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Credit: Daniel Liévano

Throughout 2020, Big Law firms were said to be “cleaning house”: pushing out unproductive partners so they could pay top earners more and tidy up their expense sheet as the pandemic raged and business development costs promised to return in 2021.

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Yet the nonequity tier, long viewed as a common target in these efforts in part because of the fixed costs and salaries of an income partner, grew roughly 6% last year among the Am Law 100. Average nonequity compensation across the Am Law 100—the aggregate salaries of a firm’s income partner tier—jumped 9.2%, from $92.5 million to $101.1 million.

The balance between equity and nonequity partners continued to tilt further toward the latter group, with the share of nonequity partners growing from 44.2% to 45.7%. Twenty years ago, just 22% of partners were nonequity, but the numbers have slowly shifted over time. The 2020 share is the largest for nonequity partners on record.

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Dylan Jackson

Dylan Jackson writes about the business of law and race. He can be reached at [email protected] or 305-347-6677. On Twitter @DylanBJackson

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