Are the Partners at Your Firm Padding their Profits?

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on August 26, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Resume padding seems to be an industry-wide habit these days, branching out beyond law school employment data and overzealous students.

Nearly half of the top 50 firms on the Am Law 100 overstated partner profits by more than 20% for the year 2010, reports the Citi Private Bank Law Firm Group study on law firm lending.

Maybe the partners just needed an ego boost?

To be fair, American Lawyer and Citi define "equity partner" slightly differently, reports the Wall Street Journal. A representative from the American Lawyer told the paper that the majority of its numbers are either identical to, or within 10%, of those calculated by Citi.

This year's list, which came out in April, boasts average profits per partner of $1.36 million, which is 8.4% higher than last year. This is a boon compared to a 4.3% loss in 2008, and a 0.3% rise in 2009.

Overstated or not, these numbers may be pleasant to look at. But they still don't say much about the state of the legal industry from the perspective of graduating students and associates.

While partner profits did go up, the number of associates and equity partners at these firms went down. The number of lawyers at Am Law 100 firms fell by 2.7% in 2010, according to the New York Times.

Less people to pay, more profit, higher ranking. Partners win.

In other words, inflated or not, focusing on partner profits as a measure of the health of the legal industry can be highly misleading.

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