Biglaw, Gender, Partner Issues, Women's Issues

So You Want to Make Partner? Expect a Long Wait — and a Sausage Fest Once You Get There

Keep your head down, and prepare to wait if you want to make partner.

As we mentioned in Morning Docket, the American Lawyer just published a wonderful study about making partner at the top Biglaw firms. The publication analyzed all of the new partner hires at 97 of the Am Law 100 firms, reported on how women were doing, and noted some other general trends. Here are the top-line results:

  • Only one third of new partners were women.
  • The average wait for partnership was 10.5 years.

Oh, and there’s a chart that shows which firms were really hostile toward making new female partners….

A sausage fest.

While a third of new Biglaw partners were women overall, Am Law does us the additional service of plotting the firms that fell above or below that average in an interactive chart. Click here to see it, and mouse over a plot point to see which firm it represents. For some reason, my mouse naturally floated over the bubble that turned out to be Cravath — they of the four new male partners and zero new women partners this year.

Of course, one year is too small of a sample size to really praise or criticize any particular firm. But Am Law did notice some useful trends by looking at Biglaw as a whole:

Most people who end up in Biglaw have no desire to make partner. They want to do it for a few years, pay off their debts, and build up some credentials so they can do what they really want to do. But some people show up at the firm so hungry for the brass ring that they can taste it. You know what they say: “Making partner is like winning a pie-eating contest where the prize is more pie.” Yet there isn’t a lot of analysis and study about what one actually has to do to win this career race.

Firms are reluctant to be transparent about the partner-making process. That makes sense: the minute they tie themselves down to a procedure is the minute everybody who got passed over for partner hires an employment lawyer to look for grounds for a lawsuit. It’s hard to quantify how being in the same country club as the head of your practice helps you make partner — but it does.

Which brings us back to the numbers on female partners. There are a ton of skills you need to have to make partner at a Biglaw firm, and according to these numbers, boobs can get in the way. But if we get more charts like this that look at a firm’s hiring procedures over time, we might get an even better sense about which Biglaw firms will at least give female associates a fair shot at a piece of firm ownership.

For This Year’s New Partners Perseverance Pays [American Lawyer]

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