2022-0928 What Do Law Firm Titles Mean: Of Counsel, Non-Equity Partner, Equity Partner Explained
[00:00:00] All right. Today we're gonna be talking about law firm titles. This is based on a pretty popular topic that a lot of people seem to be interested in. Probably also people that aren't attorneys dealing with different type of types of attorneys. But essentially what this is about, I think in a lot of respects is about the level of commitment that people have.
And this will walk you through what the various levels of how attorneys are given these titles and hold onto them and or move up that the ladder and go through all that. And I'll start with council and I'll work up to non-equity partner and then partner from there.
So the first one is up council. And oh, and then also we'll take questions at the end, whether it's about this or any other questions you have about your career. So of council's traditionally given to attorneys that are and that are, in a law firm that attorneys like and wanna have around.
But it's traditionally reserved for people that don't have business or are not interested in working very hard. And historically the title was given to older attorneys that [00:01:00] were at retirement age and may wanted to continue working. But now it has a whole different meaning in terms of the people.
They get the title, and a lot of it depends on the caliber, the firm. So there's a lot of very good firms like major New York firms, for example, like cdars, that if you do get enough council title, it's actually a very good title. It means that you're extremely committed hardworking, and they reserve it for very good people.
And often it's a stepping stone to partnership. And people will get that title that might normally could be a partner, it maybe a smaller firm. And there's nothing wrong, of course, of a Decker Decker's, a great firm but at a firm that's not quite of that caliber in terms of the work that they do.
And again, Decker does great work. It just but SCD is a little bit harder to move into the partnership also in a lot of just your average AM law 100 firms, and the quality of the firm and the competitiveness of. We'll often determine the types of attorneys are of counsel. It's an interesting position.
It's not a partner it's not an associate. It has a kind of a permanence about it. Meaning a lot of people that become of counsel will stay of [00:02:00] counsel for a long time. And and typically people that are made of counsel are the law firm likes them and they typically will like the law firm and and will stick around.
So there's some sort of there's more permanence, a lot of cases to a council position than there might be to an associate position. And and, with associates, for example, an associate that's very good at their job may gone at any time. They may they may move to another firm, they may go in house.
All sorts of things could happen. But once someone's made up counsel, the, there's an understanding that they they do good work, that the firm likes their work, that the person likes working there, that they're that they're, there's just, they do good work and there's nothing really wrong with the attorney at all other than they may not have a lot of business and may not wanna work crazy hours.
But they have a lot of institutional knowledge, a lot of really good relationships with clients and other things that. Very valuable. Now, what's funny is if you take the most major firms, which, the largest firms or the most competitive firms, bno [00:03:00] Council, again, is a very good job there.
And honestly it's respected at most major law firms. But a lot of times the smallest firms will make up council, even to very young associates, which is or people they'll use of council for people that really aren't working and are just there on an hourly basis or and maybe giving them a place to say that they're working, but they really aren't.
I've seen a lot of attorneys call themselves of council, be affiliated with firms, but not really be working at all. And then if they do bring in work, they give a percentage to the firm. So it just depends on the size firm. The larger firms council's typically going to be compensated very well.
Then the smaller firms and the smallest firms are typically, often not gonna be on a salary. They're getting a percentage of the work that they bring that they do. So these are the types of attorneys that often will be in a council. If an attorney doesn't have business or what it takes to be a partner in a major law firm they will typically be made of counsel.
So if you can last 15 years at a lot of major firms and work extremely hard [00:04:00] there they will often make you a council. Now, it's very difficult to make council at a major firm Caden or Pros or a lot of these places like that. But at the same time if they do make you of council it's, it is a very positive thing.
It's it's not just, you may not have a huge book of business. You may not be the kind of person that's ever gonna bring in a book of business, but you may be very good technically and committed. And and again the largest law firms and the most prestigious law firms typically are gonna want people with major clients that are able to bring in giant clients or that are doing work that's extremely important to the firm.
And typically bringing in quite a bit of money to the firm are likely to make partner that at these major firms. And and if you're not asked to leave at a lot of these major firms, they will often Make you of council? Sometimes they won't. I've seen people at Major major, like the most prestigious firms, the top firms.
And they will keep people around as an associate for 20 plus years with the idea that they're not really good enough to be a council yet. And even to be of [00:05:00] council in a lot of these major firms, you need to be. Associated with the right people doing work and in favor with the right people liked.
And so it's not as if it's a bad role. And again firms like Staden are very difficult to make a cons in firms like Kirkpatrick is not a bad firm. Kirk Analysis, obviously a great firm, and so with Y Case, but those firms often have two tiered partnerships that are not as difficult to get into.
They almost are like, would be, they're not bad. There's nothing wrong with a two tier partnership, but it's but they're but it becomes very difficult to be, become a equity partner at a firm like Kirk White Case. But to be a non-equity partner is not as difficult. And so you, if you're able to be council at some of these major firms like Scatter, you would probably be able to be a non equity partner at one of these other firms.
So it's not, there's nothing wrong with being a council. There's nothing wrong with non equity partner. But it's often a very good safety net because if you're committed to where you're working in the firm you're at and your practice area then then you will [00:06:00] often be made of counsel. And again, it's a very good title.
And you'll, you will be working with on very important matters and the people and and many times they give you that title before they think you're gonna be ready or if they think you may never be ready to be a partner. So these pay periods are definitely older. The pay would be a lot higher, but typically think of a council, it wouldn't be, it was more than $375,000 a year.
It's typically more than a senior associate but much less than a partner. And typically the billing rates are pretty close to partners, but not again, the same as a partner. And law firms are happy to pay counsel very high billing rate are very high salaries. And because they typically they have, they do very good work clients like them and they there's not they're very they're good attorneys and the firms will typically have work for them that they're comfortable giving them at a high level.
So one of the problems with when someone becomes a senior associate, a lot of times, especially if they're very [00:07:00] hungry is that if they don't have business and they're and they're very hungry and they wanna get business they may be restless and the kind of person that would just get up and leave if they got a partnership role in a smaller firm.
And so council a lot of times are for people that may not be quite as hungry. And but really enjoy the work and aren't necessarily interested in bringing in huge clients or taking over the world. They're building, massive amounts of hours, always. They're just they do very good work.
They wanna reasonably normal life and and and and they're good attorneys. So a lot of times there's people that may have counsel or people that don't want the pressure being a partner. They just wanna do their job and go home each night. Being a partner is which we'll talk about later is very it can be very lots of very pressure, a lot of pressure involved.
And and so people don't necessarily. Want that all the time. They would prefer to just be, do their work, go home not be involved in the politics, not be involved in having to bring in business, not be responsible for supervising and firing associates and management and all these sorts of things.
[00:08:00] They just wanna do their work and they like doing the work. And again, there's nothing wrong with that at all. Think about. One, one kind of analogy I like to give for council is there's certain types of people that be very happy being just a professor in a college or law school.
There's other people that wanna run the law school. There's other people that would start law schools, and there's just, there's all sorts of different people. A lot of people also become council after being a partner for some time. They do that because they make many times they're made counsel or they have a discussion and saying, I'm just not up to this pressure anymore.
And so the law firm will allow them to become a council and do work. There's all sorts of people that become council and and there's again, nothing wrong with it. You can make a lot more than these numbers that I'm listing here. But a lot of people would prefer to make less money just do their job, not have as much pressure.
They often do not have to work as many hours. Partners are very competitive. They look at each other's hours. They are often expected to build as much if not more than associates in a lot of firms. And so if you're a council, you don't necessarily need to worry about that. You're not responsible for business generation.
You don't [00:09:00] need to worry about clients paying. You're not don't need to worry about. Having a lot of things on your resume and mentor. There's just a lot of things you're not responsible for, and a lot of people wanna do that, and it's actually a very good job. I I've seen lots of people in major law firms decide to become council or become council and be very happy and be like, I would never wanna be a partner.
And for a lot of people it's a very good choice. And I think I certainly have a lot of respect for that choice. I think that if you wanna work in a law firm and you wanna do sophisticated work and you wanna continually expand your legal mind and you enjoy practicing law, but you don't enjoy the business aspects of it, then it's a very good job.
And traditionally, again, attorneys that may have left the legal office, legal environment to go into politics or go in house or become judges a lot of times when they come back to law firms, they come back, is of counsel. A lot of times someone. May go to a firm, an example is Gibson Dun Crutcher or something like that and may partner there and then go to work for the State Department and then return to legal profession.
When they do these firms will often call them of counsel. They'll parade them around in [00:10:00] front of their clients saying, Look at this person we had that was a member, part of the State Department and and give the attorney work, but they won't be expected to bring in business and they won't be the same level.
But they'll, the firm will use their, the cache, the person's experience and and set different kinds of expectation for those. And so they'll use their qualifications and so forth to impress their clients and to give them work and for their contacts. And and and so the lawyer will often be given just as much work as a firm has to give which is generally not a ton of work, but and then may come from individuals that were contract taps of the attorney when the attorney was in government and then they will or something similar to that.
And and and the work can come and go and it's not the end of the world. And and there's not a lot of expectations many times on the council to bring in work. But if they do, it can be a good thing. And then attorneys who are often very old or don't have the energy to work hard very longer, again, this was a very common People that are made of counsel in a lot of law firms.
So if you'll look at the law firm directories, you'll always see some very old attorneys on [00:11:00] there like that are of counsel. So you'll have the kind of the partners and then the older ones will often be of counsel. And that's traditionally how it's worked. They may have some contacts still, but they're not necessarily interested in working extremely hard.
And what happens to everyone? Our most attorneys not all of them is they will often start losing steam. And the, they no longer will have the the desire to work as many hours and the pressure bringing in clients. And again, they decide that they would prefer to live a less stressful life that allows golfing and days off and things like that and vacations and of council, especially if you've been working for 30, 40 plus years it's often law firms are often very happy to give people this role.
And and then the attorney will sometimes just have kind of legacy clients that will give them work from time to time, and then we'll give them percent billings and that sort of thing, or her billings. And, again one of the, the most common type of council, in addition to the older people that become of council or, slowing down are very smart, nerdy people with, who are not interested in getting [00:12:00] clients.
But the partners like them and giving them work. They know it's gonna come back very well done. And they're they're dependable. They're not gonna quit. They're often very intelligent, some extremely intelligent but they just don't have those abilities to bring in clients or understand how it's done or have a sense for it, which is perfectly fine.
They're still a place for them. And a lot of firms and they often are excellent writers. They may be very good at catching details and deals, what other people would miss or just very good at drafting. And they're enthusiastic often about their work. They're interested in it. They're they're often the people that do the best work and but they may not have.
The best interpersonal skills to sell things. And but that's okay. And and to, mark up work and everything. So that's how that works. And they just may be more comfortable in their offices with their doors closed, which is fine. And and they're often very committed to their law firm titles and loyal to the firm and so forth.
But that, that's and they're there's they're great people to be of council on a legal firm. But the, one of the things I would say that's important to understand about council roles is they're[00:13:00] they're often based on having very strong relationships within the firm and being liked.
So they're the kind of people that the law firm would never wanna fire but can't advance and, but really likes and thinks they do good work, and they're playing the game the way the law firm wants it. And and the only problem with this, which is sad, is that a lot of times when the older gen, when the older generation of partners gets older and there's a younger generation of partners coming up that wants to make more money and they will look at up council people as Deadwood, and then a lot of times up council.
We'll be gone. But they definitely can stick around a lot of times with, as long as the people that are loyal to them are supporting them, which is typically for a good portion of their career. A lot of times attorneys with personal demons who do good work, but are just have trouble getting things together are often made of counsel.
There's sometimes they'll be very smart. I remember one firm that I know there was an attorney was a law school and very brilliant, but he was always kind in and on the hospital for very psychological demons. Many times when [00:14:00] attorneys do things in the market that kind of bring a lot of bad publicity to them and maybe they get fired from a firm for doing something there's a very well known attorney in Los Angeles that was charged with a felony, but then ultimately it was reduced to a misdemeanor and it was a very public issue.
And and even though he was a very famous attorney, he was hired by a very good firm as of council. So that again, so they didn't make a partner even though he was the kind of person that could run a very successful law firm of his own. So with people like that, have those kind of problems, you can't obviously make them partner because you don't want to expose the firm to that liability and.
And people aren't comfortable with it. But people will, these sorts of people will often provide a lot of value to the firm. And and so law firms like them and and other people that are makeup council or stay up council are demoted to up council, but it's not necessarily in demotion.
May have a lot of time off. They may be sick have various things wrong and have issues that make them make it [00:15:00] make it very difficult for them to be a hundred percent dedicated at the firm. But the firm will still make them will still have a use for them. And then a lot of times attorneys will be a council in areas of the.
The firm where the firm may not have enough work to make it very profitable. A lot of firms will sometimes get work in bankruptcy or patent prosecution, but not all the time, trust in the states and other practice areas. If it's a branch office of a national firm and they need a local bankruptcy person, but they don't always have work, they may have someone there that's up council that can do work for local clients.
They do have the work, but if they don't, that's okay. Same thing with trademark. Trademark and get busy at certain times and others. And trust in states is often not as profitable of a practice area. So they won't have a ton of work, but they'll do it. And areas like that. So the firm doesn't have a lot of work that they then need to do work from court clients will generally have people there that are of council that can do the work.
And when it comes in and the firm doesn't have to worry about being highly [00:16:00] com compensating people. I, it was funny, I had a issue where I was talking to a lot of people and I dunno, a couple years ago in, in large firms in New York, there were of council that were whose only job was doing residential real estate transactions.
And most of their clients were the the partners in the firm. And then I was another firm. I was. And I talked to several people like that, which I thought was fun. And then I also talked to several people that were trusting the states' attorneys in very large law firms in New York that were doing most of their trusting states work for partners in the firm as well.
So it's sometimes the firms will even have a council to help the partners of the firm with issues and so forth. And then trust in the states. Sometimes they'll even have even some very large law firms will have people that are council and even partners to some extent doing family law and things like that.
But a lot of times the, when trust in the states is an example, the money isn't is not as there's not as much money as there would be in major practice areas. So often of councils, the only [00:17:00] area where they can do it. And then yeah, and so that's those are some things about that.
And and sometimes the law firms really want people in these sub council roles that are likely to that may not advance. So they know they're not going to advance. One example would be some firms may hire In trademark that they're never gonna, they never believe they'll have enough work in trademark to make partners or trust in estates.
And so they'll often reduce their hiring standards for for associates in those in those practice areas because they because they know that they don't really offer a lot of opportunity, the same type they would offer a normal associate. So there's some things interesting about that.
And then cuz the best they could ever do would be of counsel. A lot of times they'll often have roles for managers inside of law firms. They'll have lawyers who will do nothing but conflict checks or the lawyers that will do HR related things inside the firm. And so they'll often have the council people doing that.
But they're off, These are not necessarily practicing attorney rules. [00:18:00] Sometimes they'll even have council that may be in charge of the business development related task or or things related to, putting together pitches and things. And and so they, they'll often do that. And and then and it's not really a enough council role and and sometimes they'll even have Of council people that are, mediating disputes or helping doing lawsuits for collections or and even HR doing exit interviews and firing people and that sort of thing.
And and then a lot of times attorneys will that are made of council will often have a lot of business or other things going on. So they wanna maintain a connection with the law firm. Sometimes they will have literally their own another business, but they want to have position, a law firm job, or and they want to have some sort of connection.
I've seen people have their own side law practices in addition to being a council with a firm. And I've seen a lot of people, a council, I've, there's a lot of people that are law professors or professors in colleges that are of council with law firms. And so the law firms will bring them in many times to to do things.
I've [00:19:00] also seen a lot of women leave the legal profession often to have kids and then come back. And and so they may have left and then and then they end up coming back. And and then they wanna reduce schedule. So they come back as many times of counsel and because they wanna, they don't want a full load.
These days. A lot of firms will allow people that have left for family reason to come back as partner. But traditionally was council. A lot of times people, if they have political ambitions they may they may view practicing law just as a way to pay bills when they're trying to do other things.
And law firms typically will allow them to be of council makes them look good to have attorneys out on the in the market and then in their names and so forth. They're being used and the press and things. Law firms will often allow that. And it's a good way to stay involved.
And they don't need to be as accountable as a An equity partner would need to be. So that is council, which I hope was a good explanation. And again, I think council is a very good role. I don't think there's anything wrong with it. And I think for a lot of people it's a very good choice.
And the next one is non equity partner [00:20:00] and and non equity partners, actually a relatively recent intervention. What happened is starting let me just grab something.
Sorry. Starting in the early 1980s, there was all these consulting firms that started coming out and they'd first had gone into companies and done consulting to help companies become more efficient and to run better. And then they started going into, Law firms doing the same thing.
And and really what those consultants found out was that the way that the law firms were structured it was typically, a lot of times it was lockstep. So you'd make, someone would make a partner regardless of whether not they had business, and then their compensation would just keep going up.
Year after years, I got more senior. And and it didn't really reflect the fact that certain clients had, certain partners had business and certain partners were billing more hours and so forth. And so what those consultants did is they started rating and categorizing different partners and and started coming up with equity and non-equity and bill our minimums and all the stuff that you're familiar with now that in many [00:21:00] cases has changed the legal profession.
And and some firms of course still continue with one tier of partnership. But the non inequity partner is definitely becoming something that's more common in more and more firms each year because it's in their best interest to do it. And and it does suggest I, I do think that in terms of what a non inequity partner is it almost suggests a little bit less permanence than a council role.
And the reality being of council is often actually safer if you wanna survive long term because a non inequity partner does have. Certain requirements often associated with it. It's like being an associate with the added pressure that if you don't bring in business and do some other things, you may be out of a job.
So these are the types of attorneys that are non equity partners. Typically a non-equity partner will be someone without significant business. They'll receive a salary. So the salary will typically be more than a council would receive. But oftentimes it's not that much different than than that.
They will. The biggest difference is the non equity partner is someone [00:22:00] that the law firm often believes has the potential to be an equity partner. Potentially meaning they have different, they may have, they may be a very hard worker. They may have Good personality skills or show that they have a, the ability to develop these personality skills and interpersonal skills.
They may also show that they'd be willing to work very hard. They also have very good legal skills and, but they're just, for whatever reason they're not quite there yet. Meaning they don't have the type of business or whatever that they would need. And they're generally people that they, people generally go into a non inequity role as associates.
Sometimes law firms will hire laterally and make someone a non inequity partner for a few years before making them an equity partner. But pretty much they're being groomed and tested to see if they have the ability to become a partner later, or many times they were equity partners and law firms will often continually be dee attorneys.
So they will. Be an equity partner, but then they won't be bringing enough business and that bus and or they're having other issues. And so they're being pushed [00:23:00] down into this non inequity role, meaning the law firm's saying we don't think you're contributing enough to share in the profits, or you're not reflective of what we consider an equity partner, and therefore this is what we're doing with you.
And so I look at non inequity partners many times as secret probation. It's generally a role that only other attorneys in the firm know about. Attorneys are allowed to hold themselves out many times as a, just a regular partner and not say that they're an equity partner or not.
And many times the role doesn't last more than a few years. Sometimes they come last a long time. So one firm I mentioned earlier Kirkman and Ellis will often you can be nine of partners, some firms for a long time. Your whole career. It's not always attest to move to move up.
But other firms it's, and the majority of 'em I would say it's and but typically if you are able to bring in business and show the, a kind of a high level of contribution then then you're likely to, you can get this. People will typically, the difference. I like to give between a non equity partner and a council, which is funny.
Your [00:24:00] non equity partner will often be someone that, is concerned about things like, mortgage, it, buying a house, car payments, and have other commitments that the law firm's able to drive, to push into growth and survival. And the the council is often more like a, almost like a professor, like, where they're not asic they're not as concerned about having nice things and spending money and what, whatever.
You get the idea. One of 'em is very concerned about that and the other not is concerned. It's just one way to think about it. I don't know how accurate that is, but it's one thing that I've noticed I always noticed that the partners being a little bit more ostentatious, even the ones that were.
Appearances and things and buying things then council. And of course that's a gross generalization, probably very unfair. But it's just they're just driven in a different way. And not always. And women of course, and men are often, can both be non-equity partners. But a lot of times not as much again these days but there's a lot of drive and a lot of interest in making women partners as well.[00:25:00]
But at the same time if a woman of a woman leaves the workforce for any length of time to start a family that can create some impediments. And and law firms are under a lot of pressure to to not let that stand outta the way, but sometimes it does. And typically the path to become a non inequity partner with the firms that do that is you become a non-equity partner when you are committed, meaning you.
Spend several years at the same firm billing as many hours as you can, doing the best work as you can impressing people, getting someone some groups of attorneys behind you and and sacrificing everything for your job. And and if you do that and again, it becomes you have to do so at a level where it becomes almost impossible for you to have a, a family and so forth or spend a lot of time with them, which is just how it works when you're young and when you're trying to do this.
And then but if you do that then at some point the firm will either ask you to leave or tell you that you're on the right track. And and often you can get this position, but it's, if [00:26:00] these are not easy positions to do to get most people leave before they're ever considered for them.
And and you have to do good work, You have to get a lot of hours. You have to really show that you are capable of taking that title and doing something great with it. Meaning they want, It's like getting into a good college. Just because you can do a college doesn't mean you're gonna go to a good law school, or just because you go to a good law school doesn't mean you're gonna get a good job.
You have to be up to rise to the challenge. And this is what. That means is that they believe that you're capable of rising to the challenge. And and you often if you join a firm as a lateral there's typically at least a couple years, they wanna see your quality of work and commitment before you can become a non-equity partner.
And and again, these firms, Whiten Case is a great firm. There's just a lot of very good firms out there with future partnerships. And you need to be very outstanding to be considered for these roles. You need to be a good attorney. You need to work very hard. You need to be committed.
You need to impress people and be liked, and then show the potential [00:27:00] of to be someone that could be an equity partner. So they obviously will make a lot of equity partners that don't make part, make equity partners, but they want, they'll make a lot of non equity partners that don't make equity partner, but they want, they don't like to make mistakes.
If you join a firm where there's 61st years the odds are only a few people will even be around after, several years to be considered for that role. So it's not easy to do. The big thing that I would say is if you're. Watching this, and you wanna be this is your goal, is to be a partner in a law firm.
And, and then, the most important thing really is to stick around and just to work as hard as you can and do the best work you can and and just be enthusiastic and get people to like you. And that's really it. But that's a lot. It's not easy to stay motivated.
It's not easy to continually get work. It's not easy to to build all these hours. And but if you do that you can become a non inequity partner. And and then, typically once you become partner, you may be, the, you'll be given money and you'll be given the salary information is outdated.
[00:28:00] But but the big thing that happens is you're told pretty quickly that you need to start generating business and using your title to do that. And and that often requires that you become a completely different person than you may be used to be doing. When I talk to success partners they're always they spend a lot of time working, but they also spend a significant amount of time networking and pitching people and getting out there trying to do what they can and to meet people.
And and and it's very important. You need to do whatever you can to to get out there and to take what you've done and and make it into something. So it's like very few people get this opportunity if you're able to do it. And then once you do it you're, you need to make the most of the opportunity.
And I see people. All day, every day that don't turn that into anything. So they get this and then they start making more money and they're happy, but then but then they don't generate any business. And then eventually depending on the firm if the firm doesn't have a lot of huge institutional clients, you will have to look for another job at some [00:29:00] point.
And it's not easy cuz you could go in today's terms, you could go from making $800,000 a year in a big firm or maybe even a little bit more as a non equity partner to all of a sudden looking at in-house jobs, paying less than, half of that, or even less than that. So it, it can be very scary if you don't make the most of it.
So my advice to you is to, if you do this to do whatever you can because your next step is to get outside your shell learn a whole new set of skills, which is bringing new business and developing an expertise. And because you're essentially getting a title to what that'll enable you to do that and have credibility of potential clients.
And and again, if you are trying to bring in business as an associate and going out and meeting with a general council of a bank, they're not gonna be as enthusiastic about talking to you as they would be as if you were of counselor partner. And they're gonna know what a council is too. So the title's important.
People wanna have. People that have big titles at big firms working for them they want to feel like the firm is doing something that you are, there's something special about you. [00:30:00] Even if you're, whatever your title is in the law firm, you should do whatever you can to have look like you have some sort of expertise and and again and you're able to rise to whatever the challenges are.
And and law firms give you this vote of confidence so you can go out and get business and and and and yeah. And so it's pretty important, and I'm not gonna go too far in this, but there's all sorts of things that you can do to generate business. And if you're interested in learning about it there's tons of articles and things that I've written about it.
But typically in order to do that you just need to get involved in the community. And I would recommend getting involved in organizations and things that that you're interested in where you can where you can contribute enthusiastically. And not all people do that. And and you can certainly often become a non-equity partner in a lot of firms.
And by and Get a non, and, have a very powerful equity partner that gives you a lot of work and stay a non equity partner forever. Many very powerful firms Kirkman would be an [00:31:00] example, have a lot of work that they could give you and keep people around. So it just depends. But many times if you have a very powerful equity partners that's supporting you, that's all you need.
And in a lot of firms, it's very funny. There's always there's always a, there's a equity partners will typically have one or two non equity partner many times, just one that kind of do all the work that they bring in. And then and sometimes if they get more powerful to have more of them.
And so being in that role, there's nothing wrong with it. But if you wanna become a big fish, you need to be get out of that. And then that. And if you are an equity partner, just one thing to remember is that the equity partner will often support you. So you could, as long as they support you you're in good shape.
But But if you're out there on your own and no one's giving you work or you're having a hard time getting work and that person is loses influence within the firm or business, then then you're gonna be in trouble. And and you'll be told measured and all sorts of different ways and told what you need to do to get your hours up and and everything.
And and if you [00:32:00] do not do that and you don't have anyone supporting you and looking out for you, then you'll often lose your job. Many times you are just given a deadline six months, a year or even less. And and it's sad and it happens a lot. And and if you don't make it I, it could be very difficult for people because you reach this point where you're very successful and you, everyone's very happy and you're happy and your parent, your family's happy and you're spouse is happy.
And then and then if you don't make it, then the next thing that happens is you're looking for another job. And it's just not pleasant. And your income goes down. And at this point a lot of divorces happen and substance abuse and all sorts of things. So my advice is it just, you never you're never there.
So you it's only. It's only an opportunity to start working even harder once you do that. So what do people that become non equity partners do? They'll lose their jobs. They go in house, which is often fairly easy because they have relationships with clients at that point and can do it. Many times they open solo practices or take other jobs.
This is the most common. [00:33:00] And and typically they just they may not have the skills to be an equity partner but they're very skilled legally. So they often will just, will, they'll go in house, which is a good role. And the nice thing about going in house as a non-equity partner is if you play your cards you can be a general council of a good size company.
Law companies love saying that they're general council with a, formerly a partner at a big firm or whatever firm. It just looks a lot better. And and this is what the majority of them do. You can also go to smaller firms that have the work. There's, you have all sorts of options. And the only thing to remember too is that even if you become an non partner and you lose your job it's something that no one can ever take away from you.
So it's it's like going to a being, being a professional football player or whatever. It's a, it's an honor that you'll always carry with you and something that's and that's important. And and certainly the inhouse companies like it and and it, but it's a good thing.
But the other thing is that going in house that going and starting your own practice can work. Often it's not the [00:34:00] greatest idea because if you were working for a big firm with a huge name behind you and all sorts of resources, how are you gonna do that on your own?
But people do. And a lot of times people are very careful with their money and so forth, and they save money. And so they I've known people that were equal non inequity partners and retired in their forties and and are done because you many times are just very careful with their money.
So you can be if you do that that could be a good thing as well. But a lot of people that open their own practices, it doesn't go well. And then a lot of people will do one of a couple different things. This is fun. And that what I'm gonna talk about right now in order to become an equity partner again, these are old figures.
It's over 2 million at the largest firms now. But you may need a lot of business to be to, if you're to go to a few if you're asked to leave. You may if you have a small amount of business, you're certainly can take that to smaller firms. But if you want to go to another large firm, you're gonna need a large business.
A lot of times people that are non equity partners are able to move to smaller firms or even similar firms if they, if that firm has enough work [00:35:00] for them, and sometimes they will. And and that I've seen a lot of firms that are very well known firms that made the requirement much higher for people to be able to become partners in them and are stay non-equity partners.
And in terms of the amount of business and in order to move up. And and they were often able to get jobs at similar firms without too much trouble. It doesn't take a while. The other thing people do is often the non-equity partners will move to new firms and they'll do so what I call early legitimately.
They it's actually very common. So what'll happen is someone will make non equity partner in a law firm, and then they will not bring in business but they will tell people, interviewing them for a new position. They do have business. And they will use a recruiter.
They'll get in touch with different firm firms and say that they have a good size book of business. They'll do fictional kind of writeups about all the business that they have and their clients and what their collections have been. And and then they'll represent, they wanna leave their firm because of conflicts or certain types of clients not being [00:36:00] supported.
And they're leaving work on the table. So they'll position themselves as people that look like they're gonna bring a lot of business to whatever new firm that they join that they're unable to realize that they're existing firm. And what's funny is these attorneys always get jobs. They can carry it on for a long time.
And they will often get jobs from lots of firms based on these representations attorneys businesses often impossible to verify. So the law firm will take them at their word and and then when they get to a new firm they'll suddenly represent that their clients aren't ready to move and the firm is playing dirty to keep their clients.
And and in reality those attorneys often have a small amount of work, but not much. And I'll tell you, just in terms of my experience, something that a lot of law firms have been burned by they're very careful and cautious of this. And and a lot of times the firms that get burned are the newer firms on the block that aren't as familiar with this.
But at the same time meaning firms that are trying to open offices and markets, firms that are newer in markets and and firms do not like it. And and, [00:37:00] but it's very common for people to get hired this way. And I don't know what it is. It's it's usually, again, I don't like to be sexist, but it's usually men that are doing this most I don't know why.
But it's and it but people will often move around for years. I've seen people go to be move firms every year or two for decades. It's not through me, but I, people that I, we watch attorneys and and and then the law give us the new law firm. They won't have the business.
The law firm will talk to 'em a few times and eventually they may threaten a lawsuit, who knows? But it's just, it's not it's not a good situation and it can happen for a long time. And a lot of these attorneys They'll get there and they'll show up, the first couple weeks or months, and then then they'll start, be gone from the office during the day.
And and just, it's just lots of weird stuff happen. So it's just more often than not it doesn't work out. So this is just something to be aware of, but it's not something I'm recommending you do if you become non equity partner, if you are. And but but but law firms are very cautious once they've made that mistake.
They don't want anyone to know. And and and often it's [00:38:00] what happens. That they the law firm this happens. Another type of attorney that may make a non equity partner is one that I talked about this a little bit earlier, but someone that's not doing well as an equity partner.
So what that means is they're not bringing in the business or they're not billing the hours. And and so the law firm will instead of firing them we'll often do this and and just say, You're not meeting our standards. And so a lot of times when this happens, people will start looking for other positions, whether it's going in house or various things.
And the reason this generally happens is they're not billing enough hours. They don't have enough clients or business. They may have performance issues. There may have been a malpractice web lawsuit or their work product, maybe bad. There's just all sorts of things like that.
Sometimes there's personal problems could be just various things happening that the law firm kind of wants to distance itself from as well. And and sometimes the law firm was, gave them clients to work on when they became an equity partner, and then I didn't have the work later on.
Of course, sometimes the law firms will hire consultants who would determine, there should be two partnership [00:39:00] chairs. And then the other thing that's very frequent is law firms will have a kind of a new generation of partners that have business that are doing everything correctly.
They wanna have more profits for themselves. They don't like all these legacy costs. They realize that that they need to push people away that aren't carrying their weight. And so they'll lobby for that and get groups of people together and and then and do things that way.
And and then the most common reason that someone, this happens, of course, is just not having enough clients losing clients, and then the law firm not believing. That the person will get clients over the long run. A lot of times these people will become judges. They'll go in house going the government sometimes they'll go work in law schools.
So that's an inequity partner. This is the exciting part of the presentation, which is an equity partner, which I think it's really the most instructive. We talked so far about people that for whatever reason aren't meeting or meeting the law firm's ideal and the equity partner is the ideal.
And and what that means in a law firm is it means that you're performing at or above for whatever the standard is [00:40:00] of the law firm where you're at. So law firms will typically have very high standards for our partners. It's going to be it depends on the firm, but some partners or some firms are very demanding of their partners.
Walk tells an example, a Baker Mackenzie, by the way, is a great firm. I have no problems with Baker Mackenzie. But walk, tell it's not an easy thing to become a partner there. And their expectations are gonna be different. An equity partner is typically gonna be someone that has a very good reputation inside the law firm.
And they're more they're more incapable of carrying their own weight. So they people inside the law firm like them, they think highly of them in terms of their legal skills. And clients probably think highly of them as well. They're able to generate business. They're they get calls and people don't want them to represent them.
They get interest from people. They can give associates work. They also are able to bill and collect a lot of hours, meaning it's not enough just to bill work. You the client has to wound, you pay it, and they can do that. They've they're pretty much dedicated to their career. Their whole life is dedicated to it.
It's [00:41:00] really the most important thing to them. So they're serving the law firm and its clients is very important. And not only are they dedicated to it but they're succeeding and they do it in a way where they don't look like they're stressed by it. They're just taking it very Casually, they're able to do all this.
When you examine other careers of counselor, non equity partners inside of law firms and equity partners often, everything, they're not they're often the hardest working. They typically will work the hardest. They're very committed. They would not they come across as committed.
That's not to say they won't do other things but they're definitely committed to their practice area, their the practicing law. They typically will have a lot of clients they will have their, they, they will do their best. And often they're, you won't hear things about their personal lives and problems there intruding into their jobs.
They there's not excuses. So you go to someone that's that they're just, they, you, they're not making excuses. They're getting things done. There's no excuses. So when you make excuses as an associate, or they don't like that because that's not how they operate. So they're, there's no excuses.
There's [00:42:00] ambition, meaning they wanna win. They wanna do the best they can. They typically will have very good interpersonal skills. So even if they don't naturally know how to sell, they, they learn how to get along with people that can give them business. They're invested in their career, meaning they, they they take it seriously.
They're in the community. They're they're. They're there every day. They're just they're invested. And this is what makes a non inequity partner. They're in the game and they're really wholeheartedly there. They're trying hard. They wanna stand out and and they're owners of the firm.
So that's what an equity partner is. It's someone that gets a percentage of the profits and and owns the firm being, they have a percentage of the stock, the firm, the whatever. And and and they often are required to buy in. So that means that they have to make a capital contribution to the firm.
Sometimes, most of the time the firms will finance those and they make those some, they'll loan them the money but but they're invested, meaning that they have put money into the [00:43:00] firm to be part of it. And and again there's it means a lot. So fully and Larner, by the way, great firm.
Nothing against fully and Larner but to be a partner to firm like Herba Moore, which is an incredible firm. It's much easier than just your kind of your, most of your run of the mill firms. It, it can be each firm has different levels of what they require from their partners.
And and, it's a higher level commitment and work ethic and intelligence, client inability many times, again, fully large, great firm. I shouldn't be saying anything negative about them cause I have no, I think it's a very good firm, but at the same time at some of these firms are really very demanding and what they require.
It means also that you're unlike a council person you have to take an interest in the business side of things. You're gonna be responsible often for evaluating non equity partners and associates. You're going to make help make financial decisions about things like when to hire, when to cut back often adding offices and that sort of thing.
Firing people. Voting new off, new voting for new partners making decisions [00:44:00] about offices and pitching large clients who may ask you to do things like that. How to market the firm, like what practice areas they should have, what practice areas they shouldn't have. What to do when the firm needs to bring in more business.
Then they're also an equity partner is typically liable for malpractice and other actions against the firm. So if the firm is sued it could come out of a equity partner's pocket. They're often a point of contact from core clients. They're also, they set the tone. So every firm has a culture and they are often the equity partners are reflective of that culture.
And and they have to be portraying things in a certain way. They wanna keep up certain types of hiring standards. They may often be in charge of recruiting attorneys with business meeting with them and going on a lot of those kind of meetings and so forth. And they told me a lot of interviews they're making decisions about advertising budgets.
Plans creation of content on the firm's website and other types of things. Talking to publicist finding office space, supervising build outs anything to do with it, there's people in the firm that will do that. So it comes [00:45:00] with everything that's involved in running a company.
If you're an equity partner in a law firm, they, the law firm will often give you responsibilities and things that think you'll do well and at, and and, the average one's not gonna be involved in all those things. But if you're very good at marketing, they may give you marketing work.
If you're very good at finance they may give you finance related work. And it's often more than just doing legal work. You need to have the ability not just to bring customers, but you also need to have a spark to you and the ability to inspire others. So it's about leadership. So leadership is often.
Talked about and in a lot of different ways. And but ultimately what leadership is about is leadership, is about getting the best out of people around you. So it's about making people enthusiastic and feel good and setting standards for work, but making people feel good about the things that they're doing and getting the best outta people.
So the best run firms are often the ones where the partners are able to set the tone for getting a lot done, being productive, doing good work and and obviously these are things that not everyone is cut out for, but this is the job of a [00:46:00] equity partner. And it's not to say that there's not equity partners that completely demoralize people around them, but at the, but for the most part that the average equity partner, their job is to to really set a high standard for the work and the people there and to keep work coming in.
And and a lot of times equity partners are not just evaluated based on their business. They're evaluated based on these other things that are a part of running a business as well which is exciting. So it's not, you if you're just, if you're a council or, you may just be practicing law, but an equity partner is often practicing law and doing other things, which is which may be fun.
Different partnership agreements are different and. Every law firm evaluates and emphasizes different things some value business more than others, and others different things. But it all depends on the different firms. So equity partners will often be compensated based on all sorts of different issues and things that, different ways they will be compensated, not just often on the business, but find their contribution.
Sometimes we'll do what are called [00:47:00] 360 evaluations, meaning they may be evaluated based on their personality. And who knows? There's just all sorts of ways that are ed. And and but good equity partner is usually very marketable. So because of all the business and their skills and their knowledge and their level of commitment sometimes they can move and they will move.
Often some, if they have a big enough book of business, they may move quite often. It, it's not always in their best interest to do but they do. And and so they can move sometimes they go into firms and they don't get along with the other partners there, and then they'll move But it's just one thing to think about too is their compensation.
It can often be much greater than it generally is much greater than non equity partners as well. So an equity partner, the nice thing about becoming an equity partner and thinking about this whole path too, is that what, when you think about your career, the you have the ability to to really do a lot.
Meaning you, you start out as a maybe a summer associate where you learn everything, you become an associate or and as you become an associate, you learn your skills and then [00:48:00] you can move into a counselor non equity role, and you're continually learning. And each step of the way, you're almost being taught to, to work in a business and then to run a business.
And that's one of the things, the reasons that I like this profession so much the law firms specifically, is there's so much opportunity and equity partner is, connotes stability because you're buying into the firm and you're responsible for running the firm and you own, you're an owner of the firm.
So who wouldn't want something like that? And one of the things I would encourage you to think about regardless of the stage of your career, is that there's always this path up. And not only is there a path up in your existing firm, but if you do very well as an equity partner in, in the firm, you're.
You have the ability to move to even better firms and then and learn all these skills. And so the, it becomes a game of of learning skills and it's a almost a lifetime project. And if you become successful at this, you can do it into your into your eighties. I've seen people and some firms make you retired at a certain age, but you can do it for a long time.
Those are my conclusions or that, that's kinda the [00:49:00] presentation. I think there's really a lot of opportunities and the opportunity is not just wherever you are but it's in every firm. And and and then you can always move to better firms if you're not happy where you're at, or you can be, become very successful in your existing firm.
So I will take a quick break and then I'll come back and I can, This is a live webinar, so I'll answer questions either about today's webinar or any questions you may have about your career specifically. Thanks.