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More lawyers made partner at top law firms this year, with many shops bolstering their ranks by more than 25%. Overall, new partner classes in 19 of the nation’s biggest firms grew by 4.6% this year, compared with 2005. Among those firms, 477 attorneys became partners effective this year, while 456 lawyers were elevated to that status last year. The moderate increase reflects the general health of law firms, many of which have boosted associate salaries recently, reported record revenues and increased the size of their summer programs. “There’s a modest growth in ownership,” said Joel Henning, vice president of Hildebrandt International Inc., a law firm consultancy. He added, however, that the number of equity partner appointments, as opposed to nonequity appointments, is a more accurate indication of a firm’s performance. Many law firms have two types of partnerships, but most do not publicly disclose the distinction regarding specific attorneys. Find the ‘right balance’ The firm with the largest increase in new partners was 2,297-attorney Jones Day, which promoted 45 this year, compared with 34 in 2005. Fulbright & Jaworski of Houston, with 918 attorneys total, upped its new partner class to 18 this year, compared with nine last year. White & Case, with 1,983 attorneys, added eight new partners to its class in 2006, for a new partner total of 25, compared with 17 in 2005. Those firms had the greatest escalation in percentages of new partners as well. White & Case managing partner Duane Wall said that although adding new partners is “vital” for the firm and for individual career development, the number of new partners is based on client demand and available talent.
Firm 2006 2005 % change
Akin Gump 13 16 -19%
Foley & Lardner 30 24 +25%
Fulbright & Jawroski 18 9 +100%
Greenberg Traurig 38 33 +15%
Hogan & Hartson 15 22 -32%
Holland & Knight 28 25 +12%
Jones Day 45 34 +32%
Kirkland & Ellis 61 60 +2%
Kirkpatrick & Lockhart 25 20 +25%
Latham & Watkins 31 37 -11%
McDermott Will 37 40 -8%
Morrison & Foerster 15 22 -32%
O’Melveny & Myers 14 16 -13%
Paul Hastings 13 14 -7%
Reed Smith 27 24 +13%
Shearman & Sterling 14 10 +40%
Weil, Gotshal & Manges 12 12 0%
White & Case 25 17 +47%
WilmerHale 16 21 -24%
Source: The National Law Journal.

“This year, the right balance of new partners happened to be 25,” he said, through a spokeswoman. Another law firm making a sizable addition to its partnership ranks was 935-attorney Foley & Lardner, which promoted 30 attorneys, as opposed to 24 last year. Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Nicholson Graham, with 1,012 lawyers, elevated 25 attorneys to partner this year, compared with 20 in 2005. And 1,013-attorney Shearman & Sterling of New York enlarged its new partner class to 14, compared with 10 last year. But some law firms had significantly smaller new partner classes, including 1,102-attorney Hogan & Hartson of Washington, which named 15 partners this year, compared with 22 in 2005. Morrison & Foerster, which has 1,025 lawyers overall, made the same move, reducing its new partner class to 15 from 22. Morrison & Foerster Chairman Keith Wetmore said that his firm does not “approach partnership classes with any particular number in mind.” Like Wall with White & Case, Wetmore said that the partner appointments are determined by client needs and associate talent. Another firm reducing its new partner class size this year was 1,840-attorney Latham & Watkins, which appointed 31 lawyers to partner, compared with 37 in 2005. Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, with 974 attorneys total, also reduced its new partner class, to 13 this year compared with 16 the year before. Fewer lawyers also made partner at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, where its new partner class size was 16, compared with 21 in 2005. WilmerHale has 1,151 attorneys total. The most common reason that attorneys make partner is their ability to bring in business, Henning said, adding that having an “esoteric specialty,” such as experience in the nanotechnology field, is another reason. Especially strong revenues also may put firms in a position where they can “afford to share,” he said.

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