Industry Resources

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

So you fought the law2 … and won! Congrats, you’re now a firm partner. You’ve obviously achieved a lot in your career already. You’ve honed your legal skills and become a trusted advisor to your clients. You’ve generated business for your firm, mentored associates, and contributed to the broader legal community. Rudie can’t fail!3 You deserve that brand new Cadillac4.

But are you happy? Or do you feel a little lost in a supermarket?5

Maybe that’s a complicated question. You’re a busy person, living a life of death or glory6, with a constant stream of noise competing for your attention. You might not often find the time to reflect deeply on your career opportunities7 and trajectory, or on your goals for the next phase.

Partner compensation structure. If you entered your firm as an associate, the partner compensation structure probably wasn’t front of mind when you decided to join. But as a partner, this is a big deal! The choice between full eat-what-you-kill versus a more balanced approach to sharing the wealth has implications for both your bank account and your relationships with colleagues. Ask yourself whether your firm has chosen the point on the spectrum that you would prefer.

Your personal compensation. Does your pay fully reflect the value you’re creating? As a general rule, you should be taking home 40% of revenue from hours you billed personally. Your fair share of the hours billed by members of your team is going to depend on the firm’s profitability and leverage. If you have questions about whether you’re being paid fairly, we should talk.

Equity. Do you have equity? If not, do you want it? Does your firm offer a viable pathway to the equity tier?

Capital contributions. What capital contributions does your firm require? Are the terms more or less burdensome than those of other firms?

Support for your practice area. Does your firm value your practice area? Is your practice a priority in the firm’s marketing efforts? Are you benefitting from cross-selling by the firm’s other practices?

Opportunity to own client relationships. Does your firm provide a strong platform for you to develop your own business? To the extent some of your work comes from the firm’s institutional clients, are more senior partners making room for you to own key relationships?

Broader firm strategy. Does your firm have a well-defined strategy? Do you believe in it? Are you confident that your firm will be stronger in five years than it is today?

If you know you want to keep practicing, but you aren’t entirely sure that your firm is the best place to do it … whether you are looking for bankrobber8 compensation or need a pressure drop9, we should talk. I don’t have to tell you that the market for lateral partners is extremely hot right now. I’m sure you have friends and colleagues who have moved recently.

And with good reason! On average, a partner who makes a lateral move receives a compensation boost of 20-30%. The potential gains are especially eye-popping for female partners: when a female partner switches firms, she receives a median pay increase of 40%. Makes sense that so many partners are exploring their options, right?

Keep in mind that window shopping is not a final decision. You don’t need to be bored with the USA10 to find out if London’s calling11. Actually, the ideal time to start looking is before you’re ready to move. Confidence is a better look than desperation.

But the bottom line is, in this market, you are doing a disservice to yourself if you don’t at least explore your options. You need to know your rights12 and know your worth. And the only way to find out how another firm might treat you is to ask.


1.     Should I Stay or Should I Go (1981)

2.     I Fought the Law (1979)

3.     Rudie Can’t Fail (1979)

4.     Brand New Cadillac (1979)

5.     Lost in a Supermarket (1979)

6.     Death or Glory (1979)

7.     Career Opportunities (1977)

8.     Bankrobber (1980)

9.     Pressure Drop (1979)

10.  I’m So Bored With the USA (1977)

11.  London Calling (1979)

12.  Know Your Rights (1982)