The head of a leading West Midland law firm has gone on the attack after promoting five solicitors to equity partner status.

Guy Barnett, managing partner of Blakemores, currently Birmingham's Law Firm of the Year, is angry that he cannot do the same for non-lawyers.

"Whilst I am pleased for these promotees, I am still saddened by the fact that current Law Society regulations prevent me granting promotions into partnership for non-solicitors," Mr Barnett said.

"It is absolutely ludicrous that this restriction has continued and serves no purpose in the modern legal world were firms rely heavily on senior employees in areas such as IT and accounts but cannot promote them in the same way as they can their solicitors.

"The worst example I have seen of this is the Law Society's prejudice against Fellows of the Institute of Legal Executives. ILEX exams are, in my opinion, on par with the Law Society's LPC exams, yet while fellows can be promoted to associate partners they cannot obtain full partnership.

"Following the Clementi Review there is a govern-ment white paper proposing reform, which should come into effect in 2008 thus enabling non-solicitors entry into legal partnerships - but for many this has been far too late in the coming.

"At Blakemores we have at least six individuals whose promotion to part-nership is effectively on hold because of this."

The five lawyers promoted to equity partner by Blakemores underwent an intensive selection process in line with the firm's new assessment procedures which have been adopted at all levels since it obtained the leadership and management model of Investors in People earlier this year.

"These promotions reflect our continued internal growth," Mr Barnett said.

"We are committed to developing the leadership and management ability of staff at all levels and to grant promotions through a transparent process."

Two of the new partners, Susan Pendleton and Constantina Nicolaou, like Mr Barnett, joined the firm as trainee solicitors.

"This commitment to a business organisation for effectively your working life flies in the face of modern trends," he said.

"It shows that with the right organisation corporate loyalty can still reap its rewards."

Carol Clelland aged 35 joined the firm in 1999 firm and heads the child care unit. She is on the Law Society Children's Panel and frequently represents the Respondents to Social Service applications.

James Howard, aged 31, joined the firm in 2001 and heads up the immigration and emigration department.

Michael Baxendale, aged 36, has been with the firm since 1996 and specializes in professional indemnity and property litigation.

Susan Pendleton, aged 30, joined the firm in 1999and has progressed from trainee solicitor to head the one of the commercial property teams.

Constantina Nicolaou, aged 30, joined the firm in 1998 and, like Ms Pendleton, has progressed from her start as trainee solicitor to equity partner.

She currently heads one of the firm's niche insurance litigation teams specialising in major trauma claims.