Money Matters

what does it mean to "make partner"?

I always assumed it meant you were one of the names on the sign "Smith, Johnson, and Jones" but I think I might be wrong... :-)

Re: what does it mean to "make partner"?

  • My firm has something like 300 partners so that would be a very long name Smile

    It (usually) means that you're a part owner.  What that means depends on the type of partnership you're talking about.  At a law firm like mine, it means that you stop being a salaried associate and start getting a "draw" from the firm's profits (what amount depends on the partner, and depends on how well the firm does in any given year -- but partners also get a monthly stipend to cover their living expenses because draws get paid out I think quarterly).  You also have to buy in to a partnership like this one.

    There's a lot more to it legally and from a liability standpoint, but I'd imagine that you're Sleep by now.

  • What V said. For some lawyers, it's like the holy grail of lawyerdom, the crown to all your achievements. For others, the partnership thing only matters as much as knowing there's a fixed amount of time to be at a certain caliber of firm before you don't make partner and are asked to move on.
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  • image anna7602:
    What V said. For some lawyers, it's like the holy grail of lawyerdom, the crown to all your achievements. For others, the partnership thing only matters as much as knowing there's a fixed amount of time to be at a certain caliber of firm before you don't make partner and are asked to move on.

    This is all very true too (at least if we're talking about law firms).  Some people refer to making partner as a "gold star" -- some of them they don't even actually plan (or at least claim that they don't plan) on sticking around the firm after making partner, but want to make partner just so they know that they're one of the chosen ones.  (Note: at big firms VERY VERY few of the people who start as first years will ever make partner at the firm -- in part because of natural attrition but in large part because firms tend to make very few partners a year relative to the size of the firm).  Also, if you are at biglaw your associate salary is a salary, and it gets capped at a certain point after which you don't really get raises or anything, while if you're a really successful partner you can make millions a year (but most partners make less than that).  So becoming partner is when you can start thinking about building your money bin.

    Part of the attrition before partnership is because people get passed on for partnership and then are told to (or are expected to) leave the firm, or people who leave ahead of time because they don't want to stick around to be passed on for partner, because being a tenth-year associate at a firm with an eight-year partnership track screams to potential other employers that you weren't enough of a superstar to make partner -- so people will leave at like 4-6th year to avoid that.

    You will note that lawyers are a kind of neurotic, psychotic bunch.

  • "Partner" doesn't necessarily mean ownership stake in the firm.  There are levels of partner in some (generally larger) firms.  DH is a partner (one of several hundred, if I am not mistaken) but gets salary and bonus just as associates and "of counsel" in the firm do.  ("Of Counsel" also means something slightly different in his firm, apparently.  Of Counsel in the smaller PI firm in which I worked was a guy who wasn't a member of the firm but rented an office and used the firm secretary.  DH as "Of Counsel" was of the "you're more senior than an associate but we're not ready to make you a partner yet" garden variety.  Income is a partner who still gets salary and bonuses on the same structure as an associate but has some say in the firm governance in the form of meetings, committees and has access to a greater base of knowledge as to how the firm is run, the financials, etc.  There is a next-step Partner that actually holds shares in the firm and is paid on a draw and firm profitability basis.  Beyond the general equity partners is a higher tier of equity partner in senior, management and firmwide leadership partners, attorneys who have been with the firm since inception or early on and have played a major role in the growth and development of the firm proper.  The only partners who have an "ownership" are the first and second tiers; the third tiers are those who are working their way into the owner/shareholder-partnerships.

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  • A lot of firms have tiers of partnerships. There are firms where you are only "partner" in name and still get a salary. You can be an income partner where you get a share of the profits but no equity stake or you can be equity partner where you own a share not just of the income but of the business.
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