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Some were up � way up. Others took a nose dive, but in the end, this year’s new partner classes looked a lot like last year’s. A snapshot of the 2007 partner classes at several of the largest law firms across the country shows wide fluctuations in the number of lawyers promoted to partner, compared with last year. But despite rollercoaster results, this year’s new partner classes � at least among 20 top shops � represented about the same percentage of the firms’ total partner population as last year. The 20 law firms tracked have their largest offices in a variety of U.S. cities and represent firms among the top 35 in the NLJ 250, The National Law Journal‘s annual survey of the nation’s largest law firms. Even with the firms’ bulk, the sizes of new partner classes were relatively small and stayed static in year-over-year comparisons. The class size this year equaled 2.19% of the firms’ overall attorney census, compared with 2.11% last year. In terms of sheer growth in class size, the number of associates or counsel appointed to partner, effective this year, rose by 5.1%, compared with partner classes in 2006. In 2006, partner class sizes grew by 6.1% compared with 2005. Big shifts Although the changes appear small, big shifts are occurring beneath the surface at many law firms. “There’s not much of a change in the approach that large firms are making to partnership admissions, but there is a continuing trend toward the expansion of nonequity partnership classes as opposed to equity partnership,” said Richard Gary, chairman of Thelen Reid & Priest from 1992 to 2003 and now principal of Gary Advisors, a law firm consultancy in Tiburon, Calif. According to the latest NLJ 250 survey, the average number of nonequity partners among all 250 law firms surged by 16%, while the percentage of all partners grew by 5.1%. And as firms move greater numbers of attorneys into nonequity status to keep profits per partner high, they may be more tight-lipped about the strategy. “Most firms consider it an internal issue of compensation,” Gary said. Seven of the 20 firms canvassed for this article declined to identify whether their new partners were equity or nonequity. Of those that did disclose, six promoted their entire classes to equity positions, five promoted their entire classes to nonequity positions and two gave mixed promotions. A big gainer this year was White & Case, which appointed 37 new partners, compared with 25 last year, for a 48% gain. The 1,907-attorney firm, with its largest office located in New York, was the second-biggest gainer last year, when its class size grew by eight lawyers compared with 2005. It did not disclose the number of equity versus nonequity partners. The biggest percentage gainer for 2007 was New York-based Weil, Gotshal & Manges, which promoted 66.7% more attorneys to partner than in 2006. This year, 20 associates made partner at the 1,177-attorney firm, compared with 12 in 2006. Seventeen of those 20 partners were equity and three were nonequity. In 2006, of the 12 promotions, 11 attorneys became equity partners and one was a nonequity partner. Also increasing its 2007 partner class size was Morrison & Foerster, with its largest office in San Francisco. Its group grew by 40% to 21, compared with 15 in 2006. It also declined to provide an equity/nonequity breakdown. On the flipside, several firms scaled back from granting partnerships this year. King & Spalding, for example, promoted 12 attorneys to partner, compared with 20 in 2006, for a 40% decline. The Atlanta-based firm also appointed 20 to the partnership in 2005. The firm has a two-tier partnership track, but declined to provide a breakdown. King & Spalding Chairman Robert Hays Jr. said in an e-mail message that the number of associates varies year-to-year and “will likely continue to do so.” Another firm with a notable dip was Houston-based Fulbright & Jaworski, which named 13 partners this year, compared to 18 in 2006. Last year, the law firm, which has no nonequity partners, had the biggest gain among the 20 firms, when it doubled the number of partners it appointed in 2005. Steven Pfeiffer, chairman of Fulbright & Jaworksi’s executive committee, said in a e-mail message that the new partner class size is a function of the “needs of the firm” and the number of candidates. Among the 20 law firms, the average class size in 2007 for associates or counsel promoted to partner was 26.6 attorneys, while the average size of the firm overall was 1,214 attorneys. Last year, the average partner class size among those same firms was 25.3 attorneys, and the average total size of those law firms was 1,194 attorneys. Among firms with their largest office in Washington, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld promoted 18 attorneys to partner, compared with 13 in 2006, for a 38.5% increase. All of its appointments for both years were to nonequity positions. In addition, Hogan & Hartson’s 2007 class had 19 partners, compared with 15 in 2006, a 26.7% gain. Those partners were nonequity as well. Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr bumped up its 2007 partner class by one. This year, it appointed 17 attorneys to partner, compared with 16 in 2006. The firm does not have nonequity partners. Bigger N.Y. classes Firms with their largest office in New York among the 20 mostly raised their partner class sizes. Besides the big strides at Weil Gotshal and White & Case, 1,075-attorney Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker upped its 2007 partner class to 16 from 13. All of those promotions were to equity partner. Holland & Knight’s 2007 partner class � 35 attorneys all appointed to nonequity positions � was 25% bigger than its 2006 class, which had 28 attorneys appointed to nonequity partners. Growth was flat at two other firms. Jones Day promoted 45 lawyers to partner this year and last year. They were all equity partners. Latham & Watkins appointed 31 attorneys to partner for both years. It did not disclose equity and nonequity numbers. Two Chicago law firms showed minimal changes. Kirkland & Ellis’ 2007 class was 62 compared to 61 last year. The firm did not disclose whether they were equity or nonequity positions. McDermott, Will & Emery’s class this year was 35, compared to 37 in 2006. All of those attorneys became nonequity partners. Elsewhere, the 2007 partner class at Foley & Lardner, which has its largest office in Milwaukee, went down from 30 to 23, for a 23.3% drop. Reed Smith, with its largest office in Pittsburgh, kept its 2007 class at 35, the same size as in 2006.

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