News from Cass Business School

A new work bargain for professionals? Young recruits spurn partnership race

Debate tackles changing patterns in professional services

Tuesday, 14 December, 2010

Young legal and accounting professionals are less prepared to work long hours for the future prize of partnership, according to one of the country’s leading experts on professional services.

Professor Laura Empson, Director of the Cass Centre for Professional Service Firms, believes fewer trainees are inclined to join the traditional race upwards.

Her comments came during the fourth Discussion Forum on leadership and change in professional service firms organised by the Cass Centre for Professional Service Firms.

Professor Empson said: As Professionals work harder and harder to deliver more and more work, Generation Y professionals look at the stressed and exhausted partners they are working for and think, 'I don't actually want to be like them.'

Her remarks were reflected by Dame Janet Gaymer DBE QC, Visiting Professor of Practice at Cass, who was previously one of the country’s leading employment lawyers. Early results from Dame Janet’s research in the Centre show that many young legal professionals have no intention of joining the partnership race. Employers report that people are asking about sabbaticals and career breaks at interview, she stated.

Dame Janet went on to say that the traditional pyramidal model of partnership based on a simple race through the hierarchy is under strain.

She said: The pyramidmight need to develop to accommodate others who do not aspire to partnership but who are content to transition to new activities according to career and lifestyle choice.

Visiting Professor of Practice at Cass and Director of Strategy at Edelman, Stefan Stern, warned professional services firms need to be more sophisticated in how they reward employees in future. Money is part of the package, but so is time and flexibility, he said.

The debate also focussed on the question of lawyers’ pay, which has bounced back from a recessionary low.

Neil Sherlock, the partner in charge of public and regulatory affairs at KPMG, warned that in an era when the pay of public servants is being benchmarked against the Prime Minister’s salary, lawyers and accountants will not be immune from fee cuts. Regulators will be asking hard questions and we have to be ready for it, he said.

The panellists were joined by 150 professionals, academics, and MBA students.

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Professor Laura Empson, Director of the Cass Centre for Professional Service Firms, and Neil Sherlock of KPMG

Visiting Professor of Practice, Dame Janet Gaymer, and Visiting Professor of Practice, Stefan Stern

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