughly the same proportion as last year."

2. Signs that there will be fewer legal jobs. Despite the increase in new partners, there are troubling signs that there will be far fewer positions for new lawyers in the near future. RollOnFriday reports that Allen & Overy will be shrinking its incoming class of trainees by 25 percent from its 2008 peak:

Back in the heady pre-credit-crunch days, the firm took on 120 trainees a year. Since then the number has fallen to 105, and by 2014 it will fall again, to just 90. A spokesman for the firm said that the move is "market- related," and added, "London law firms used to enjoy 10 percent year-on-year growth; those days are probably over for the foreseeable future."

RollOn notes that about "4,874 training contracts were registered between August 2009 and July 2010. If every law firm follows A&O's lead, then 1,218 students who would have found training contracts in the past could be flipping burgers."

3. The Brits are snootier--or don't hide it as well. RollOn Friday also reports that Slaughter and May got itself in hot water recently. The firm hired First Counsel, a recruiting firm, which posted "a pompous and apparently xenophobic job advertisement." Here's what the offending ad said (it has since been removed):

Perhaps counterintuitively, the firm is not as exacting in terms of its requirements as one might expect and will happily consider lawyers from Australia, New Zealand, and Brussels. 

As RollOn points out, it was awfully swell that this superelite firm would lower its standards to hire "convicts, sheep stealers, and mussel munchers!" But, hey, how about us uncouth Americans?

Other posts on U.K. law firms: Allen & Overy Warns Women to Cover Up, Are Brits Ahead on Women Front?

Do you have topics you'd like to discuss or tips to share? E-mail The Careerist's chief blogger, Vivia Chen, at VChen@alm.com.

Follow The Careerist on Twitter: twitter.com/lawcareerist



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The Slaughter and May story is ridiculous--not because of their supposedly "offensive" ad, but because of people's reactions. Does no one understand sarcasm anymore?! IT WAS A JOKE. British people make cutting remarks about anything and everything--most especially, about people they actually LIKE. I used to know an American in England whose friends all referred to him as "Yank Bastard"--and no, it wasn't offensive; it was actually a sign of affection or, as an anthropologist would put it, a sign that he had been accepted into the in-group of friends who all jovially insulted each other.

If we're all about respecting diversity now, let's try understanding this simple fact: DIFFERENT CULTURES are DIFFERENT, and that's okay. British people do not need to tone down their sarcastic humor just to avoid ruffling the feathers of oversensitive overserious overseas Anglophones.

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About The Careerist

The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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