The financial turmoil that law firms, along with the rest of the economy, are experiencing today may lead to a reassessment of the conventional wisdom that every lawyer should want to become a partner.
Of course, questions about the wisdom of automatic partnership transcend the current economic scene. Would we advise our clients to move forward with a decision if questions like these were on the table? Is becoming a partner wise...
I recently spoke with one managing partner who called this process "culling." It also affects lawyers on the low end of the totem pole. Associates are hired out of law school and work for five, six or seven years. Then, if they don't make partner, they're asked to leave to make way for the next group of young "unwashed" law school graduates. Most human beings are optimists (until they conclude otherwise), and I suspect most young associates believe the sacrifices they make early in their careers are worth it because they are convinced they are among the select few who will become partner-right up until the moment that they are shown the door.
Achieving partnership in a law firm of course remains a worthy and honorable goal for most lawyers. But it should not be taken as an automatic one. Strive to become partner-but do so with your eyes open.
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