Fresh Prince wrote:On the other hand, I have personally worked with 9th, 10th, 12th and 13th year associates and they seemed to be valued commodities. Partners love having them on their cases because they know enough to run shit; clients love having them on their matters because their experience comes comparatively cheap; and the firm management doesn't mind having them around because they're cost effective at a firm where there's only one tier of partnership and the counsel title comes with a significant pay bump. The only person really being "screwed" here, if you can call it screwed (see above re: freezing pay at the top of the associate scale), are the associates themselves.
Those associates are also screwed because they have absolutely zero mobility. They were screwed by their firm being lulled into thinking they had a shot at partner, and were then shut out of it. The problem is that no one else will take them. Clients clearly don't cherish the associates that much because the relationship hasn't turned into a portable book for those associates, and no they're not that good for the firm. Higher salary and nicer title also means higher rates; if the firm can have you bill the same hours for more money and can maintain the realization rate on those hours, you're much better as "of counsel" or "partner," and the fact that you're not good enough to maintain the title to command those higher rates says that if there are associates who can, they will be granted the promotion and you won't.
So no, they're not that cost effective from. Yes, the firm is not losing money on you, but the goal of a big firm (especially the V10s we're discussing in this thread) is not revenue stabilization, it's revenue growth. 13th year associates don't grow the revenue base of a firm; of counsels and equity partners do.
Yes, it sounds "great" being a 13th year associate because you think you have job security, there's no pressure to do be groomed for partnership and you have high, stable pay. But the problem is that you really don't have anywhere else to go, you're a legitimate second-class citizen at the firm (and a permanent one at that), and if the economy tanks and the firm has to lay people off, you're the kind of inefficiency in revenue-generation that they will be targeting to eliminate.
I'm not arguing that being a super senior associate is an ideal career path; far from it. I specifically said most will leave before senior / super senior status on their own accord. I'm merely replying to allay the fear that "up and out" is a motto all law firms enforce, rather than merely reflecting the natural state of things at some places. Many law students fear that they'll be forced out of their firm in 3-5 years, whether they want to leave or not. While that may happen elsewhere, I am merely stating that it does not seem to happen where I work even with our gigantic incoming classes.
To the bolded statement, I think you're being a bit naive if you think V10 firms only elevate a select few to the partnership because they're the only ones "good enough" to command the billing rates of a partner / counsel. I don't want to get into an argument about the economics of a law firm, but there's a much more delicate balance of maintaining a favorable leverage ratio involved than simply a determination of skill. You can be an absolute rock star and get passed over for promotion if your firm feels they cannot support your practice's growth. Whether the firm thinks there isn't enough work for another partner without poaching from others partners, not enough associates/support staff to support taking on more cases, etc. You seem to be arguing that all firms have to do to be more profitable is mint more partners. I think this is a theory of law firm expansion pretty well decimated by Dewey. There's a good reason why most of those highly profitable NYC firms don't make new partners left and right and very rarely hire lateral partners and it's not elitism.