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Economic Considerations for Law Firm Partners

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By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on May 10, 2016 4:12 PM

If you're a partner at a firm, you should take time to draw in a deep breath: you're in a position that thousands of other lawyer might even kill for. Still, you've probably wondered what your future at your current firm holds, and maybe you've even considered moving laterally into another firm. But does the cost outweigh the benefit? Here are a few economic considerations for partners:

Will You Be Forced to Retire Under the Terms of Your Contract?

Maybe after enough time, the decision to move may actually be made for you. Many employment contracts (even for partners) require that a particular partner make way and vacate his seat after hitting a certain age. Let's not get into the hairy debate of whether or not such agreements are right or wrong, or if they're even legal under federal law. Let's assume they are. Aging partners may be unceremoniously booted from their positions and forced to move to Florida against their will. But if no such provision exists in your contract, you can essentially rely on the safety of your current position. That is, until you start screwing up ...

Is Your Firm Funding Your Retirement Pension?

We're hoping that you're losing hair and getting creaking in the joints if you have a pension plan waiting for you -- or else there's really no justice in the world.

Congratulate yourself if you're a partner who enjoys a deluxe pension plan from a larger firm. If that's the case, the blood, sweat, and toil of the younger attorneys who clamored over themselves to secure a seat at the firm you might be soon leaving will be funding your trip to Fiji and other fancy vacation spots around the planet.

It's actually not really a laughing matter. Most of these pension plans are unfunded except for the profits the firm earns as time goes on. If the money stops flowing, your pension could dry and shrivel up. So if you see your firm going under, not only may you have to put your retirement on hold, you may even have to find another job elsewhere.

How Do You Generally Feel With Your Direction in the Firm?

Or maybe you're just feeling a little restless with the direction of your firm. It could be a passing thing. We hate to state the obvious, but the decision to leave your partner position at the firm will largely be influenced by the whole economic profile of the situation. You'll have to be guided by what's best for you and your pocketbook. Maybe you're not retiring yet, but partners will have to look after their own best interests.

New generations of attorneys are already hopping to this, particularly newly named young partners. "Loyalty" is a word that the new generation may not even be able to spell.

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