How reasonable is it to to think you can make partner?

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How reasonable is it to to think you can make partner?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jul 02, 2017 5:48 pm

I have an offer from a 26 size law firm in a small market (this would be a large law firm for this city) and a government job with the county counsel. The government job has job security but lower pay. The midsize law firm is about $40,000 more in pay, but I am in at-will employee that could be fired whenever. My question is, what are the chances of making partner at a firm like this? It only has some 7 associates, so it's very partner heavy. Which makes me believe I'd have a good shot at making partner some 10 years down the line, which would pay more than any salary cap the government could give me, even though I wouldn't know what those numbers while I can look up what the government would pay an Attorney V.

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Re: How reasonable is it to to think you can make partner?

Postby rpupkin » Sun Jul 02, 2017 6:03 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I have an offer from a 26 size law firm in a small market (this would be a large law firm for this city) and a government job with the county counsel. The government job has job security but lower pay. The midsize law firm is about $40,000 more in pay, but I am in at-will employee that could be fired whenever. My question is, what are the chances of making partner at a firm like this? It only has some 7 associates, so it's very partner heavy. Which makes me believe I'd have a good shot at making partner some 10 years down the line.

You can't make assumptions based on those numbers alone. What is the growth model for the firm? What is the age of the primary rainmakers? Many small and mid-size firms go through a period of rapid growth where pretty much any decent associate becomes partner, but then the firm will essentially freeze partnership promotion in order to keep firm size low. So, depending on information you haven't provided (and may not know), I'd guess that your partnership chances at this firm are somewhere between close to 0% and 25%.

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Re: How reasonable is it to to think you can make partner?

Postby favabeansoup » Sun Jul 02, 2017 6:14 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I have an offer from a 26 size law firm in a small market (this would be a large law firm for this city) and a government job with the county counsel. The government job has job security but lower pay. The midsize law firm is about $40,000 more in pay, but I am in at-will employee that could be fired whenever. My question is, what are the chances of making partner at a firm like this? It only has some 7 associates, so it's very partner heavy. Which makes me believe I'd have a good shot at making partner some 10 years down the line, which would pay more than any salary cap the government could give me, even though I wouldn't know what those numbers while I can look up what the government would pay an Attorney V.


What's retention rate like? How many associates have they hired/how many have left in the past ~5ish years? How many partners were former associates? Is there a business origination requirement for partnership consideration? Etc.

These are all more appropriate questions to ask when actually thinking about partnership vs just guessing based on number of associates vs partners.

There are many firms out there that are partner heavy but churn through associates like a hot knife through butter. I think these are honest and appropriate questions to ask of current associates there if you have an offer in hand.

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Re: How reasonable is it to to think you can make partner?

Postby rpupkin » Sun Jul 02, 2017 6:22 pm

favabeansoup wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I have an offer from a 26 size law firm in a small market (this would be a large law firm for this city) and a government job with the county counsel. The government job has job security but lower pay. The midsize law firm is about $40,000 more in pay, but I am in at-will employee that could be fired whenever. My question is, what are the chances of making partner at a firm like this? It only has some 7 associates, so it's very partner heavy. Which makes me believe I'd have a good shot at making partner some 10 years down the line, which would pay more than any salary cap the government could give me, even though I wouldn't know what those numbers while I can look up what the government would pay an Attorney V.


What's retention rate like? How many associates have they hired/how many have left in the past ~5ish years? How many partners were former associates? Is there a business origination requirement for partnership consideration? Etc.

These are all more appropriate questions to ask when actually thinking about partnership vs just guessing based on number of associates vs partners.

There are many firms out there that are partner heavy but churn through associates like a hot knife through butter. I think these are honest and appropriate questions to ask of current associates there if you have an offer in hand.

I agree that these are good questions to ask. For the reasons I hinted at above, though, answers to these questions won't give you a complete picture. Especially with smaller firms, you can't predict future partnership-promotion patterns based on past firm behavior. It's not uncommon for newer firms to make partners like crazy and then freeze up once they realize that their revenue model can't sustain more partners.

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Re: How reasonable is it to to think you can make partner?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jul 02, 2017 6:30 pm

favabeansoup wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I have an offer from a 26 size law firm in a small market (this would be a large law firm for this city) and a government job with the county counsel. The government job has job security but lower pay. The midsize law firm is about $40,000 more in pay, but I am in at-will employee that could be fired whenever. My question is, what are the chances of making partner at a firm like this? It only has some 7 associates, so it's very partner heavy. Which makes me believe I'd have a good shot at making partner some 10 years down the line, which would pay more than any salary cap the government could give me, even though I wouldn't know what those numbers while I can look up what the government would pay an Attorney V.


What's retention rate like? How many associates have they hired/how many have left in the past ~5ish years? How many partners were former associates? Is there a business origination requirement for partnership consideration? Etc.

These are all more appropriate questions to ask when actually thinking about partnership vs just guessing based on number of associates vs partners.

There are many firms out there that are partner heavy but churn through associates like a hot knife through butter. I think these are honest and appropriate questions to ask of current associates there if you have an offer in hand.



These are great questions. From their website, I can see that they hired at least 8 associates within the past 4 years, for a total of 9 associates. One of those 9 associates went to big law, so they currently have 8 associates. The rest are partners with a couple of-counsel. Hard to say how many partners were former associates, website doesn't really say.

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Re: How reasonable is it to to think you can make partner?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jul 04, 2017 4:26 pm

It seems like your firm doesn't hire associates that often, but it also could just be indicative of the nature of a small firm.

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Re: How reasonable is it to to think you can make partner?

Postby Bluem_11 » Tue Jul 04, 2017 4:50 pm

rpupkin wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I have an offer from a 26 size law firm in a small market (this would be a large law firm for this city) and a government job with the county counsel. The government job has job security but lower pay. The midsize law firm is about $40,000 more in pay, but I am in at-will employee that could be fired whenever. My question is, what are the chances of making partner at a firm like this? It only has some 7 associates, so it's very partner heavy. Which makes me believe I'd have a good shot at making partner some 10 years down the line.

You can't make assumptions based on those numbers alone. What is the growth model for the firm? What is the age of the primary rainmakers? Many small and mid-size firms go through a period of rapid growth where pretty much any decent associate becomes partner, but then the firm will essentially freeze partnership promotion in order to keep firm size low. So, depending on information you haven't provided (and may not know), I'd guess that your partnership chances at this firm are somewhere between close to 0% and 25%.


Ya at a firm I was at small-ish firm around 20-30 lawyers......I saw 2 associates promoted to partnership around age 30-32, but given how young most of partners were, and how few associates we had including me, I knew I had a 0% shot at making it there.

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Re: How reasonable is it to to think you can make partner?

Postby Lettow » Wed Jul 05, 2017 9:37 am

Anonymous User wrote:I have an offer from a 26 size law firm in a small market (this would be a large law firm for this city) and a government job with the county counsel. The government job has job security but lower pay. The midsize law firm is about $40,000 more in pay, but I am in at-will employee that could be fired whenever.


Another factor to consider is which of the two options looks better on your resume. The former sounds better than the latter. Being the largest firm in a city located in a small market is usually a sign of prestige/reputation, which would add to your resume if you worked there for 2-3 years.

rpupkin wrote:You can't make assumptions based on those numbers alone. What is the growth model for the firm? What is the age of the primary rainmakers? Many small and mid-size firms go through a period of rapid growth where pretty much any decent associate becomes partner, but then the firm will essentially freeze partnership promotion in order to keep firm size low. So, depending on information you haven't provided (and may not know), I'd guess that your partnership chances at this firm are somewhere between close to 0% and 25%.


Where did you get these extremely low numbers? A flat 0% chance at partnership? Is this a meme or something? OP provided very little information that I don't see the point of you saying "0% and 25%." That seems like pure scaremongering here...

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Re: How reasonable is it to to think you can make partner?

Postby 2014 » Wed Jul 05, 2017 10:13 am

I assume your odds at partnership are intertwined with your ability to bring in business. Very very rare for a firm that size to have enough stable clients to make an associate a partner to service existing business alone, even if partners are good about transitioning their business to you as retirement approaches.

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Re: How reasonable is it to to think you can make partner?

Postby nealric » Wed Jul 05, 2017 10:15 am

Partnership prospects at any specific firm for a new associate are very difficult to predict because they are heavily dependent on your performance over the next decade and random political/economic currents over the next decade.

If your greatest goal in life is to be a law firm partner somewhere, that's probably achievable. But most people decide they either don't want to be at a law firm, or they are happy enough at their present place in a non-partner role.

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Re: How reasonable is it to to think you can make partner?

Postby rpupkin » Wed Jul 05, 2017 11:05 am

Lettow wrote:Where did you get these extremely low numbers? A flat 0% chance at partnership? Is this a meme or something? OP provided very little information that I don't see the point of you saying "0% and 25%." That seems like pure scaremongering here...

I explained in my two posts in this thread why the OP's chances of partnership "might be close to 0%" at a small law firm. I'm sorry you don't understand the explanation. It's not a meme and it's not scaremongering.

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Re: How reasonable is it to to think you can make partner?

Postby Lettow » Wed Jul 05, 2017 11:09 am

rpupkin wrote:
Lettow wrote:Where did you get these extremely low numbers? A flat 0% chance at partnership? Is this a meme or something? OP provided very little information that I don't see the point of you saying "0% and 25%." That seems like pure scaremongering here...

I explained in my two posts in this thread why the OP's chances of partnership "might be close to 0%" at a small law firm. I'm sorry you don't understand the explanation. It's not a meme and it's not scaremongering.


Yes, I implied you pulled the number out of your ass, but your response doesn't answer why you pulled that particular *scary sounding* number out of your ass.

As others have said, OP provided such little information that you could not have reasonably made an educated guess as to the likely probability OP would make partner at this law firm.

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Re: How reasonable is it to to think you can make partner?

Postby rpupkin » Wed Jul 05, 2017 11:17 am

Lettow wrote:
rpupkin wrote:
Lettow wrote:Where did you get these extremely low numbers? A flat 0% chance at partnership? Is this a meme or something? OP provided very little information that I don't see the point of you saying "0% and 25%." That seems like pure scaremongering here...

I explained in my two posts in this thread why the OP's chances of partnership "might be close to 0%" at a small law firm. I'm sorry you don't understand the explanation. It's not a meme and it's not scaremongering.


Yes, I implied you pulled the number out of your ass, but your response doesn't answer why you pulled that particular *scary sounding* number out of your ass.

Did you even read my initial post? I said basically what you're saying—that we can't estimate the OP's chances without more information. The possibilities range from almost no chance on the low end to a decent chance on the high end (25% is a very high chance of making partner, in case you didn't know). Honestly, I'm not sure what your issue is here.

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Re: How reasonable is it to to think you can make partner?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jul 05, 2017 11:44 am

2014 wrote:I assume your odds at partnership are intertwined with your ability to bring in business. Very very rare for a firm that size to have enough stable clients to make an associate a partner to service existing business alone, even if partners are good about transitioning their business to you as retirement approaches.


OP here. Okay that makes sense, they duscussed during the interview that my long term goal at the firm should be to one day bring in business. They also told me they hire associates with the intention that they become partners. With a statement like that, they infer I'd have a good shot at making partner down the line as long as I bring in business.

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Re: How reasonable is it to to think you can make partner?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jul 05, 2017 12:33 pm

OP, I work at a firm very similar to yours--biggest firm in a small city, 25 attorneys, partner-heavy, etc. It's almost impossible to predict your partnership chances, but here's my two cents.

I've been here three years and have had some highs and lows. But I just got a 10% raise and actually am starting to sit on interviews for new associates. I also just had a meeting with a partner who explained the partner compensation model in great detail, explained how much I could make as a partner, etc. While I haven't been named partner yet, all things are pointing towards the firm thinking I'm going to be here long term.

I've only heard of one associate who stayed here 7-8 years and didn't make partner. Other than that, if you can survive for 6 years and do a good job, you'll be made partner here.

Regardless of what firm it is, my recommendation to maximize partnership chances would be to find two partners in the firm: one close to retirement who has a niche business and a rainmaker. Do everything you can to inherit the niche practice of the retiring partner, then bend over backwards for the rainmaker. Do a decent job doing minuscule assignments for other partners and keep a good rapport with them. Attend the local bar events and join a couple volunteer organizations to bring in your own business. This should set you up with a decent chance.

I'll also echo what somebody else said: working for the biggest firm in a small town has a gravitas that carries with you. I tell people what firm I work at and it's instant credibility. I've had multiple job offers this past year without submitting any applications or anything.

Last thing because I can't help myself: I have to just LOL at big firm lawyers in NYC blabbering with respect to partnership chances with such little information provided. Get out of your NYC bubble--the rest of the country doesn't operate like a bunch of workaholic assholes fighting for every cent and ounce of prestige that they can.

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Re: How reasonable is it to to think you can make partner?

Postby rpupkin » Wed Jul 05, 2017 12:45 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Last thing because I can't help myself: I have to just LOL at big firm lawyers in NYC blabbering with respect to partnership chances with such little information provided. Get out of your NYC bubble--the rest of the country doesn't operate like a bunch of workaholic assholes fighting for every cent and ounce of prestige that they can.

You spent five paragraphs "blabbering with respect to partnership chances"—longer than any other poster in this thread—and then you mock others for doing likewise.

Not all of us are in NYC big law, by the way.

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Re: How reasonable is it to to think you can make partner?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jul 05, 2017 12:49 pm

rpupkin wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Last thing because I can't help myself: I have to just LOL at big firm lawyers in NYC blabbering with respect to partnership chances with such little information provided. Get out of your NYC bubble--the rest of the country doesn't operate like a bunch of workaholic assholes fighting for every cent and ounce of prestige that they can.

You spent five paragraphs "blabbering with respect to partnership chances"—longer than any other poster in this thread—and then you mock others for doing likewise. Not all of us are in NYC big law, by the way.


(a) My post didn't reference a single thing related to OP's chance of making partner other than my suggestion to maximize partnership chances (since these seem to be pretty universal maxims to live by). For you to even state a percentage is laughably silly.

(b) I actually work in a firm similar to OP and was just sharing my own personal experience.

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Re: How reasonable is it to to think you can make partner?

Postby lolwat » Wed Jul 05, 2017 12:52 pm

Firms vary too much to know.
Plus, some of them fucking change over time.
I'm at a small firm and used to think I had a shot here if I stayed and did awesome work for 6-7 years for them. Before you laugh, that was actually realistic and the type of vibe the partners gave.
Then over the years, the firm morphed, hired a bunch of "senior associates," and now it's pretty clear partnership is going to those who are both "senior" enough and can bring in business. Lowly peeps like me will have to wait another 10 years or so.

Really just something you have to feel out.

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Re: How reasonable is it to to think you can make partner?

Postby rpupkin » Wed Jul 05, 2017 12:54 pm

Anonymous User wrote:(a) My post didn't reference a single thing related to OP's chance of making partner other than my suggestion to maximize partnership chances (since these seem to be pretty universal maxims to live by). For you to even state a percentage is laughably silly.

I didn't state a percentage. I stated a range and I stand by it. And I think the considerations I raised (age of rainmaking partners and long-term growth model) are exactly the kinds of issues that OP should consider if he is really trying to assess partnership chances at his firm. The stuff you're putting weight on (getting a 10% raise and sitting in on associate interviews) strikes me as pretty laughable, so I suppose there are plenty of lols to go around ITT.

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Re: How reasonable is it to to think you can make partner?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jul 05, 2017 1:23 pm

Anonymous User wrote:OP, I work at a firm very similar to yours--biggest firm in a small city, 25 attorneys, partner-heavy, etc. It's almost impossible to predict your partnership chances, but here's my two cents.

I've been here three years and have had some highs and lows. But I just got a 10% raise and actually am starting to sit on interviews for new associates. I also just had a meeting with a partner who explained the partner compensation model in great detail, explained how much I could make as a partner, etc. While I haven't been named partner yet, all things are pointing towards the firm thinking I'm going to be here long term.

I've only heard of one associate who stayed here 7-8 years and didn't make partner. Other than that, if you can survive for 6 years and do a good job, you'll be made partner here.

Regardless of what firm it is, my recommendation to maximize partnership chances would be to find two partners in the firm: one close to retirement who has a niche business and a rainmaker. Do everything you can to inherit the niche practice of the retiring partner, then bend over backwards for the rainmaker. Do a decent job doing minuscule assignments for other partners and keep a good rapport with them. Attend the local bar events and join a couple volunteer organizations to bring in your own business. This should set you up with a decent chance.

I'll also echo what somebody else said: working for the biggest firm in a small town has a gravitas that carries with you. I tell people what firm I work at and it's instant credibility. I've had multiple job offers this past year without submitting any applications or anything.

Last thing because I can't help myself: I have to just LOL at big firm lawyers in NYC blabbering with respect to partnership chances with such little information provided. Get out of your NYC bubble--the rest of the country doesn't operate like a bunch of workaholic assholes fighting for every cent and ounce of prestige that they can.


As someone who works in an NYC biglaw firm, what you are describing is basically how you make partner here if you are already a midlevel. You work for people in your group with the big institutional clients, try to be the go-to person for a subspecialty within the group (this can be either substance or process oriented), and you build a professional identity and reputation such that you generate business, even if from smaller clients or even if it is internal to current clients (such as being the senior associate the midlevel in-house person calls before calling the partner).

The problem is that this is extremely hard to do when billing 2500 a year, supervising juniors to the level of perfection, and trying to have a life. But if you are the rare person who can do all these things AND the macro and micro economics are right, you will have a shot.

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Re: How reasonable is it to to think you can make partner?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jul 05, 2017 1:48 pm

Anonymous User wrote:As someone who works in an NYC biglaw firm, what you are describing is basically how you make partner here if you are already a midlevel. You work for people in your group with the big institutional clients, try to be the go-to person for a subspecialty within the group (this can be either substance or process oriented), and you build a professional identity and reputation such that you generate business, even if from smaller clients or even if it is internal to current clients (such as being the senior associate the midlevel in-house person calls before calling the partner).

The problem is that this is extremely hard to do when billing 2500 a year, supervising juniors to the level of perfection, and trying to have a life. But if you are the rare person who can do all these things AND the macro and micro economics are right, you will have a shot.


My anecdotal experience is that the bolded isn't such a big issue at a smaller firm. My billable hour requirement is 1,500 FWIW.

Also, and having spoken to a lot of my friends who work Big Law in downtown Cleveland, the "attach yourself to a rainmaker" is even more pronounced in a smaller firm. For example, we have a partner retiring on December 31 of this year and he has a niche client/practice that brings in $100,000 per year in receipts. That's a drop in the bucket at an NYC firm, but it's probably 2.5% of revenues at my firm. So if you can attach yourself to one of these clients, you're putting yourself in a great position.

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Re: How reasonable is it to to think you can make partner?

Postby jchiles » Wed Jul 05, 2017 1:54 pm

Can you bring in new business? It's ok to not know the answer to that now but it's not reasonable to think you'll make partner at a small firm unless you can demonstrate a capability to bring in new clients and expand the revenue base.

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Re: How reasonable is it to to think you can make partner?

Postby Lettow » Wed Jul 05, 2017 2:33 pm

rpupkin wrote:
Lettow wrote:
rpupkin wrote:
Lettow wrote:Where did you get these extremely low numbers? A flat 0% chance at partnership? Is this a meme or something? OP provided very little information that I don't see the point of you saying "0% and 25%." That seems like pure scaremongering here...

I explained in my two posts in this thread why the OP's chances of partnership "might be close to 0%" at a small law firm. I'm sorry you don't understand the explanation. It's not a meme and it's not scaremongering.


Yes, I implied you pulled the number out of your ass, but your response doesn't answer why you pulled that particular *scary sounding* number out of your ass.

Did you even read my initial post? I said basically what you're saying—that we can't estimate the OP's chances without more information. The possibilities range from almost no chance on the low end to a decent chance on the high end (25% is a very high chance of making partner, in case you didn't know). Honestly, I'm not sure what your issue is here.


I read your initial post and agreed with it until you posted the 0-to-25% figure. I think most people in OP's shoes would find that number to be extremely alarming and could encourage them to pick the city attorney position, which may or may not be the better choice. It also seemed like you were basing your figure on standard NYC biglaw thought that dominates this board. This is further evidenced by your later statement that "25% is a very high chance of making partner." (No, it really isn't. For NYC biglaw, sure, but this discussion is not in that realm.)

My issue with your earlier post was it gave bad information, bad information that could have needlessly worried OP. The truth was you had no idea what percentage OP stood at making partner. Throwing out low numbers like "you have a 25% chance, at best, of making partner" doesn't help anyone.

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Re: How reasonable is it to to think you can make partner?

Postby jchiles » Wed Jul 05, 2017 2:36 pm

Idk where you all work but you are absolutely deluding yourself if you think a 25% chance of making partner is low.

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Re: How reasonable is it to to think you can make partner?

Postby Lettow » Wed Jul 05, 2017 2:39 pm

jchiles wrote:Idk where you all work but you are absolutely deluding yourself if you think a 25% chance of making partner is low.


The only way that number couldn't be considered low is if it includes all attrition, including those who just don't like private practice and decided to leave (rather than get fired). Or people have a certain type of small law firm in mind, like the one-or-two partner firm that always seems to employ a harem of 1-2 year rookies.

OP's larger small law firm of 25~ attorneys isn't going to be axing associates left and right. How many associates do people think actually get fired at places like this?



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