Lindsey Mann, Troutman Sanders, Atlanta.
Lindsey Mann, Troutman Sanders, Atlanta. (John Disney/Daily Report)

The city’s largest firms have promoted fewer associates to partner this year, after promotions hit a peak in 2016.

At the eight largest Atlanta-based general practice firms, firmwide partner promotions fell by 15 percent, with 71 lawyers promoted in all offices as of Jan. 1, 2017, compared with 84 last year.

Promotions this year were also down slightly from 2015, when 73 associates made partner at the same group of Am Law 100 and 200 firms: King & Spalding, Alston & Bird, Troutman Sanders, Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton, Eversheds Sutherland, Morris Manning & Martin, Arnall Golden Gregory, and Smith Gambrell & Russell.

The Daily Report separately tracked 62 new Atlanta partner promotions at these eight firms plus 20 other large firms, ranging from Am Law 100 firms with an office in the city, such as Polsinelli, to local litigation firms such as Swift, Currie McGhee & Hiers.

Many of the 62 new Atlanta partners followed a similar path: 85 percent went to a law school in the South, with half holding a J.D. from a Georgia school.

The University of Georgia was alma mater for 13 new partners, leading the pack, followed by Emory University with nine alumni, Georgia State University with five alumni and Mercer University with four.

Vanderbilt University, another popular law school among the new partners, had six alumni.

Eight years was the median amount of time it took from law school graduation to make partner—the time span for one-fourth (15) of the 62 new partners. The majority (34) took between eight and 10 years.

Nine lawyers still made partner in the once-traditional seven-year period—and two even made partner in six years.

Litigation was the most common practice group for the new partners, accounting for 14 (more than a fifth) of those promoted. This year, real estate (10 promotions) outpaced corporate and securities law (eight promotions). That was followed by banking and intellectual property law, with seven new partners in each area.

Gender Imbalance

Firms continued to promote more men than women to partner in Atlanta, mirroring the national trend. Of the 62 new Atlanta partners, only 29 percent were women.

Women made up only one-fifth of the new partner class firmwide at the city’s two largest firms. Three out of 14 new partners were women at King & Spalding, and four out of 20 were women at Alston & Bird.

The new partner classes at Troutman Sanders and Kilpatrick Stockton & Townsend were about one-third female—three out of nine at Troutman and three out of eight at Kilpatrick.

Arnall Golden was a notable exception. Women made up a majority of its new partner class—five out of the eight—which was also one of the 160-lawyer firm’s largest-ever new partner classes. By contrast, the firm promoted six partners last year, and five were men.

“We are intentional about developing and mentoring our talented associates for a transition to productive partners without regard to gender,” the firm’s managing partner, Jonathan Eady, said in an email.

Sutherland Asbill & Brennan (now Eversheds Sutherland after its March 1 merger with U.K. firm Eversheds) also promoted more women than men; two of its three new partners are female.

One reason often offered for the greater numbers of men promoted overall is that women drop off the partnership track to raise families.

But several women and a man newly promoted to partner said they’d been able to balance the demands of child-raising with their jobs.

At Arnall Golden, Tunrola Odelowo, a new partner in the real estate group with two young children, said she’s able to leave work at a reasonable hour to spend time with her children and, if necessary, log back on to her computer after they go to bed. Work-life balance has not been a huge issue for her, she added. “You know what needs to get done, and you figure out how to get it done,” she said. “It’s important to understand what’s urgent and what’s not—and the importance of communication.”

“You just make it work,” said Stacey Mohr, a litigator at Eversheds Sutherland. “It never occurred to me to not make it work.”

Last year Mohr spent a month in Florida on a big trial with one of her mentors, Rocco Testani, defending the Florida State Board of Education and the state Legislature in a suit challenging the constitutionality of using tax-credit vouchers for the state’s private school choice program.

Mohr’s children were 2 and 3 at the time. She said her husband and her mother, who lives in Atlanta, cared for them and brought them down to visit a couple of weekends so she could stay in Florida and prepare witnesses. (The trial court dismissed the suit, and the Florida Supreme Court affirmed earlier this year.)

“I’ve always felt supported in my career at Sutherland,” Mohr said, adding that she was able to take “relatively generous maternity leave with both children and jump back into cases I was working on before.”

Lindsey Mann, a new partner at Troutman Sanders, also has young children—5-year-old boy and girl twins and a 2-year-old daughter. Mann, a litigator who defends consumer class actions, said taking care of the children, including day care drop-offs, is a joint effort with her husband, Tyler Mann, who’s also a lawyer. They met at Troutman, and he is now an assistant U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia.

“We have family dinner every night and then do homework,” she said, adding that she and her husband’s families are both in Atlanta, which helps.

Ian Byrnside, a new partner at Baker Hostetler and also a litigator, said he changed his whole schedule when his son, now 6, was born. “I started coming into work earlier and leaving earlier. There is no facetime requirement, as long as the work’s getting done,” said Byrnside, adding that he can work at home when he needs to.

Even with a few big trials and arbitrations that he’s handled with one of his mentors, S. Derek Bauer, including a recent weeklong trial in Atlanta, Byrnside said he’s never missed any of his son’s soccer games or other events.

“I’ve been lucky with the timing of the trials,” he said. “Sometimes there is more work than life—but overall, it’s a very good balance.”

Making Partner

The new partners said their firms provided support to help them along the partnership path.

At Arnall Golden, said Odelowo, “the firm was very clear about how to get to the next level if you wanted to. … They were very intentional about the kind of training and mentorship they had in place.”

She said Arnall Golden assigns mentors, which was helpful—as was a women’s group that meets quarterly, “where you can just talk collaboratively about what’s going on—about challenges and opportunities—outside the workplace.”

“Little things like that went a long way toward thinking this is a place where I can try and build something,” Odelowo said.

Mohr at Eversheds Sutherland advised aspiring partners to remember that making partner is a two-way street. “Find people you like to work for and who will invest in you—and make sure you are a good return on their investment,” she said.

When a partner finds an associate who reliably does good work and anticipates their needs, she said, “they will want to keep giving you work and focusing on your professional development.”

Like many firms, Troutman does not require associates to have their own clients to make partner, Mann said, but “you have to have a pipeline of work … and convince people that you’ll be able to develop work and stay busy after making partner.”

She found a mentor, early on, in Bill Withrow Jr., who chairs Troutman’s litigation department, along with Lynette Smith. Mann said Smith went in-house at firm client Chick-fil-A when she was a fourth- or fifth-year associate, so she took on a lot of responsibility as a senior associate. Jaime Theriot, the firm’s general counsel, has been another mentor, she said.

She did good work for them when staffed on their cases as an associate, Mann said, “and they kept coming back to me. We got to know each other personally and, as a result of that friendship, the mentorship grew.”

Baker Hostetler’s Byrnside, who focuses on health care and media cases, said his goal from the outset was to make partner. So he chose a firm, McKenna Long & Aldridge, where he thought the odds of succeeding were good, after earning a J.D. in 2008 from Vanderbilt. “I liked the people, and I felt like I would have the opportunity to build relationships and do substantive work,” he said, adding that he was able to take depositions within three months of joining McKenna.

When McKenna agreed in 2015 to be acquired by global megafirm Dentons, Byrnside was part of a roughly 35-lawyer group led by Jim Rawls and Bauer that joined Baker Hostetler’s local office.

Having Rawls and Bauer as mentors the last few years was a big boost, Byrnside said: “Having them championing me was a big part of what helped me to make partner as early as I did.”