Partnership Tiers and Tracks (February 2010)

NALP Bulletin, February 2010

Over two-thirds of the offices represented in the 2009-2010 NALP Directory of Legal Employers reported two or more partnership tiers, compared with fewer than half reporting two or more tiers in 2001 and just over one-third in 1995. Such a structure is most prevalent in firms of 251-500 lawyers, where 78% of offices reported two or more partnership tiers, and in firms of 501-700 lawyers, where almost 74% did so. In contrast, just one-half of offices in smaller firms reported such a structure.

Information provided by law offices for 2009-2010 reveals that seven- or eight-year partnership tracks remain the most common, accounting for 39% and 46% of the total, respectively. Most of the remaining offices reported a lower figure. These figures are based on almost 1,200 offices reporting a single figure — e.g., seven years or seven years plus a fraction — and in some cases may represent a minimum or the figure for a nonequity partnership. Almost 300 additional offices reported a range of years — e.g., eight to ten. These offices were excluded from the compilation of partnership track figures. It is worth noting that in 2001, seven years and eight years were also the most common partnership track periods. At that time however, 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)


2009
2001
1995
All offices
67.0%
47.2%
34.6%
Firms of 100 or fewer lawyers
49.6
36.3
35.0
Firms of 101-250 lawyers
73.6
48.1
41.0
Firms of 251-500 lawyers
77.9
56.9
27.3
Firms of more than 500 lawyers
66.1
46.7
27.3
Number of offices
1,571
1,234
940
Source: NALP Directory of Legal Employers, 1996-96, 2001-02, and 2009-10.
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