For many large firms, 2018 promises to be the most profitable year since the Great Recession—barring any downturn in the 4th quarter. But as many leaders know, setting partner compensation in a great year is often tougher and can cause more internal dissension than in a bad year.

How can higher profits be a problem? It has to do with managing expectations. Hours are up, and it is now rare to find underutilized transactional lawyers in healthy firms. As busy partners hear profits are up 10 percent or 12 percent, expectations are raised, and partners who fall short of the firm’s overall profit increase can easily feel cheated.

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