MADE UP PARTNERS - Record financial years and a tight talent market are helping to drive many Big Law firms to promote record partnership classes this year. But ALM’s recent 2021 New Partners Survey found that the partnership track at many firms has gotten longer in recent years. So what’s the truth? Well, both things, actually. As Law.com’s Dylan Jackson reports, it all comes down to how you define “partner.” “You have to remember most of these promotions are into salary partner not equity partner,” legal consultant Brad Hildebrandt noted to Jackson. “There is a realization that firms haven’t been doing enough promotion over the last 10 years. But the track to equity partnership I don’t think is getting any shorter. It’s still hard.” As we’ve written in this space before, swelling nonequity ranks are not a great look for the many firms that use that tier as a parking lot for attorneys who are basically “partners” in name only. Even so, that tag can still serve an important function. “Giving someone the title of ‘partner’ is the firm’s ‘Good Housekeeping seal of approval’—a statement to the market that this person has the skills to handle important matters for clients in a manner consistent with the brand of the firm (e.g., fast, innovative, scholarly, aggressive or whatever other attribute is associated with the firm’s brand),” Paul T. Denis, a former AmLaw 100 partner and current legal market analyst, recently told Law.com.
SPACE LAUNCHES - Not only are law firm offices not going away, they’re multiplying! Even after the rush to Salt Lake City this fall, and a spate of openings this month from Virginia to Kansas City and the San Francisco Bay, law firm leaders told Law.com’s Andrew Maloney they will likely continue to grow their footprint in the states next year and beyond. Although the pandemic is still complicating merger talks and has put many firmwide office returns on hold, a recent survey by Thomson Reuters and the Georgetown Law Center on Ethics and the Legal Profession found that “[f]ully one-half of firm business leaders say they definitely or probably will seek to expand into new domestic markets” in the near future. Meanwhile, the physical layout of all these new offices will be interesting to monitor. As Law.com’s Jessie Yount reports, the hybrid arrangement many firms have opted for presents the most challenging and dynamic scenario to management teams. As a result, some firms are shying away from the idea of office-sharing or hoteling despite the fact that many are expected to offer some degree of work from home, according to Kevin Bender, Southern California-based managing director at JLL. Regardless, Stephen Bay, a vice chairman in Los Angeles at CBRE, confirmed what we recently noted: smart law firm leaders are looking for innovative ways to make offices a place people actually want to come to, at least part-time. As he told Yount: “The law firm mantra is: I’ve got to design space that draws people in.”