Partnership Tiers and Tracks (July 2017)

NALP Bulletin, July 2017

Not quite two-thirds of the offices represented in the 2016 NALP Directory of Legal Employers reported two or more partnership tiers. This remains well above the levels of 15 to 20 years ago, but the upward trend in the prevalence of two-tier partnerships appears to have slowed dramatically. Such a structure is most prevalent in firms of 251-500 lawyers, where 86% of offices reported two or more partnership tiers, and in firms of 101-250 lawyers, where three-quarters did so. In contrast, just one-half of offices in smaller firms reported such a structure.

Information provided by law offices for 2016-2017 reveals that seven- or eight-year partnership tracks remain the most common, accounting for 38% and 48% of the total, respectively. Most of the remaining offices reported a lower figure. These figures are based on 500 reports of a single figure — e.g., seven years or seven years plus a fraction — and include figures reported for both an equity track and a non-equity track. Additional offices reported a range of years — e.g., eight to ten. These offices were excluded from the compilation of partnership track figures. It can be noted that seven- and eight-year tracks have been most common over the time period reported here, but in 2001 seven-year tracks were more common (44%) than eight-year tracks (36%.)


Use of Partnership Tiers in Law Firms (percent of offices reporting two or more partnership tiers)

  2016 2009 2001 1995
All offices 64.5% 67.0% 47.2% 34.6%
Firms of 100 or fewer lawyers 50.0 49.6 36.3 35.0
Firms of 101-250 lawyers 74.8 73.6 48.1 41.0
Firms of 251-500 lawyers 86.5 77.9 56.9 27.3
Firms of more than 500 lawyers 57.1 66.1 46.7 27.3
Number of offices 1,097 1,571 1,234 940

Source: NALP Directory of Legal Employers, 1995-1996, 2001-2002, 2009-2010, and 2016-2017.

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