With plenty of lawyers but relatively low partner profits, Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw found itself earlier this month in the uncomfortable position of having to downsize its equity partner ranks in what it said was a push to stay competitive in the war for talent.

But a look at other big law firms shows that many are in the same situation as the Chicago firm, raising questions about whether they, too, will want to do some significant trimming at the top.