According to ALM Media (Jun-22) equity partnership ranks across law firms remained mostly flat in 2021, despite fantastic financial performances for many firms. The average equity partner head count among Am Law 100 firms stayed at 212.6 between fiscal years 2020 and 2021, while the median head count barely increased, from 170.9 to 171.0.
The numbers generally align with the trend over the last decade in which nonequity ranks have grown noticeably more than the traditional equity tier. However, as high associate turnover continues, some firms may benefit by pushing associates to the partnership, analysts say.
But a potential recession may alter firms’ calculus on holding back lawyers from the equity ranks. With demand slowing and a recession looming, firms may become more cautious about adding to their equity partnership.
Law firm leaders often say their promotion decisions are usually independent of the market; that they are not trying to meet quotas and they want to expand their ranks based on merit. But economic changes often factor in.