PUZZLE PIECES – Part 6

Q: “OK, let’s get specific. Let’s talk about you. Your path to the top of your firm was a lot easier than it is for new associates today, right?”

Partner: “I don’t accept that. We’re a meritocracy. Cream rises to the top.”

Q:  “Just because cream rises to the top doesn’t mean you skim all of it off, does it?”

Partner: “That’s clever, but what’s your point?”

Q: “Are you saying that the path to equity partnership at your firm is no more difficult now than it was for you?”

Partner: “I don’t think about it that way.”

Q: “I’m sure you don’t. But I’m asking you to think about it that way now. According to Am Law, in 1995 your firm had 315 lawyers of whom 132 — more than 40% — were equity partners, right?”

Partner: “That’s what it reported.”

Q: “In Feburary 2010, American Lawyer reported that your firm ended 2009 with more than double that number of lawyers — almost 800 in all. But during that 14-year period, the number of equity partners rose by a measly 17 — to only 149 , right?”

Partner: “You’ve posed a compound question, but what’s your point?”

Q: “When you’re averaging only one additional equity partner per year on a net basis, every associate in an incoming class of 20, 30 or even more law school graduates faces pretty daunting odds against success, correct?”

Partner: “The best will still make it.”

Q: “And if your firm wants to preserve its equity partners’ multi-million dollar incomes, some highly capable attorneys — people good enough to have advanced if they’d been in your demographic group 30 years ago — won’t capture the brass ring of equity partnership today, will they?”

Partner: “We’ll always have room for the best.”

Q: “Your Honor, I move to strike the witness’ last answer as non-responsive.”

THE COURT: “Motion granted. The witness is instructed to answer the question.”

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