Industry-wide, the average time it takes to become a partner at a major law firm has been steadily increasing. Some firms, recognizing this issue, have attempted to shorten the process. Associates at law firms take nearly nine years to make partners. These findings come from a recent industry report covering equity and non-equity promotions.
A recent study found that it took new partners from their company 3185 days to hit the top level, which is 136% longer than when they started tracking the data in 2012.
Lawyers who switch firms as associates also take a bit longer on the road to a partnership than they used to. It used to take lateral associates around 2-3 years to become partners and has now increased to around nine years.
It’s becoming harder for lawyers to get a partnership in Big Law firms because of many factors in play. These include a higher bar, fewer jobs available, and more lawyers entering the workforce.
A recent American Lawyer survey found a plurality of recently elevated partners at their firm belief that the partner track has gotten lengthier in the last few years. Many partners say they have been waiting for many years.
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Meanwhile, law firms are now using detours roles to avoid the rules. Firms will go to great lengths to protect their equity rank; it might also be difficult for first-year partners at profitable firms.
Many associates do not want to become partners because the traditional path to making a partner is demanding and fast-paced. However, some would rather have a slower-paced alternative that offers good job security and benefits.
Michelle Fivel, a partner at Major, Lindsey & Africa, specializing in associate placement recently, commented on the coveted goal of partnership in a law firm. She observed that firms have become more open-minded about nontraditional equity and career counsel roles for associates, including lateral hires from other firms.
Firms are encouraging a healthy balance in a lawyer’s workload. By not pushing them to exhaustion, they’re giving attorneys a long-term home where they can be productive. Fivel also said that some firms are now beginning to allow prospective partners more flexibility.
There are a few big firms that say that you can work reduced hours and still make a partner, it’ll just take you longer. She went on to say, “For parents, there are firms where you can take time off and still make partners.
The news is not surprising in the slightest. Emphasizing partner-size equality means that you’ll be able to earn more per equity partner, which is one of the most important metrics when it comes to law firm recruitment, according to Avis Caravello, a solicitor consultant.
The path to becoming an equity partner at a successful law firm can take up to 10 years. Michelle Fivel, a partner at legal recruiting firm Major, Lindsey & Africa, also has this expectation.
The current, robust partnership track has certainly gotten longer in the past few years, commented Rob Delicate, co-founder of Erica Robert Associates. Rob stated this is due to certain factors, including an increase in the positions on offer and a decrease in job openings.
He said that elite firms create tiers in their offerings to help trial and recruit new talent because it can be hard to bring in first-year partners when the company is already hugely profitable.
Companies that’ve jumped on the bandwagon in recent years have realized that hiring a supporting cast is an essential part of the mix. Recruitment agencies are looking for potential, not in terms of the size of the client’s contacts book but also their ability to provide quality work in return for future partnerships.