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The End of the Track ...

After 80 years, are we coming to the end of the partnership track? This LPM Magazine article, Making Partner -- Or Not: Is It In, Up or Over in the 21st Century? (June 2007), explores the future of the partnership track in the 21st century.

The article opens with a historic perspective on how back in the 1920s, Cravath, Swaine & Moore became the first firm to recruit lawyers right out of school with the understanding that they would become partners down the line. And the Cravath model reigned, up until about 20 years ago. But now, increased pressure to pump profits per partner has lead firms to de-equitize nonrevenue-producing partners. Lateral partners with attractive portfolios and even entire practice groups move firm to firm -- something unheard of 20 years ago, according to the article. And lateral movement decreases the chance of associates hoping to advance to partnership. Finally, the desire for work-life balance means that most younger lawyers are willing to give up on hopes of partnership in exchange for a life outside of work.

The article reports on some options to retain senior associates. One approach (which seems counterintuitive) is to increase partnership track to 12 years. As the article describes, this option gives firms more time to evaluate associates and gives associates more time to prove themselves. And there are also options such as senior or permanent associates, of counsel and contract lawyer positions.   

Has your firm incorporated any of these designations? Would you take one of these positions if available? And what does all of this mean to law firms that seek to perpetuate their longevity? Can they achieve that in the absence of a new generation of vested partners?

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on June 21, 2007 at 04:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)


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