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The Corner Office: Partnership Tracks

The Corner Office: Partnership Tracks

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In The Corner Office, we ask Managing Partners at law firms across Central and Eastern Europe about their backgrounds, strategies, and responsibilities. As key steps, requirements, and timeline for becoming a Partner may vary from firm to firm, this time we asked: Does your firm have a formal Partnership Track and if yes, what does it involve?

Kostadin Sirleshtov, Managing Partner, CMS Sofia: CMS has a clear and formal Partnership Track, which involves a personal assessment and a business case review of the candidate, followed by an assessment center and interviews with an evaluation board of Senior Partners. Naturally, the process is concluded once the candidate is approved by the partners’ vote within the firm.

As the leading relationship law firm CMS applies this formal Partnership Track regardless of the location and the seniority of the partners, irrespective of whether the candidate is home-grown or a lateral hire. Given the diversity of our Partner candidates, we have both minimal measurable requirements (related predominantly to the business case) and various soft criteria (applicable mostly to the personal assessment of the candidate), which need to be demonstrated and achieved by each of the applicants. The process usually involves at least two sponsors, who are usually the Office Managing Partner of the respective candidate and its Practice Group Head.

Partner assessments are not a one-off exercise for CMS Partners. Following the appointment, we have various check-ins and a detailed system for the assessment of partners going forward.

Darko Jovanovic, Managing Partner, Karanovic & Partners: Our Star Track is a talent management program for Lawyers considered for promotions to Senior Associates or Partners.

The program starts with a nomination, initiated by the Partner in charge which sets development areas and objectives. Once it is approved by Senior Partners, we run what we call “Entry 360” with a development focus. After the 360-degree feedback, the tracker is invited to draft a Development Plan which is then approved by their Partner, a Mentor, and L&D and HR functions. Commitment is ensured through an action plan and regular reporting. Mentors and trackers are free to organize their work in the way they find it most useful. General advice would be to have follow-up sessions at least once in two months.

While the program is not time-limited and primarily depends on the progress and results shown by the tracker, on average it is expected that the Senior Associate track lasts one or two years, and the Partner track two to five years. The promotion won’t be granted automatically with time and it depends on whether the tracker showed tangible results and consistency and achieved the objectives, and based on current business plans and potentials of the firm in general. The promotion itself is approved by Senior Partners and confirmed by all Partners.

Octavian Popescu, Managing Partner, Popescu & Asociatii: As probably in any law firm, within Popescu & Asociatii we have a formal Partnership Track ever since we founded the company. People represent the foundation of our business, as the success of our clients and implicitly our reputation depends on the perfect combination of the legal and business knowledge that our lawyers have, the soft skills, and the way in which managers and all colleagues know how to communicate, prioritize, and find the best solutions.

Thus, beyond the written criteria, which must be met, the decision is ultimately made based on the person, their proactive attitude, and their ambition. It is essential to mention that the management of Popescu & Asociatii may grant the status of Partner even before a person fulfills all the criteria stipulated in the official documents since those personality traits are the key characteristics that define me and my current team. Thus, the right qualities can transform a Lawyer into our Partner in a shorter period. That said, even after becoming a Partner, there is always room to learn and become better all the time! 

Olexiy Soshenko, Managing Partner, Redcliffe Partners: We are proud that we have had several senior lawyers who have successfully developed and grown at Redcliffe Partners to be promoted to Partners. There is a formal Partnership Track, which must be completed, to become a Partner. Apart from excellent technical skills, we expect from a candidate a good mix of qualities and business skills, such as the ability to develop clients, being a team player, mentor and act as a role model for junior colleagues, and being visible in the market and recognized by peers. As to more specific requirements, there is obviously a business case that should be proved by the candidate showing a certain level of profit of the overall candidate’s practice, with a certain percentage from that pool being originated by the candidate, etc. If it is some new practice, development and growth of the practice must be shown. Finally, there must be good chemistry between the candidate and the existing Partners as we are looking for long-lasting partnership relations after all!

Pal Jalsovszky, Managing Partner, Jalsovszky Law Firm: Our processes for partnership promotion are not yet institutional and universal. This is partly because that we have just transformed our office into a partnership recently. But it also plays a role that each person is different and each person should be motivated differently. To be promoted to be a Partner you surely need to have a business case – e.g., strong personal client relations and revenue from such clients. Still, on the business development side, you need to be actively engaged in corporate marketing and sales activities – both domestically and on a cross-border level. Other than this, you need to have various soft skills. It is, for example, of utmost importance that the candidate can lead a group, supervise its activity, and take care of the motivation of group members. The final decision, on accepting a new Partner, is taken at the Partners’ level.

Jacek Gizinski, Co-Managing Partner, DLA Piper Warsaw: In Poland, 70% of our Partners are individuals who have built their business cases with, and advanced internally at, DLA Piper. All new Partners have developed their business and leadership skills through available training programs. Internally promoted Partners attend Career Pathways, which is a long-term leadership development program that encourages participants to explore a leadership mindset and strategy, and business growth. The program is part of DLA Piper’s plan to recognize and support the firm’s highly valuable future leadership. In addition, female senior lead lawyers are encouraged to participate in the Elevate Mentorship Program. Locally in Warsaw, all our lawyers are invited to attend skills training as part of the Career Subway training plan. We believe that any lawyer joining the firm is a potential future Partner and we put a lot of effort into supporting the growth of our team.

As our Co-Managing Partner Krzysztof Kycia says, creating opportunities for the development of lawyers and tax advisors is our recipe for success. Internal Partner promotions at DLA Piper provide us with a special satisfaction – they are a visible sign of the evolution of our law firm and the development of our employees. We grow together with them.

Oleksiy Feliv, Managing Partner, Integrites: The Partnership Track at Integrites is about transparency. During onboarding, lawyers get a clear vision of their growth in the firm. Even during the war, annual evaluation results are the grounds for promotions.

To become a Salary Partner, the candidate must build up a team, select and develop a certain industry focus, and have a business case with a minimum annual turnover. These prerequisites equally apply to any candidate. To become an Equity Partner, the Salary Partner must fulfill turnover requirements for three consecutive years.

The formula works: Viktoriya Fomenko, Serhii Uvarov, and Illya Tkachuk are great examples. Viktoriya joined us in 2017 as a Counsel in tax and customs. She has built a strong team and the whole practice from scratch. Serhii joined in 2018 as a Counsel in cross-border dispute resolution and led one of the most high-profile disputes over the last decades. Having met the above criteria, both got promoted to Partners in 2019 and 2021 respectively. Illya Tkachuk, corporate and M&A Partner since 2019 and Equity Partner since 2022, is an example that stands out. He has been exceptional in business development and client relations during the COVID-19 pandemic and the war.

Notably, Equity Partner promotions are quite rare in Ukraine, and equity partnership is a kind of VIP club. We try to change this perception: equity partnership is open, and the criteria are clear and straightforward.

Gabor Kiraly, Managing Partner, Dentons Hungary: Dentons has a well-established Partnership Track that encompasses various levels, including for Counsel, Managing Counsel, and different Partner positions. Candidates progress by demonstrating a proven track record of billable work, successful client acquisition, and essential qualities such as leadership, interpersonal skills, business acumen, and a strong network of contacts.

Dentons recognizes the benefits of a diverse and inclusive partnership. The firm evaluates candidates based not only on qualifications and experience but also on their ability to champion Dentons’ culture and values. From the moment of induction, comprehensive in-house training programs serve as prerequisites for promotions, reflecting the firm’s commitment to personal growth.

Collaboration across the Dentons network is strongly supported, allowing Partners to leverage the firm’s global reach and resources effectively. By emphasizing personal development, fostering talent, and promoting diversity, the firm ensures that its Partners not only excel as legal practitioners but also exhibit outstanding leadership, and convey our value proposition embodying the Dentons culture and values.

This article was originally published in Issue 10.6 of the CEE Legal Matters Magazine. If you would like to receive a hard copy of the magazine, you can subscribe here

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