Do I have a future at my law firm if I don’t want to be partner?

June 17, 2017

This is a question we hear all too often as a legal recruitment services provider. The short answer: It depends on your specific circumstances, practice area and firm environment. The key to knowing the answer to your personal situation is to understand your firm’s business and your role within it.

While it is commonly the goal of associates to eventually become partner, many lawyers who have sufficiently large practices choose not to join their partnerships for several reasons, including liability associated with the partnership, management and business development expectations, and capital contribution requirements. These lawyers often have the choice of remaining with their firm as independent contractors who do not participate in the equity of the firm, often with the title of “Associate Counsel”.

For lawyers without their own clientele, their future within the firm environment will hinge on whether:

  1. there is enough work within the firm to keep non-business generating lawyers at capacity;
  2. their expertise is valued at a senior level; and,
  3. the benefit of having them at the firm outweighs replacing them with someone at a more junior level or with the ability to generate business.

Some firms have sufficient work to keep associates on in perpetuity, however, associates’ earnings will generally be capped relative to their personal annual billings, whereas business generating lawyers are typically rewarded for matters they originate and refer within the firm.

If you have questions about your future at your firm, our specialist legal recruitment team would be happy to discuss your options in the market. As one of the top legal recruitment agencies in Canada we have opportunities in major centres across the country.

David Namkung, Partner