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

(On Campus Interviews, Summer Associate positions, Firm Reviews, Tips, ...)
Forum rules
Anonymous Posting

Anonymous posting is only appropriate when you are revealing sensitive employment related information about a firm, job, etc. You may anonymously respond on topic to these threads. Unacceptable uses include: harassing another user, joking around, testing the feature, or other things that are more appropriate in the lounge.

Failure to follow these rules will get you outed, warned, or banned.
Lettow

New
Posts: 76
Joined: Wed Apr 02, 2014 12:51 am

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

Postby Lettow » Thu Jul 06, 2017 11:56 am

lolwat wrote:All factors considered (including voluntary attrition), anywhere from "close to 0%" to "25%" for partnership is well within a reasonable ballpark to consider as a general matter. Quite obviously where in that range, or if the % should be higher, depends on more facts that we don't have. Doesn't mean giving a reasonable ballpark is ridiculous.

At the vast majority of firms (yes even small ones), you need the stars to align to make partner. Just sticking it out and doing good work still isn't going to cut it by any means.


This is untrue as evidenced by the number of partners in the United States.

User avatar
A. Nony Mouse

Diamond
Posts: 29306
Joined: Tue Sep 25, 2012 11:51 am

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

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Thu Jul 06, 2017 12:00 pm

My point is that if a firm expects some number of people to leave before they come up for partner, they may select for factors other than partnership potential.

I don't think you can make any assumptions about the expectations for 20-something mostly partner firms. Completely depends on the partners and their economic goals and models for growth and so on.

We're going to have to disagree about voluntary attrition. I don't think the OP is exempt from the factors that lead others to choose to leave; he's just as subject to voluntary attrition as anyone else. So I don't think the distinction you're making even works. It's all attrition. Someone who hasn't worked a day at this firm is just as likely to leave before partner as anyone else.

And I don't get the point about the number of partners. What does that mean? Don't you also have to look at the number of associates?

lolwat

Silver
Posts: 1216
Joined: Tue Nov 16, 2010 2:30 pm

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

Postby lolwat » Thu Jul 06, 2017 12:04 pm

A. Nony Mouse wrote:And I don't get the point about the number of partners. What does that mean? Don't you also have to look at the number of associates?


At this point I don't know if he's just deliberately missing the point or arguing something different than we are. I mean I guess if OP wants to be a "partner" at a firm he can always just start his own firm with a buddy and they can both be "partners," but that's significantly different than the kind of "making partner" that we're talking about.

Lettow

New
Posts: 76
Joined: Wed Apr 02, 2014 12:51 am

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

Postby Lettow » Thu Jul 06, 2017 12:14 pm

A. Nony Mouse wrote:My point is that if a firm expects some number of people to leave before they come up for partner, they may select for factors other than partnership potential.

I don't think you can make any assumptions about the expectations for 20-something mostly partner firms. Completely depends on the partners and their economic goals and models for growth and so on.

We're going to have to disagree about voluntary attrition. I don't think the OP is exempt from the factors that lead others to choose to leave; he's just as subject to voluntary attrition as anyone else. So I don't think the distinction you're making even works. It's all attrition. Someone who hasn't worked a day at this firm is just as likely to leave before partner as anyone else.

And I don't get the point about the number of partners. What does that mean? Don't you also have to look at the number of associates?


But, as I think everyone here agrees, voluntary attrition does in fact occur. So, law firm takes into account voluntary attrition, hires OP and presumably other associates at some point before or after hiring OP, voluntary attrition then occurs, and OP continues working steadily along until partnership. I'm still not sure how the discussion was relevant.

I agree that a lot depends and that's the most cautious answer in response to a question about any particular firm. I'm asking if you personally think the average 20+ attorney law firm (that has more partners to associates) typically hires associates not expecting them to make partners?

I don't think OP is necessarily exempt from voluntary attrition, but you know why wouldn't you respond to everyone's question with, "well, just remember, you could die tomorrow, so just factor that into consideration." This is an exaggeration, but it's meant to convey the point that just because it could happen to OP and would be factored in if this were some analysis conducted by an actuary... doesn't mean it's helpful to OP's question.

Yes, look at associates. Assertion: It's extremely hard to make partner -- stars basically must align. That's so clearly a huge exaggeration that I didn't bother making a long point fully articulating my reasoning. If someone said the sky were purple...

User avatar
rpupkin

Platinum
Posts: 5659
Joined: Mon Dec 09, 2013 10:32 pm

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

Postby rpupkin » Thu Jul 06, 2017 12:24 pm

Here's a nice illustration of the argument going on ITT. Lettow is essentially using the "logic" that Kramer adopts to explain why he didn't lose his bet with Jerry:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9qPA_-4les

Lettow

New
Posts: 76
Joined: Wed Apr 02, 2014 12:51 am

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

Postby Lettow » Thu Jul 06, 2017 12:24 pm

lolwat wrote:
A. Nony Mouse wrote:And I don't get the point about the number of partners. What does that mean? Don't you also have to look at the number of associates?


At this point I don't know if he's just deliberately missing the point or arguing something different than we are. I mean I guess if OP wants to be a "partner" at a firm he can always just start his own firm with a buddy and they can both be "partners," but that's significantly different than the kind of "making partner" that we're talking about.


You seem to have an inflated notion of making partner. It's not a crazy thing. It happens.

I think biglaw culture and/or this board culture (which is influenced by biglaw culture) explains a lot of the thoughts in this thread about making partner.

Anonymous User
Posts: 327241
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

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

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jul 06, 2017 12:28 pm

A. Nony Mouse wrote: The mid/small firm (very respectable/respected in its small market) I worked for in 2010 had about 25 attorneys and I think 9-11 partners. Today they have about 9 attorneys total and 2 partners. Whatever partnership expectations they had for an associate hired in 2010 don't mean anything now.


That's a pretty drastic change. Do you know what led to this? Were they in business for a long time or was it a new firm? Is this also normal among small/midsize firms?

Lettow

New
Posts: 76
Joined: Wed Apr 02, 2014 12:51 am

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

Postby Lettow » Thu Jul 06, 2017 12:30 pm

rpupkin wrote:Here's a nice illustration of the argument going on ITT. Lettow is essentially using the "logic" that Kramer adopts to explain why he didn't lose his bet with Jerry:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9qPA_-4les


I can't view the link. But, I'm going to assume your use of the word "essentially" is stretching it past its definition. :P

User avatar
elendinel

Silver
Posts: 975
Joined: Fri Jan 03, 2014 12:29 pm

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

Postby elendinel » Thu Jul 06, 2017 12:33 pm

Lettow wrote:Do you know of many law firms with 20~ attorneys that use "special counsel" titles in a way that it is as you explained a consolation prize for associates who got turned down for partner? I've only ever seen special counsel titles reserved for people who (1) voluntarily requested it, say for working from home, or (2) were retired/retiring.


I know of a few. The exact number doesn't matter, anyway, because my point was not that everyone is guaranteed SC (not "of counsel") if they don't get partner, but that there are lots of alternatives to partner that allow firms to retain labor while not making half their incoming classes partners.

I don't think anyone in this thread argued firms risked losing labor if they didn't promote associates.


You basically argued the only way a firm can have a 25% partnership rate is if it's doing mass firings. My point is that this is demonstratively false.

This is all going to depend on how the firm is structured and the circumstances relating to that firm. It's difficult making a blanket statement like the one you're making, because there are firms that make a ton of money and half of its attorneys are in fact partners. I agree that law firms can have a general hiring strategy of maintaining a partner-associate ratio, but I don't see how that's particularly relevant in this conversation.


The fact that a firm can be profitable with 50% of its attorneys being partners does not negate the fact that it'd be more profitable without 50% of its attorneys being partners. And most firms do care about profits, even if you can find a handful that don't.

And it's relevant because obviously a partner-associate ratio is going to play into how many people a firm promotes to partner. You can't ensure only 20% of attorneys are partners at your firm if you're promoting 100% of every class to partner, as one example.



As for the voluntary attrition discussion, you're acting like voluntary attrition only affects OP's chances if OP is the one to lateral. As I mentioned previously, plenty of people lateral into other firms as partner prospects. Someone leaving OP's firm is likely to get replaced by someone expected to be partnership material; that will affect OP's chances to become a partner him/herself. If five attorneys leave OP's firm and are replaced by a partner and three 5th-years, that changes OP's chances to become partner. This is all going into the equation of what are OP's chances of making partner at any particular firm. This is why you're not guaranteed to make partner just for showing up and doing your job and not defecting for any reason.

And yes, every firm hires people expecting some number of them not to be partner, for all sorts of reasons. Just like United overbooks their flights expecting some number of passengers not to show up.

User avatar
A. Nony Mouse

Diamond
Posts: 29306
Joined: Tue Sep 25, 2012 11:51 am

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

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Thu Jul 06, 2017 12:38 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
A. Nony Mouse wrote: The mid/small firm (very respectable/respected in its small market) I worked for in 2010 had about 25 attorneys and I think 9-11 partners. Today they have about 9 attorneys total and 2 partners. Whatever partnership expectations they had for an associate hired in 2010 don't mean anything now.


That's a pretty drastic change. Do you know what led to this? Were they in business for a long time or was it a new firm? Is this also normal among small/midsize firms?

Money and internal conflicts, as far as I can tell. It was a newer firm - it had been around just under 20 years. The named partners fired a bunch of people one day saying they had run out of money/business. I know a couple of the fired partners sued, saying that the named partners just wanted to keep the proceeds of a very recent huge jury award for themselves. It went into arbitration so I don't know the outcome.

It's a sort of drastic example and I wouldn't say it's normal but I also wouldn't say it's unheard of. You could trace a lot of changes in smaller firms in my law school market over time. (Also big ones, of course, if firms merge.) I've also seen a lot of law school classmates change firms since graduating in 2011. So far the only partners are people who started their own firms, though I do know of partners in small firms in the year ahead of me and the year behind me.

I actually agree that making partner in smaller firms is different from making partner in biglaw, but I also agree with the point earlier that now is not really the time to be worrying about it (or that it's not a major consideration for taking the job).

lolwat

Silver
Posts: 1216
Joined: Tue Nov 16, 2010 2:30 pm

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

Postby lolwat » Thu Jul 06, 2017 12:41 pm

Lettow wrote:You seem to have an inflated notion of making partner. It's not a crazy thing. It happens.

I think biglaw culture and/or this board culture (which is influenced by biglaw culture) explains a lot of the thoughts in this thread about making partner.


I agree that a lot depends and that's the most cautious answer in response to a question about any particular firm. I'm asking if you personally think the average 20+ attorney law firm (that has more partners to associates) typically hires associates not expecting them to make partners?


You seem to think that the average, let's say "small-ish" (since I hope we can all agree to remove 2-5 person law firms from this discussion) law firms generally hire associates expecting them to make partners. I don't. I work at one of these "small-ish" law firms (although we're more like 15 attorneys rather than 20+) and the majority of people I know also work at these "small-ish" law firms because the power in the market I'm in comes largely from these firms and not the big-law satellites. These "small-ish" firms can be vastly different than biglaw, but what they generally all have in common is that they do not need more partners.

The partners already at the firm are the rainmaker partners and the established service partners. They need associates and non-partners to do, well, associate and non-partner tasks. To make partner you need to be more valuable than the money they'd be paying you. That doesn't happen just because you're good at what you do and you're billing xxxx hours at an hourly rate of $yyy. You need to take over an existing client from a retiring partner, to build/have your own book of business, or to be a good service partner that they actually happen to need and have enough work for.

The good thing is that those associate/non-partners often have a long life at these small firms, because it's not an up-or-out model. And sometimes that does lead to an increased chance of making partner, because you're not looking at "either I'll make partner in 8 years or I'm out of the firm," you can stay there for 15, 20 years as a "senior associate" and possibly eventually become partner from there. But thinking that the average "small-ish" law firm hires every associate (or even a large number of them) with the expectation that they'll make partner just by sticking around long enough is not correct.

Also,

Money and internal conflicts, as far as I can tell. It was a newer firm - it had been around just under 20 years. The named partners fired a bunch of people one day saying they had run out of money/business. I know a couple of the fired partners sued, saying that the named partners just wanted to keep the proceeds of a very recent huge jury award for themselves. It went into arbitration so I don't know the outcome.


I have a feeling I know this firm.. I interviewed there in like 2012 and I guess I dodged a bullet when they never got back to me after my callback...
Maybe we met :)

User avatar
A. Nony Mouse

Diamond
Posts: 29306
Joined: Tue Sep 25, 2012 11:51 am

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

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Thu Jul 06, 2017 12:44 pm

You might think that; I couldn't possibly comment. :wink:

(I wondered if that was too identifiable; I guess so! I was only there as a summer so wasn't involved in hiring.)

User avatar
PeanutsNJam

Gold
Posts: 4577
Joined: Tue Jul 10, 2012 1:57 pm

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

Postby PeanutsNJam » Thu Jul 06, 2017 3:52 pm

Just saw on Linkedin that a 1 partner 1 associate firm just became a 2 partner 0 associate firm, so hey, partnership prospects are 100% at some places!

Bluem_11

Bronze
Posts: 201
Joined: Sat Jun 11, 2016 1:03 pm

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

Postby Bluem_11 » Thu Jul 06, 2017 4:11 pm

I haven't seen much discussion yet on equity vs non equity partner if we want to add another layer to this convoluted thread.

User avatar
AVBucks4239

Silver
Posts: 958
Joined: Wed Feb 10, 2010 11:37 pm

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

Postby AVBucks4239 » Fri Jul 07, 2017 12:02 pm

This thread would be akin to a 0L posting, "What are my chances to get into Berkeley," without providing LSAT, GPA, URM status, or other relevant information.

Sure, a flat range might be technically be accurate (if we divide applicants accepted by total applicants), but that number is of little value to a person with specific numbers.

Similarly here, OP's initial post lacks any identifiable information that could assist people in making any sort of educated guess. Firms come in a million shapes and sizes, they are in different markets, they have different norms, they have different practice groups, they have different compensation models, on and on and on.

Thus, as I stated earlier (as an anon), the range of 0-25% is of little value to OP. He might have much higher chances than 0-25%, he might not, but the blanket assertion is basically pointless, which is why I strongly objected to its use in the first place.

User avatar
rpupkin

Platinum
Posts: 5659
Joined: Mon Dec 09, 2013 10:32 pm

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

Postby rpupkin » Fri Jul 07, 2017 12:21 pm

AVBucks4239 wrote: Thus, as I stated earlier (as an anon), the range of 0-25% is of little value to OP. He might have much higher chances than 0-25%

Just to help me understand where you're coming from, do you mind explaining some plausible circumstances where OP's chances of making partner would be "much higher" than 25%?

User avatar
Desert Fox

Diamond
Posts: 18290
Joined: Thu Sep 04, 2014 4:34 pm

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

Postby Desert Fox » Fri Jul 07, 2017 12:31 pm

Bluem_11 wrote:I haven't seen much discussion yet on equity vs non equity partner if we want to add another layer to this convoluted thread.


Or really the fact that for many small firms (and never some big ones) being partner doesn't mean shit. I'm working with a small IP firm on a case. One of the partners there is a 2006 grad. I'm sure I make more than he does. Even if he has equity, they aren't killing it with 2 mil per partner profits. I bet it's more like 300k, if that. And this in a pretty profitable niche.


And the better the odds you have, the worse the payout is.

Also a lot of small boutiques you do have a real 0% chance. All business is brought in my a superstar, who feeds it to his pet partners. They don't' need anyone else.

If you want to have a good shot at partnership, lateral to a very new boutique. That's the best shot.
Last edited by Desert Fox on Sat Jan 27, 2018 12:12 am, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
AVBucks4239

Silver
Posts: 958
Joined: Wed Feb 10, 2010 11:37 pm

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

Postby AVBucks4239 » Fri Jul 07, 2017 1:06 pm

rpupkin wrote:
AVBucks4239 wrote: Thus, as I stated earlier (as an anon), the range of 0-25% is of little value to OP. He might have much higher chances than 0-25%

Just to help me understand where you're coming from, do you mind explaining some plausible circumstances where OP's chances of making partner would be "much higher" than 25%?

Basically the only nugget OP gave us was that it was a 26 lawyer firm, and that would be a large firm in his market. I work at a 24 lawyer firm and it is the biggest law firm in my market. So, I'm just going off my experience of having worked at a big fish in a small pond.

There are so many statements in this thread from people who quite clearly don't have this similar experience. Sure, I can tell some of you have worked in small firms, but I don't quite get the sense that some of you guys have worked in small firms in truly small markets. The post above mine about "only" making $300k is laughable to someone like me. The partners at my firm make $90k-$160k (plus bonuses), and that's an absolute killing where I live.

This is important because I think the attitude of "we don't hire an associate unless we can name him partner" is much more prevalent in small markets than people on here are anticipating. I'm not talking Cleveland or Columbus small, I'm not talking Akron and Dayton and Grand Rapids type small. If this 26 lawyer firm is a big firm for this market, we are talking about towns like Utica and Scranton and Ashtabula. The cost of hiring and training an associate is a much bigger expense to these small firms--it's usually a losing proposition for at least 2-3 years--so they only take on that expense if they think they can keep the associate long term.

Anecdotal, I know: but my firm has hired seven associates since 2000, and four of them have been named partner. Hopefully I make that five out of seven. There are three firms similar to mine in my market, and only one is known for not offering partnership when the time is right.

OP's firm could have a similar ethos, but you would have no idea based on the limited information provided.

gregfootball2001

Bronze
Posts: 458
Joined: Tue Oct 25, 2011 8:35 am

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

Postby gregfootball2001 » Fri Jul 07, 2017 1:09 pm

rpupkin wrote:
AVBucks4239 wrote: Thus, as I stated earlier (as an anon), the range of 0-25% is of little value to OP. He might have much higher chances than 0-25%

Just to help me understand where you're coming from, do you mind explaining some plausible circumstances where OP's chances of making partner would be "much higher" than 25%?

Not that poster, but here's an example for you. At my midsize firm (~120 lawyers total), you need to bring in X dollars and do Y amount of work to make income partner. It's typical for more experienced associates to have a lot of client contact, so they frequently get part of the split on new matters with those clients (which counts towards the X number). With those splits and some new business, making income partner is relatively straightforward, and the chances of doing so are much higher than 25%.

OP's firm may not work like this at all, we don't know. However, this is a plausible circumstance that exists.



Return to “Legal Employment�

Who is online

The online users are hidden on this forum.