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.