Biglaw Firms Scared Of Losing Associates Are Making Them Partner – Above the Law

We have a bona fide Biglaw trend — more folks are getting their hands on the brass ring of the legal world, partnership.

The dominant story of 2021 in Biglaw, has been the hot lateral market. That pressure has led to special bonuses and raises, and retention bonuses on top of all that other money — if you’re lucky enough to work in a super valuable practice area, plus signing bonuses and referral bonuses. Basically there is all the money available for the right talent. And that talent crunch means more people got promotions this year.

Let’s look at the facts, y’all.

Kirkland & Ellis had a record-breaking partnership class of 151 lawyers.

• Latham & Watkins set a record with 44 lawyers making partner, up from 33.

• Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner also set a record with 25 new partners, up from 20 last year.

• McDermott Will & Emery made 41 partners, up from last year’s 37, setting a record.

• White & Case promoted 59 lawyers to partner — a record.

• Polsinelli also set a record, making 34 new shareholders.

• Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher promoted its “most diverse class ever,” as 27 lawyers made partner.

• Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld had “the firm’s largest partner promotions class in nearly two decades,” promoting 18 lawyers to partner.

Lisa Smith, a law firm consultant with Fairfax Associates, told Reuters, “Where they might have pushed somebody off for a year or two in previous years, that’s not happening as much.”

Well, yeah. In previous years, there wasn’t nearly the demand for experienced attorneys. So, to keep the talent they have, firms are finding they have to promote more folks. Because there are plenty of other firms out there that will be willing to do just that to get their hands on valuable laterals.

Congratulations to all those who made partner… now keeping associates at the firm is your problem.

Kathryn Rubino is a Senior Editor at Above the Law, host of The Jabot podcast, and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. AtL tipsters are the best, so please connect with her. Feel free to email her with any tips, questions, or comments and follow her on Twitter (@Kathryn1).

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