Herbert Smith Freehills boosts top talent management

Big ticket clients and high-profile matters are all part of the mix at Herbert Smith Freehills Freehills, which is the leading litigation firm in Europe and Asia and has one of the world’s pre-eminent corporate practices. The firm also aims to be a great place to work and places a premium on training and developing its people. While taking pride in a collegiate culture where individuals can thrive, the firm was looking for a more integrated way of bringing on top talent.

With this in mind, Herbert Smith Freehills asked Pearn Kandola to support it in designing and implementing a development process for potential partners. Based on feedback from lawyers about the existing training and our own experience of working with the legal profession, we put forward a blueprint for the Potential Partner Development Centre (PPDC).

The firm’s talent management programme is an integral part of its promotions process and has two parts – a development centre, the PPDC, and a subsequent process of development through the investment of time and effort by both the firm and the associate.

Partner David Paterson, who has overall responsibility for the firm’s talent management programme, commented: “The partners feel a strong sense of ownership of the development centre. We know it’s vital to give our high-potential people a clear idea of what the business expects of them and the firm regards this investment in our most talented associates as critical. Associates have commented on the realism of the simulations and the value they place on partner feedback and mentoring discussions.”

The PPDC is attended by associates whom the partnership regards as having genuine potential to become partners. Associates usually attend two years before potential promotion and from across the firm’s international offices. Associates work with a partner, an HR representative and a Pearn Kandola psychologist. Individuals are assessed on business-critical skills through a series of realistic, engaging and challenging activities, all pitched at first-year partner level. The output of the development centre is a report outlining strengths and development areas and a development plan on which associates are encouraged to work closely with their sponsor partners. Via Pearn Kandola’s Dashboard they can also look at all the data gathered about them and share it with colleagues and coaches. More than fifty interactive management development tools are available to help them plug any gaps in their skill set. The firm is also working on a comprehensive programme of development support following the PPDC.

Learning & Development Manager, Kate Littlefair commented: “The new approach is working well. Associates have a deeper understanding of what being a partner entails, their individual strengths and development areas, and are able to use the time following the development centre to pro-actively prepare their partnership proposition. Feedback from associates has been very positive.

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