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February 04, 2007

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John Flood

Bill, I think this is correct. The tournament model almost belongs to another era. The changes you are analyzing are occurring in the UK also. A couple of things arise here. One, associates don't even consider becoming partners or an ever-diminishing number do. This may be because they see it as too remote or because frankly it isn't worth the battle. Partners like associates are essentially fungible unless you possess some key rainmaking skills. Two, there are plenty of alternative careers for lawyers now, which no longer carry the stigma of failure. Banking is increasingly attractive, either as inhouse counsel or as a banker. Consider Harvey Miller's move from Weil Gotshal to Greenhill. Annual attrition rates are now approaching 30% for associates. It's probably too late for law firms to do anything to counter the trend. I don't think Allen & Overy's putting an associate on the management board will suffice, nor will all the other arrangements you mention. Finally, when the Clementi changes go through and law firms are owned by external investors, eg, Goldman Sachs, KKR, etc, partnership will die a lingering death as they chase the IPO.

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