The legal landscape at partner level has changed substantially during the past 10 years, and particularly during the past three. More partners have been assessing their position, discovering that they do have more options than they expected, and then acting upon that by moving to an environment that may better suit their individual needs.
There also appears to be less of a view in the marketplace that joining a particular partnership is a life-long commitment. Partners who are not happy in their current role have been more inclined to take action that enhances their personal position.
Many lawyers used to strive to work primarily at the top-tier firms. However, it seems to have become harder to become a partner and to remain a partner in many top tiers. Anecdotal evidence suggests that, as competition has increased, some of the largest firms have become more profit driven. We get feedback that existing senior partners have become less inclined to “break up the pie”.
Some top tiers have been focusing on the more profitable practice groups, which means partners in other practice areas could be better able to keep and grow their client bases in other, more aligned and supportive, firms. For a partner or prospective partner at the top tier, the ability to develop and grow a personal client following or client base has generally been paramount. Some senior lawyers have decided they are not suited to the “top-tier culture”.
At the same time, today there are many other options for partners, including international/global law firms, proactive mid-tiers and premier boutiques. The global firms have presented new and exciting, and often lucrative, options for partners from established large firms. Over the past three years some partners have joined the global firms hoping to be a significant part of expected growth.
They have also been attracted by the option of having absolute fully-integrated global reach and networks. Boutique firms are attracting partners for other reasons. Smaller firms have lower overheads, often require partners to have much smaller client followings, can allow individual partners to have far greater impact and input, and can often still remunerate partners at close to or even above top-tier rates.