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The Partnership Dilemma

Is the Partnership model dead?

Equity Partnership is the Holy Grail for lawyers.

Many have sacrificed themselves to the Altar of promotion in the vain hope that the money and additional responsibilities will make up for the disappointment of the job.

Dream on.

How much is enough?

Six figures?

Seven figures?

Does it make for happier, better or more contented people?

Not in my experience.

Where once they were battling for supremacy with the outside world they then spend their time battling a much more contrived and unhelpful position on the inside. It often feels like everyone is rowing a boat according to their own game plan.

How much more does someone give in the role than they did before promotion?

Do they put in more hours?

Do they personally bill more?

Or are they any more visible in the market?

Perhaps there needs to be a reassessment of the partnership model.

No longer should there be a right of passage – “they billed like a Demon in the last 5 years and deserve promotion”.

Instead more time needs to be spent identifying the needs of the firm. What fundamnetally is the role of a partner?

To manage?

To lead?

To inspire?

Perhaps all of those but many are still locked into the mentality of fee earning taking priority.

The challenge: open up a debate amongst your partners on their role within the business.


  1. Who are your best managers? Could someone from another practice area (say litigation) manage another team?
  2. Does the partnership model lead to a whole slew of mavericks?
  3. Do you need partners given the possibility of external investment or at least so many?
  4. Are they all overpaid?
  5. Should they be paid more according to results?
  6. Should all partners assume the same level of responsibility?
  7. Do too few partners have too much influence?
  8. Should the promotion process have to be sanctioned by the people that the partner will look after?

These are a small selection of the issues but the true test is asking one simple question: Does it (partnership) work?

Looking forward you need to consider the model that is right for you. The partnership model has stood the test of time, but needs to be reviewed to make sure that it is fit for purpose. If it doesn’t pass the Why test then what will replace it?

If you are a partner and you have misgivings just think what it is like for those just starting off or climbing the ladder? They need to be reassured that it is worth putting in 10+ years of grunt and not invest their time in a more worthwhile and profitable enterprise.

~ JS ~

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