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The goal of most law firm associates is to make partner. But what about junior partner? Is that worth striving for too?
Obviously in some ways junior partner is a worthy title if only because it's the stepping stone to become a full or senior partner. For some, it may be a goal in itself.
Part of the problem is that the terms 'junior' and 'senior' partner don't necessarily have a standard across the legal industry. While they have the same general meaning, the details of how junior partners are treated and compensated varies among firms. It's those variations that dictate what 'junior partner' really means.
What separates associates from partners in most firms is whether you are salaried or get paid from equity. Associates have a stable salary while partners are paid from the firm's profits.
In medium to large firms there is often a distinction between equity and non-equity partners. Non-equity partners rank above associates and have more responsibility in finding and maintaining clients but they are still paid a salary.
In firms that have these two ranks, non-equity partners generally can be promoted to equity status.
Junior partner may be used to denote these non-equity partners in your firm. But it can also be a separate status.
Some firms are moving to a system of permanent non-equity partners. Those partners earn a salary and don't have as much pressure to be rainmakers. But they are still highly paid and well-respected in their firm.
For firms that are choosing this model, both equity and non-equity partnerships may have a junior and senior level.
Of course junior partners are paid less than senior partners, but they also have less stress and fewer responsibilities. They also earn a considerable amount more than associates so of course it's all relative.
If your goal is to become partner, junior partner is still a big step towards fulfilling your ambition. It's a not a reason to stop reaching but it's still an excuse to celebrate.