If you think this economy is just kicking the asses of recent graduates, associates, and support staff, you are forgetting one critical group: partners without portable books of business. Those who make it rain are getting soaked with wealth, but everybody else is just trying to get a drink.

We’ve heard many stories about partners without business quietly being “pushed out” or de-equitized. But we rarely see an entire group of partners publicly “demoted” en masse.

Well, on Monday a Biglaw firm did just that…

The news comes from the Midwestern firm of Husch Blackwell. In the past, we’ve criticized Husch for getting too cute with language when delivering bad news.

It feels like they’re at it again. From Missouri Lawyers:

Maurice Watson said in a statement that the partners were “reclassified” as fixed-income, or non-equity, partners. As the name implies, fixed-income partners at law firms typically get the majority of their compensation as a fixed salary. Equity partners share in a firm’s profits and may have greater voting rights on issues such as directing a firm’s finances.

“A year ago, our firm determined that we needed to re-examine the criteria for equity partner, something that had not been evaluated since our firms merged four years ago,” Watson said in a statement emailed by a spokeswoman for the firm. “Following an industry analysis, we determined that our criteria were lower than peer firms.”

Watson did not include details on the criteria for equity partners.

In all, 25 partners were “reclassified.” Perhaps this move will help reverse the drop in revenues and profits that Husch witnessed in 2011.

Welcome to 2012. It’s harder than ever to get a legal job, and it’s harder than ever to make partner.

Of course, in fairness to Husch, it isn’t the only firm that’s de-equitizing partners who don’t bring in enough business. If this is happening to your firm (or to you), please let us know by email, at [email protected], or by text, at 646-820-8477 (646-820-TIPS).

Husch Blackwell demotes 25 partners [Missouri Lawyers]
The Am Law 100, the Early Numbers: At Husch Blackwell, Revenue and Profits Drop [Am Law Daily]

Earlier: Nationwide Layoff Watch: Midwest Firms Have Lawyers, Fire Them Too


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