Sixth-year litigation associate sees little chance of making partner by LawCrossing


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									Legal Career Q & A with BCG Attorney Search

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welcome your most pressing questions and are here to provide you with
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By Claudia Barnes, Managing Director

I am a sixth year litigation associate with a large firm in Los Angeles. This year the firm promoted only two associates to partner and
neither one works in the Los Angeles office. I have consistently had very good reviews, and the Los Angeles partners have told me they
will go to bat for me when I am up for partner. However, the Los Angeles office of my firm does not have the pull and power it used
to- which, I believe, is partly why the firm did not promote anyone from our office. While I am happy at the firm, I can not help but be
concerned for my future and opportunity for advancement. Meanwhile, I have a friend who moved to a boutique firm several years ago,
and he was just promoted to partner as a sixth year associate! What should I do?

                        Answer:                                        (your friend who made partner as a sixth year is more of an
                        Sadly, the chances of making partner           exception to the rule). There are NO guarantees. It is possible
                        these days at a large firm are slim-           to be turned down for partnership, but then make partner at
                        even in a booming economy. There               a later time. Of course you may be promoted to Of Counsel (if
                        are many factors that come into play           the firm has attorneys with such a title) and then promoted
                        as to whether someone is promoted              again to partner. At this stage in your career, ANY law firm- no
                        to partner, including likeability of           matter what the size - is going to hire you with an eye toward
                        candidate, potential of candidate to           partnership. The hiring process will take much longer than
                        bring in business, political savvy of          for more junior associates, and you will certainly be asked to
                        candidate, candidate’s practice area,          provide a conflicts form and possibly a business or marketing
hours candidate billed over the last 3+ years, and the                 plan. A firm is going to ask you questions about your existing
economics of candidate’s firm. In the case of a large firm’s           experience but also about your relationship with firm clients.
branch or satellite office, you also need to consider the office’s     Ideally, any firm that hires you will hope you are able to bring
overall reputation within the firm. It is important to consider        in work and certainly will expect you to help generate more
whether the partners in your office have the ‘’pull’’ to help          work from existing clients.
advance your career. If the firm has routinely promoted
associates in your office to partner and this happens to be an         Many believe it is ‘’easier’’ to make partner at a small or mid-
‘’off’’ year due to the economy, then my best recommendation           sized firm. This assumption is usually true, but the factors that
would be to stay put but explore other opportunities as a              come into play in making partner at a large firm are the same
precaution.                                                            factors that a small or mid-size firm considers. With more and
                                                                       more large firms focusing on their core or top 10 institutional
If the Los Angeles office has not been self-sufficient and has         clients, more and more of the ‘’middle market’’ companies are
relied on other offices for work for over two years, it would be       being referred to the small and mid-size firms. Also, generally
wise to explore other options very seriously. As you get more          these firms have lower billing rates (although not always)
senior, it is going to become more and more difficult to move          making it is easier to bring in new clients who simply can not
to another firm without having an existing book of business.           afford large firm billing rates.
Now is the time to look into other opportunities. 2010 is
already showing signs of being a stronger market for laterals.         It would behoove you to speak with a seasoned recruiter
                                                                       who would offer you advice for your particular situation.
You can expect a firm of ANY size to take at least two to              You want to work with someone who is honest and is going
three years before they even consider you for partnership              to look at the big picture. You need a recruiter who is not

PAGE                                                                                            continued on back
Legal Career Q & A with BCG Attorney Search

motivated by money but rather helping people and doing the               what is best for your career and not the recruiter’s need to
right thing. Particularly if you are in good standing at your            make a placement or fulfill a job opening. Of course, I would
firm and not necessarily in a rush to leave, you want to work            recommend BCG Attorney Search ( to
with someone who is going to offer you good advice based on              find such a caliber of a recruiter.

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