PUZZLE PIECES – Part 4

[An imaginary cross-examination of the 67-year-old Dechert partner profiled in “Not Done Yet” continues…]

Q: “What about money?”

Partner: “What about it?”

Q: “Do you think your equity partner income made you reluctant to admit — even to yourself — that someday you’d have to retire from your firm?”

Partner: “I don’t know why it would. Wealth creates options.”

Q: “Perhaps. Or maybe it fuels the lesser angels of our nature. Forty years ago, you didn’t become a lawyer because you thought it would make you rich, did you?”

Partner: “No. As I told the ABA reporter, early American lawyers such as Daniel Webster and Henry Clay inspired me.”

Q: “When you started your career in the early 1970s, no one talked much about billable hours, did they?”

Partner: “No.”

Q: “Or partner leverage?”

Partner: “Nope.”

Q: “Or other law firms’ average equity profits per partner?”

Partner: “How much money people made was not the subject of polite conversation. There’s more information today.”

Q: “I take it that you’re referring to the Am Law 100. What’s that?”

Partner: “The annual listing of the nation’s largest law firms.”

Q: “Do you remember when the first list appeared?”

Partner: “Sometime in the 1980’s, wasn’t it?”

Q: “1985; it started as the Am Law 50. Ten years later — in 1995 — what did Am Law report the total number of lawyers in your firm to be?”

Partner: “Probably around 300.”

Q: “You’re close. 315. How many of those were equity partners?”

Partner: “I don’t recall.”

Q: “Let me refresh your recollection. The July/August 1996 issue of American Lawyer says you had 132 equity partners — more than 40% of your firm’s attorneys. Do you know what Am Law said Dechert’s average equity partner profits were in 1995?”

Partner: “I’m sure you’ll tell me.”

Q: “$345,000 in 1995. Do you know what Am Law reported your firm’s average equity partner income to be a dozen years later — in 2007 –when you had the revelation that, alas, you were getting older?”

Partner: “Go ahead.”

Q: “$2.35 million.”

Pause.

Q: “Let’s talk about how that happened.”

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