The shifting track to law firm partnership

August 3, 2017

Is the law firm partnership track as appealing today as it was 10 or even 20 years ago? From our perch in the legal professionals’ recruitment space, we are finding many young associates steering away from the partnership track for a variety of reasons and making partner is, now, not always perceived as the golden ticket it used to be. The criteria for partnership is getting tighter with many firms having a heavy national-hand influencing partnership decisions. Firms have an associate process which will identify personal, professional and business qualities. Typically, firms expect associates to have a certain skill in a specialized practice area, a proven record of billing and collecting billable hours, the ability to build a practice and retain clients, willingness to get involved in management decisions, personality, ability to demonstrate team collegiality, and a commitment to the firm’s overall success from a business standpoint.

Today, it is taking longer than the typical five to seven years to make partner and the option to move in-house has, for some, become more attractive. Mid-level and junior associates see themselves pursuing a career in-house as more desirable because of its more flexible hours. Law firms are no longer competing for associates within the private practice realm, but rather with in-house opportunities.

After many discussions, in my chair as a legal recruitment consultant, with associates at top-tier national and mid-size firms and boutiques, it’s become clear that associates are made to believe that partners are putting in countless hours building and maintaining their practice while sacrificing their family and personal lives. While many are satisfied with the compensation, making partner doesn’t always seem to help lawyers achieve the autonomy that can contribute to career satisfaction and overall happiness.

Akash Bir, Senior Recruitment Associate