Gen X or Younger? Chances Are You're Not Going to Make Partner

By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on November 10, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

According to recent reports, only 3 percent of managing partners at the nation's top 100 law firms are from Generation X.

This is consistent with the public's image of law firm partners as being white, balding, 3-piece-suit-wearing law firm fixtures. But even we were surprised by these numbers. On the other hand, this information might just be the push young associates need to question whether making junior partner is worth the trouble.

Paraphrasing Recent Studies

The New York Times DealBook Blog cited information gathered by Heather Morse and Jonathan Fitzgerrald which suggest that only 3 percent of partners in the top 100 law firms in America are from Generation X. Another survey by Altman Weil found that in 63 percent of larger law firms, partners aged 60 and older controlled at least one quarter of firm revenue. And only about a third had any mechanism in place for formally helping associates move up the ladder.

The Millennial Shift

In reaction to his findings, Henderson said that he did not know of a single law firm that had made what he called the "millennial shift." Rather than making substantive changes, "most are tinkering at the edges." These are sobering words for young attorneys who got into the law game because they were seduced by the image of law firm partners who had more power and influence than they knew what to do with.

Cultural Norm Changes

Therese D. Pritchard, chairwoman of St. Louis firm Bryan Cave's "business academy," said that there is less of an expectation that lawyers will start with one firm and stay there. Therefore, it is more and more difficult to make partner at a law firm these days. However, in an effort to keep talent, a few firms have elected to allow new associates to create practice areas that associates have real interest in.

Still, it's a bet that the old ways are here to stay -- at least for a little while longer. Lawyers have never been the first to be accused to pioneering new ways of doing things ...

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