Legal careers can take many directions, and lawyers have different ultimate career goals. Traditionally, though, most attorneys in private practice at law firms have aspired to partnership. This makes sense given the hierarchical structure of most law firms and the “up or out” system that firms often employ, under which junior attorneys must progress annually through increasing levels of responsibility and roles before being promoted to partner or asked to leave the firm. There are exceptions to this path, with some attorneys taking permanent counsel or other nonpartner-track attorney positions or specialized support roles. However, there is often not a business case for retaining a more expensive nonpartner senior attorney when classes of junior associates continue to arrive and progress.

Attorneys on a traditional partnership track are confronted with two fundamental questions: What is required to make partner? And what are the benefits of reaching that role? While firms tend to focus on establishing and communicating the former, the latter is often seen as a given. After all, partnership is the goal, right? But after years of working long hours, constantly juggling work and personal commitments, and becoming more aware of what partnership actually entails, attorneys may question whether partnership is right for them or whether they would be more suited to an alternative career move.