Biglaw, Layoffs, Money, Partner Issues

Is Being A Partner The Worst Job In Biglaw?

We reached out to a former Mayer Brown partner who is now happily ensconced at a new firm. Here are a few thoughts that this partner shared with us about the New Republic article (items 1 through 8 below):

1. It is disappointing to see people sharing as much personal detail as some apparently did…. Ironic that those complaining about the absence of a feeling of “partnership” are also quick to breach the confidentiality and trust of partners they don’t even know.

2. My reaction to these legal trend stories tends to be, “Yeah, no kidding. How is this different from any other industry?” Our business has become remarkably profitable over the last 15 years, resulting in far more compensation than what most people ever dream of. “Bracket creep,” as the story calls it, doesn’t do it justice. There’s an incredible amount of money to be made doing the most interesting top flight legal work. It should surprise nobody that it is competitive. What started in 1849 was a “Gold Rush,” not a “Say, old chaps, let’s take a tour of the West and collect some gold pieces for each of our satchels before we return home for polo.” Of course it isn’t genteel.

3. The negative reaction to selling is bizarre to me. Selling is part of operating in a competitive space. I have millions of dollars of stable annual business and I cold call all the time.

4. There’s a really strong “hey you kids get off of my lawn” feeling to this as well. Note Alan Salpeter talking about what it was like when he joined in 1972…. One wonders what he would have thought in 1972 of an article discussing the state of the legal industry in 1931.

5. The idea that the industry is going through a major contraction because 12 firms out of several hundred go out of business over the course of a decade says a lot about our business. In other industries, that’s a below-average failure rate.

6. The stuff [about infighting at Mayer Brown] is way overblown. Yes, there was some bad, non-cooperative behavior, but I think it was rare.

7. I was at the 2007 meeting. It was a nice event but hardly over-the-top.

8. The idea that there is something wrong at Weil Gotshal because of their [recent layoffs] is absurd.

UPDATE (7/26/2013, 4:20 p.m.): One final comment from our source:

If I had to summarize my feelings about the whole thing, I’d note that these people made millions of dollars doing corporate restructuring, M&A and litigation all related to globalization and increased competitiveness that undercut the economic expectations of millions of people, most of whom have far fewer skills and opportunities. To now complain about the impact of these same forces in their own field is the pinnacle of entitlement. It is disgusting.

What are your thoughts on the New Republic piece? Are these issues specific to Mayer Brown, or are they present at your firm as well? Is the portrait of Biglaw partnership painted by the article accurate, exaggerated, or understated?

The Last Days of Biglaw [The New Republic]

Earlier: Buying In: Thoughts on Making Partner (Part 1) – The Personal
Buying In: Thoughts on Making Partner (Part 2) – The Financials

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