Why Law Firms Will Only Make You Partner If They Have To
[00:00:00] How do you know if a law firm is hard to make partner at, or if they are selective as they should be? I've recently transitioned to a more prestigious law firm at a senior level, and it feels like here, it's hard to make partner, and many hardworking senior lawyers end up being promoted to counsel if they don't show sufficient business potential. Note that the law firm does not have non-equity partner positions, which seems to make it harder to make partner at all.
Okay. So that's a good question.
There's an article that I wrote on BCG called, " Why law firms will never make you partner", or something along those lines. Lots of articles I've written online about that. I would look at those but basically, law firms will only make you partner if they have to.
What you're talking about there is you're talking about a law firm that basically once you become a partner you receive a percentage of the profits of the firm. That's what it means when they say they only have that. And so that'll make it a little bit harder to become a partner in the law firm, because what a non-equity partner is basically to someone who has salary and then an equity partner, at salary, plus they get a percentage of the business.
So most law firms will only make you a partner if they [00:01:00] have to. But firms have a lot of reasons for making you partner, but typically it's if you have a lot of business, societal if they need leadership because people are leaving if they do not have enough of something and enough of something can be a lot of things.
It could be, someone with your legal background someone with your skill, sometimes, racial, sex, et cetera. It could be a branch office, not enough people, so there are all sorts of reasons that they can do that. But the problem with all of this stuff is when you get into the largest law firms, typically what happens is, the more established a law firm is, the harder it is to be.
If the law firm isn't established, then you're going to have a much easier time. So the law firms had just opened a branch office sometimes are easy places. You use your places and make partner younger law firms younger smaller, all that sort of thing, smaller law firms all sorts of things, but law firms will only make you part in if they have to.
Why should somebody? Give you a percentage of their business, if they can find someone like you on the open market. So
[00:02:00] that's the problem. So you need to basically, everybody needs to offer far more value than you cost.
So that's just basically the rule. Law firms have no purse, no incentive to make you partner. If you're a huge, very powerful law firm you've got people knocking down your door to work there, so why should they make you a partner? Just because you're working now, they need to, you need to offer them something huge.
And that means the opportunity to take a large percentage of your business and make much more than I would otherwise. It means that you have some special scale that they can't get on the open market. Like I knew someone the made partner at a big firm because they had a.
A technical degree that the law firm needed for their clients.
Okay. Yeah. So if you're interested in making partner, that's perfectly fine. These are all, this is a good question. What I would recommend is if you're not interested in chasing the partnership track, that's perfectly fine. That's a very mature decision and you may be if you want to stay in a law firm and remain attractive to employers, that's fine too.
The only thing you need to do is have a specialty. Regardless of the market, you're in, I
[00:03:00] think a specialty is probably the most important thing. So what that means is being good at something. You want to be very good at something.
I don't know what that is. It could be if your litigation, it could be the person that's it can be Marine related litigation. I don't know. I see people get positions all the time because they're in the right practice area. The more specialized you are, the more attractive you're going to be, to employers.
Someone that does five things, someone that does one thing very well is always going to be marketable. For example, if you're in New York City, I have tons of people that are senior, real estate attorneys that have experience with building leasing and, they have no business and they've been practicing for 30 years, but they're getting lots of interviews.
And then I have senior attorneys that are experienced in foreclosure litigation, they're getting interviews because that's all they do. But then if you have experience in, five different types of litigation, you're going to have a harder time getting a job. So people want specialists.
And so that's the most important thing. And if you're a specialist in anything and a very good specialist, you're always going to have a value that you can offer to your employers and you don't have to be a partner. You don't have to
[00:04:00] have, you can practice law without having to, be someone that has all these clients.
Being someone that brings in clients and manages clients and stuff, it's a different job than the position of just being a partner.