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Buying In: A Partner’s Perspective

Ed. note: A sizable chunk of the Above the Law readership consists of partners at large law firms. Please welcome our newest writer, Anonymous Partner, who will write a candid column speaking to this demographic.

It’s about time. Time for someone like me to offer some perspective on what being a partner is, can, and should be all about. Time to leverage Above the Law’s bully pulpit to give a voice to current and future senior-level legal industry players (in addition to the valuable but inherently distanced insights of former partners, consultants, and law professors). Where a managing partner, or a general counsel, or even a newly-minted partner can let me, and by extension you, know what is really going on in this centaur-like hybrid of a business/profession. Where we can discuss what works, what is broken, and whether buying in to Biglaw is something to celebrate or to pity.

Now, Biglaw has signed all my paychecks, and it is where I have cast my lot until now, so Biglaw is what this column will discuss. And because my name does not stare back at me in gold-plated glory when I step off the elevator in the morning, this column will have to be anonymous, at least for the initial stages. Being anonymous will allow me to be as candid as possible when sharing my thoughts with you.

That said, you deserve to know at least a little about me….

First of all, I am fortunate to have a full life outside of work, in that I am happily married and have been throughout my professional career. And the marriage has led to more than one child, so I am very much a parent, with all that parenthood entails, emotionally and financially. And the kids, with an assist from making partner, led to the house, the car, the household help, and the bills for things that upon reflection make you realize that no matter your perspective on materiality, living in a major East Coast city is a rip-off.

Born in the ’70’s too, with the requisite entitlement to a laugh when looking at my parents’ wedding picture. And for those who think that making partner and staying partner involves choosing between obesity or a triathlon infatuation, I’m within ten pounds of my wedding weight (but I’ll save the appearance and health issues for a later column).

By now, the prestige barons and baronesses are getting very antsy. Who cares about kids and houses when all that matters is résumé dissection? So here goes on the career front. Partial scholarships to both college and law school, which means I am fully non-Ivy. Decent first-year grades leading to some journal experience, but nothing too sexy. Got some state court appellate-level clerkship interviews, but nothing came of them. Graduated without an offer from my summer firm, but still managed to land as a first-year associate in a branch office of a Biglaw firm. Took some time, but got in.

Litigation-based practice, exclusively so far in federal court. Have gotten good results, and benefited from strong mentors. Made partner within the last five years, and within ten years of starting in practice. Have lateraled since making partner, and have taken enough recruiter calls over the years to know the good ones within the first twenty seconds. Still take their calls because it is crazy not to. Actually have some clients, and have been in the game to try and get new ones since my days as a mid-level associate. Want more clients, especially ones that want to win their cases. Do some pro bono — not enough — and try to get involved in marketing and bar participation. Get calls from kids graduating my law school looking for a job, and vendors trying to sell me translation or other services that I almost always don’t need. I try and help the kids, unless they seem too entitled or clueless. Have had phantom Blackberry leg buzzes for years. Still have a Blackberry, can’t say goodbye. Am a lawyer, and a partner, and now at least a one-time columnist.

About the name of this column — as many know, most partners need to “buy in” to their firms with a capital contribution that usually consists of the most leniently underwritten loan you can imagine. Forget the capital contribution though, because when you sign that Biglaw partnership agreement, you are really buying into the crazy and the glory that Biglaw can be — the crazy that sometimes takes the form of a front-page obituary of a Biglaw firm whose two predecessor firms would not even have bothered to interview me. And the glory of never giving up, and getting the chance to support my family.

The time is now. Ask me questions, give me ideas, try and figure out who I am instead of studying or editing your draft (in the comments or via email). It is all good. This will be fun.

Anonymous Partner is a partner at a major law firm. You can reach him by email at

(hidden for your protection)

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