Legal Law

It Takes Longer Than Ever To Make It To Biglaw Companion

It’s not just your imagination (or just your firm,) the path to Biglaw partnership has lengthened in recent years. According to ALM’s 2021 New Partners Survey (which polls 350 attorneys that made partner between 2018 and present), 42 percent of respondents said the partnership track at their firm had gotten longer in recent years. About 38 percent said it hadn’t changed, with less than 3 percent saying it was a shorter timeframe.

So how long *does* it take to make partner? Almost 60 percent said they worked 5-10 years before making partner, and 31 percent said it took 11 to 15 years. And even when they do make partner, most polled — ~64 percent — said they are nonequity partners.

All of which qualifies as a bona fide trend:

“The partnership tracks have certainly gotten longer across the board,” said Rob Delicate, co-founder of Erica Robert Associates, a legal recruiting firm in New York. He said sometimes elite firms create nonequity or counsel tiers as a proving ground “because it’s very difficult to bring in first-year partners at a firm that’s incredibly profitable.”

But is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. Turns out, not everyone is super enamored with making partner. And even if it is on their personal to-do list, they’re balancing other things in their lives, so it’s okay if it takes a little longer:

“There are a couple of firms I can think of that say, ‘Listen, you can work a reduced hour schedule and still make partner. It’s just going to take a bit longer.’ Or for parents, ‘You can take parental leave and still make partner,’” [Michelle Fivel, a partner at Major, Lindsey & Africa] said. “I think those firms are sort of outliers, frankly, but certainly people are curious about those and asking about them when they make lateral moves.”

Seems like any trend that puts a focus on work/life balance is a good one.


Kathryn Rubino is a Senior Editor at Above the Law, host of The Jabot podcast, and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. AtL tipsters are the best, so please connect with her. Feel free to email her with any tips, questions, or comments and follow her on Twitter (@Kathryn1).

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