Self-sacrifice, at least of the rhetorical variety, is the order of the day among partners in a number of top law firms. As firms began to feel the financial effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in the early weeks of lockdown, scarcely a day went by without news of a major firm making cutbacks, almost always including reductions to partner compensation. 

Couched as preparations for an uncertain future, a small number of firms have pared back nonlawyer staff. More have zeroed in on compensation. And where this has happened, a disproportionate amount of the burden has fallen on equity partners. “Reed Smith’s owners, rightly, continue to bear the largest share of the financial burden of the firm’s actions,” reads an early-June message from managing partner Sandy Thomas, announcing a second wave of cuts at that global firm. 

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