A lot of people have been emailing Above the Law asking about their partnership prospects. Senior associates who have survived layoffs are evidently concerned about whether they will have an opportunity to transition from employees to owners.
Our tipsters report their anecdotal sense that fewer partners are being made this year, at least compared to years past. One of our sources at Finnegan puts it this way:
How about doing a post on how (un)likely it is to make partner (especially equity) these days?
Finnegan just announced new partners for 2010 and there were only four on the list. Only four new partners (all nonequity) in a firm of almost 400 lawyers and 9 offices.
CORRECTION: Finnegan actually promoted five (not four) associates to partnership. In addition, it promoted a number of non-equity partners to equity partnership (or from “income partner” to “share partner,” in Finnegan-speak).
The economy sucks and profits per partner is way down and I’m sure the equity partners don’t want to share any more pieces of the pie than they have to, so should I just give up on my dream of making partner some day?
Yeah, it doesn’t look like Biglaw is eager to welcome the next generation of equity partners. Unless you are one of the few who (magically) has a booming book of business despite the recession.
The feeling that fewer partners are being made is based in reality. The New York Law Journal uses statistics to illustrate the plight of senior associates, after the jump.
There are going to be a whole lot of senior people who are passed over for partnership this cycle:
This month, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton elected four new partners firmwide, half as many as in 2008, while Latham & Watkins cut its firmwide promotions 25 percent to 23. Ropes & Gray named one third fewer with eight new partners, while Proskauer Rose named four to partnership, one less than in 2008. Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, the most profitable firm in the country, this month named two new partners, down from six last year.
When Wachtell isn’t making a lot of partners, it kind of tells you all you need to know about the chances for associates to graduate to the big time.
Is there any chance that this reluctance to bring on new partners will affect those who have already made the leap?
Consultants say the trend likely is a reflection of the financial condition law firms have found themselves in, with demand for legal services down and profits falling. Making partner had already become tougher in recent years, Dan DiPietro, advisory head at Citi Private Bank’s law firm group, said via e-mail. With the recession, he added, “the bar has been raised on what it means to become an equity partner and to stay an equity partner.”
He added, “While I don’t think the economic meltdown caused this trend, I do believe the trend accelerated as a result.”
It is kind of obvious that making partner is harder right now than it has been in the past. But it’ll be really interesting to see if staying partner continues to become more difficult.
Of course, if senior people don’t like it, they can always leave and start their own firm. If you have what it takes, you can always make your case directly to clients, rather than trying to impress firm management.
Law Firms Promote Fewer Senior Associates to Partnership [New York Law Journal]