Jean-Yves Gilg

Editor, Solicitors Journal

60-second interview: Colin Passmore

60-second interview: Colin Passmore


The senior partner at Simmons & Simmons discusses the firm's 120-year history and his plans to evolve a business development ethos and continue with diversity efforts

In 2013 you were elected as senior partner for a second term - testimony to the quality of the work you do at Simmons & Simmons. What do you think your key leadership attributes are?

I believe it is vital to lead from the front and therefore to be seen to have ideas, to lead initiatives, to take responsibility, and to work in a collaborative and collegial manner with all of my colleagues, from partners all the way through to our business support colleagues.

That term is due to expire in August 2017. What do you want to achieve in the next year and a half?

I want to continue our focus
on business development, and
our key ambitions here are to embed a natural BD ethos in all of our lawyers (and our business support colleagues) so that this becomes second nature. That
in turn involves hard work in maintaining a clear client focus.

You've once again been named a 'star performer' by Stonewall for your diversity efforts. What advice would you give other law firms looking to become more inclusive organisations?

Diversity efforts have to be led from the top and they have to be led sincerely. I also think the use of straight allies (particularly in an LGBT context) is a superb signal of just how seriously these diversity efforts are
being taken.

Although Simmons & Simmons's expansion sprawls across Europe and Asia, is a merger, perhaps with a US firm, on the horizon?

We do require enhanced US law capabilities but I don't think a merger is on the horizon. We do, of course, have an excellent alliance relationship with Seward & Kissel in New York.

If you were to merge, what would be three key priorities for your law firm?

There would have to be a good business fit, a good cultural fit, and a joint business vision.

Simmons & Simmons is an incredible 120 years old. Has its original legacy lasted over 100 years? Is there a sense of heritage about the firm?

Your question made me realise that I am about to complete 30 years with the firm, which represents 25 per cent of its 120-year existence. The firm has, of course, changed enormously over this time but our roots and heritage from the 19th century remain important and will never be forgotten.

The war on talent is widely reported across the legal press: pay for newly qualified solicitors is soaring, firms' retention rates are pitted against one another, and NQ recruitment is big business. What does Simmons do to retain its younger talent?

Clearly, we have to look to compete with the market, but
I would like to think that our values-driven approach and our high-performance culture, with its focus on acting for top clients and their top work, is a big draw for our younger talent.

And finally, what are the biggest threats for the
City's law firms in the next
five years?

Where do we start? Macro-economic issues are a focus
for all senior management teams at the moment (for example, considerations
about a Brexit, interest rates, economic stagnation, the People's Republic of China,
the Middle East, and so forth).

And then, of course, there
are the threats from the new challengers. I think what we
will do is just focus, focus,
focus on our clients and
their business. SJ

Colin Passmore is the senior partner at Simmons & Simmons and the author of Privilege