Law Firm Management

Murray’s Handy Dandy Guide to Becoming a Partner

I once had a partner who was a “heads down, get your work done” type of guy. Knew his law. Billed like a fiend. Not much of a people person. Let’s call him Ken.

Coming up for consideration as a partner was a woman who worked in a different department.  I will call her Anne. She had worked at the firm for about seven years. Everyone thought that Anne should be admitted. Ken was not quite sure, but he eventually said, “I don’t really know who Anne is, but the rest of you seem to like her so I will go along.” And Ken was serious. He probably would have recognized that Anne was a lawyer at the firm if he passed her in the hallway, but he would have had no idea what her name was.

This was not a big firm. The partnership group was about eight at the time. There were only around 20 lawyers in the firm.  Like I said, Ken was a “head down” type of guy. (Now in fairness to Ken, we had two offices at the time and Ken and Ann worked in separate offices. But still.)

I imagine that Anne could not have guessed what was being discussed at the meeting to consider her admission to the partnership.  In fact, I don’t think that most associates have much of an idea of how these discussions go, so I have created a chart to help.

IssueRelative Importance (Out of 10)
Client origination credits15
Quality of legal work5
Likability with clients5
Likability within the firm5
Trains others2
Supervises others2
Mentors others2
Participates in firm marketing1
Technologically savvy0-10 depending on whether it affects billings
Sleeping with a partner or client0-10 depending on whether it affects billings

And then there are the really important factors that have nothing to do with the candidate’s abilities.  I have created another chart.

IssueRelative Importance (Out of 10)
Will making new partners decrease per partner income?20
Is candidate likely to leave if we don’t offer partnership0-10 depending on billings
Are clients likely to go with candidate if candidate leaves0-10 depending on client base
Diversity3-10 depending on whether clients are demanding it

There you have it. Nothing else matters.

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