At certain law firms they’re called “shares.” Others describe them as “units” or “points.” Regardless of nomenclature, the combination of surging profits and a hot talent market is lending greater urgency to the question of how firms allocate compensation among equity partners.

Some firms rely on substantial bonus pools to reward top performers, making it possible to reward productivity in a given year without reallocating shares. But elsewhere, it’s the number of shares that does the heavy lifting, and that’s prompting certain firms to accelerate the frequency of allocating these shares from a biennial basis to an annual basis.