The legal industry is not what it once was. Once upon a time, if you got hired by BigLaw, paid your dues and put your time in, you would likely make partner. Now, getting an associate position is hard enough, and making partner that much more.
So what's an associate to do?
Up or Out Policy
According to the American Bar Association Law Practice Magazine, the "up or out" policy -- where associates either make it up to partner, or leave the firm, is no longer the leading model. Instead, firms are looking for creative ways to keep talent within the firm, even though the chances of promotion are slim to none.
Perhaps your law school gunner days are not that far behind you and you're still gunning for partner -- the best of luck to you. But for many, the partnership track is unappealing. For one thing, many attorneys have interests outside of the law and don't want their lives consumed by billing hours and courting clients. Some attorneys may not want to deal with the additional stress, while others may want some flex time for their families. Whatever the reasons, alternatives to the partnership track are becoming more and more popular.
Alternatives to Partnership
If your firm is slow to this reality, but is not offering partnerships in the quantities it used to, you may want to be proactive and let your firm know that there is interest among the ranks for an alternative path. In a time when more and more firms are getting push back from in-house counsel about billing, having a pool of lower-cost attorneys may be a welcome development.
Many new job titles are beginning to surface such as senior attorney, e-discovery lawyer and special advisor, according to Law Practice. You may develop or hone a particular niche, or client base, without the stress of owning partnership equity. There are many details your firm will need to hammer out such as titles, compensation, billing rate and administration, but think of this as a chance to develop an alternative track for attorneys at your firm.
If you express interest to your firm, you may end up crafting a solution to saving your firm's corporate clients money, while making its lawyers happy. Everybody wins.