Not everything is always public in a law firm. Particularly, whether the partner you are working for is an equity or non-equity partner. Paralegals don't always know or care, for that matter. But this volatile economy has caused new meaning to the word, KNOW. If you are assigned to work for a non-equity partner, you might want to check around and find out whether that attorney is meeting goals to bring in new clients and beef up current revenue.
According to the National Law Journal, non-equity partners are the next target for layoffs. In case you're wondering exactly what a non-equity partner is, it's the former associate who is in "nowhere" land – not an associate but not yet an owner of the firm. Basically, someone who is being tested for his or her viability as a person worthy of getting a piece of the firm's pie.
The non-equity status is also a way for firms to keep the ownership smaller, thereby ensuring bigger profits for equity partners. Blame it on the mushrooming size of the mega-firms 600 lawyers here, 900 lawyers there, 2,000 lawyers…well, you get the picture.
According to the NLJ, "Among those law firms with particularly high equity-to-nonequity partner numbers are Greenberg Traurig, 288 equity to 476 nonequity; K&L Gates, 243 equity to 365 nonequity; McDermott Will & Emery, 281 equity to 319 nonequity; Holland & Knight, 196 equity to 378 nonequity; and Duane Morris, 123 equity to 192 nonequity."
If you are attached to a non-equity partner and work is starting to look scarce, do what flight attendants have been telling you for years, "Put your mask on first before you attempt to help someone else." In other words, if your non-equity partner is starting to look shaky, by all means begin to look in other areas of the firm for work. Don't get sideswiped in Friday Fatalities – that 4:00 p.m. meeting in the HR department where you are told that unfortunately, come Monday morning, you will not be joining us.
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