Yesterday we wrote about NALP’s decision to allow firms to blur the equity / non-equity partner distinction. Today, the WSJ Law Blog, the ABA Journal, and Business Insider have coverage of the issue.
But NALP isn’t the only organization attempting to gather information on law firm partnerships. Vault is also in that game, and according to a senior law editor Vera Djordjevich, they have no problem getting the very equity versus non-equity partnership information NALP ignores:
[O]ur diversity survey requests — and most law firms provide — separate numbers for equity partners and non-equity partners. …
The database includes statistics for equity vs non-equity partners for each of the demographic groups the survey addresses (gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation and disability). Of the firms that participate in the survey, a small percentage refuse to distinguish between partnership tiers in their reporting, but that fact is generally disclosed in a footnote. For example, Kirkland & Ellis reports that it has more than one partnership tier but includes all data in the equity partner category, explaining that the firm “does not distinguish between equity and non-equity partners for the purpose of external surveys.”
So Vault is at least asking the questions — but are they getting answers? Details after the jump.
Vault tells us that well over 200 firms submit answers to their survey. You can check out Vault’s law firm diversity database here (registration required).
We checked out the rankings for Jones Day. Jones Day, you’ll remember, was a focal point for an Am Law Daily post. The firm claimed that divulging the breakdown of EP and NEP partners was a privacy issue.
When we checked on Vault’s entry for Jones Day, we see that Vault asked the question but didn’t get a straight answer. Here’s the the entry on Jones Day from Vault:
For Vault’s purposes, JD claims it has no “tier” of partnerships. I suppose that is technically true — what with non-equity partners not really being partners at all, by any rational definition of the word.
Vault does have an entry for JD’s non-equity partners:
It’s not like Vault didn’t ask the right question. Here’s the specific definition of “non-equity partner” from Vault’s survey (click to enlarge):
And remember, Jones Day specifically told Am Law that it has lawyers who precisely fit into this category:
“How we divide profits is our business,” says Joe Sims, a senior partner at Jones Day, who insists that the firm makes no equity/nonequity distinction. “All partners make capital contributions and have voting rights,” he says, though he does acknowledge that some partners are paid a fixed amount and others are paid based on the firm’s profits.
But when it came time to report those numbers to Vault, the firm just refused.
Perhaps Vault is at least asking the right questions. But they don’t appear to be any more effective at getting truthful answers out of law firms than NALP does. Clients and new recruits are therefore still left in a situation where firms can manipulate partnership information, and have their spin get passed off as “data.”
It’s funny — if law firms really don’t care about promoting female and minority partners, you’d at least want them to have the courage of their convictions and admit to it in the cold light of day. Why try to hide the fact that you don’t promote women and minorities when you clearly don’t think there are any benefits to having a diverse partnership? If you don’t want female partners, fine. Just let women know that before they waste eight to ten years ramming their heads against a glass ceiling.
There is little Vault can do if firms won’t answer direct questions. But we hope that future diversity surveys will come with much larger caveats regarding firms that provide incomplete or misleading responses to specific questions.
Should Firms Be Coughing Up More Information on Partners? [WSJ Law Blog]
NALP Dropped Quest for Nonequity Partner Data After Law Firms Resisted [ABA Journal]
What Women Want: Partnership Details [Am Law Daily]
The Shroud Of Secrecy Around Law Firm Partnerships Must Come Down [Business Insider]
Earlier: NALP Won’t Distinguish Between Equity and Non-Equity Partners: Women, Minorities, and Lovers of Truth Get Angry