Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Associates on Partner Track Need a Plan B

Big law firms are naming fewer associates to the partner track, according to a Business Week article titled Making Partner Less Likely as Big Law Firms Face Cash Crunch.

The article reports:
Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP in New York announced it was promoting only six attorneys to equity partner in December, down from 20 a year earlier. Mayer Brown LLP in Chicago said it promoted 14 attorneys to partner in November, down from 27, and Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP in San Francisco announced seven partner promotions this month, down from 15 a year ago. Revenue at U.S. firms was forecast to drop as much as 10 percent in 2009, according to a survey of 131 firms by Citi Private Bank’s law firm group.
Here are some likely implications:
  • Associates will give more thought to hanging out their own shingle after gaining a few years of experience plus the money to offset law school loans
  • Business development skills will play a crucial role in new partner selection
  • Mid-sized firms will benefit from high level associates seeking better working conditions
  • Aggressive associates may move to in-house counsel positions more readily
Longer term, economic and competitive pressures will continue to push costs down while forcing law firms to increase proficiency in both operations and legal business development.

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