Many law firms are in what I call compensation season. Accordingly, firm leaders are deciding partner bonuses while setting next year’s compensation?  While every firm has its own compensation model, some are pretty formulaic, and others are more subjective. Regardless of the model, the utilization of common metrics is the norm. These metrics include origination credit, collected receipts, billed hours, and perhaps a non-billable component such as credit for leadership roles. Setting aside a law firm’s specific compensation model, an unintended consequence could arise, creating law firm partner haves and have nots.

Where Do You Fall?

I help lateral partners find new law firms for a variety of positive reasons. Some want a more prestigious platform like a national or international firm. And others simply need a new firm with more practice areas and support to service their growing clients.

On the other hand, and unfortunately, partners often want to leave their current firm for negative reasons. I have seen it all – from cultural issues to billing rate inflexibility and everything in between. That said, one thing that particularly stands out to me is how some law firms’ compensation process leads to a feeling of disrespect among the partners. I am not saying they necessarily want more money. But instead, they experience negative emotions after going through the yearly compensation process. These negative feelings usually come from their treatment compared to that of their peers.

Based upon my many conversations and experiences, I call this situation the law firm partner haves and have nots.

The Differences

We have all heard the phrase, perception is reality. So, the feeling of disrespect is the individual partner’s reality. Part of the reality is the feeling of being a have not. Accordingly, they feel like the compensation model does not treat them fairly in contrast to others. They also tend to feel unsupported, unappreciated, voiceless, betrayed, and left out. On the other hand, the opinion of the have nots is that the haves get all the credit, make all the decisions, and are not held accountable.

Eventually, disrespected partners at firms with a have & have not compensation model and culture will reach a breaking point. In fact, I find these lawyers are finally motivated to explore alternatives after their other have not colleagues move to another law firm. They get feedback from their former colleagues that all law firms are not the same. So, they now want what their colleagues have – respect, a voice, and fair treatment.

If you would like more information about finding a firm that will not make you feel like a have not, please reach out and schedule a call with us!