What can we infer from various partner:associate ratios in biglaw?

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What can we infer from various partner:associate ratios in biglaw?

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Feb 09, 2019 7:02 pm

I work in a relatively small office in a secondary market of a market-paying amlaw100 firm. I am in the white collar/commercial lit group. My friend works at a different amlaw100 firm, but all of the other things are the same. I was shocked to hear that his group has over a dozen associates and less than a handful of partners. My group has a handful of associates and a handful of partners. I do not know if one is an anomaly, or if these ratios vary widely from top firm office’s lit group to other top firm’s office’s lit group.

It got me thinking—what can one infer about the health of these very different groups, if anything, from the very different partner:associate ratios?

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Re: What can we infer from various partner:associate ratios in biglaw?

Postby Neff » Sat Feb 09, 2019 8:00 pm

Higher leverage (higher number of associates per partner) is more common in NY than smaller markets, and is generally indicative the firm has higher PPP (but this metric can easily be skewed by the partnership structure, i.e. whether there are non-equity partners). Obviously a highly leveraged office means the partners have, on average, bigger books of business. Whether this is good or bad for the associate varies. Lower leverage may mean more partner mentorship, or it may mean you will be swamped working for multiple partners. The fear with higher leverage is obviously that associates will be canned when the economy goes south.

Leverages of 4-6 associates per partner is not uncommon in NY, while in my market (TX), 2-4 per is the norm (at least in corporate).

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Re: What can we infer from various partner:associate ratios in biglaw?

Postby BeeTeeZ » Sun Feb 10, 2019 2:20 am

I'm wondering the same thing. My firm has a p/a ratio of 4:1 (~300 total). Not sure what that means, if anything.

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Re: What can we infer from various partner:associate ratios in biglaw?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Feb 10, 2019 2:30 am

BeeTeeZ wrote:I'm wondering the same thing. My firm has a p/a ratio of 4:1 (~300 total). Not sure what that means, if anything.


Sorry is that 4 partners for 1 associate? That seems very odd, but my anecdotal sample size probably isn’t large enough to really judge. Are you in lit? Can you provide a bit more info about your group?

Prior poster’s post was very informative, but more info would be useful as well.

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Re: What can we infer from various partner:associate ratios in biglaw?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Feb 10, 2019 1:53 pm

How much does this matter in terms of selecting a practice group? I'm going to a firm and the two groups I'm deciding between have very different partner to associate ratios. One group (general litigation) has a about 20 partners and 70 associates, while the other (regulatory focused litigation-esque practice) has 20 associates to 20 partners. V10 in a major market if that matters.

All else equal, will one of these groups be more enjoyable to work for than the other? Will the group with fewer associates mean I have to fight for work? What about partnership prospects?

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Re: What can we infer from various partner:associate ratios in biglaw?

Postby BeeTeeZ » Tue Feb 12, 2019 12:39 am

Anonymous User wrote:
BeeTeeZ wrote:I'm wondering the same thing. My firm has a p/a ratio of 4:1 (~300 total). Not sure what that means, if anything.


Sorry is that 4 partners for 1 associate? Are you in lit?


Yes and yes.

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Re: What can we infer from various partner:associate ratios in biglaw?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Feb 12, 2019 6:13 am

Anonymous User wrote:How much does this matter in terms of selecting a practice group? I'm going to a firm and the two groups I'm deciding between have very different partner to associate ratios. One group (general litigation) has a about 20 partners and 70 associates, while the other (regulatory focused litigation-esque practice) has 20 associates to 20 partners. V10 in a major market if that matters.

All else equal, will one of these groups be more enjoyable to work for than the other? Will the group with fewer associates mean I have to fight for work? What about partnership prospects?


Doesn't mean anything in and of itself. In terms of lifestyle quality, it may be the case that the leaner group simply has a less labour intensive practice which might be more enjoyable. Or, the partners might just be cheap and difficult to work for and have trouble retaining associates. Same with work/promotion - the 20/20 group might be dying from overwork or they could be doing stuff which is mostly advice-based and partner driven. As for promotion - your odds are better in the 20/70 group making 1 partner a year than in the 20/20 who makes a new partner every 5 years when someone dies.

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Re: What can we infer from various partner:associate ratios in biglaw?

Postby nealric » Tue Feb 12, 2019 10:06 am

Some practices work better with leverage than others. For example, it's fairly rare to find partner to associate ratios in tax of greater than 1:1. In M&A, 1:4 is not uncommon. I do think high-leverage practice groups are less likely to make any given associate partner, but being in a low leverage practice is no guarantee of partnership.



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