Partner compensation: the really salacious stuff

These quotes did not make into, or got cut in the final draft, of  Partner Compensation: The Real Score (May 2012, Lexpert) feature, but they’re still sweet:

“I regularly meet with senior partners at tail end of career, who even five years ago would have been able to stay at their firm, and a leisurely exit from the firm. Now you‘ve got 12, maybe 18 months to sort yourself out, or get out. And it’s the early days of this trend: lawyers haven’t seen anything yet.” Christopher Sweeney, ZSA

“There are some very sharp elbows around client ownership and there are some partners who lick every piece of pizza in the box.” Adam Pekarsky, Pekarsky Stein

“There’s only one thing about it that’s painful: the amount of time we spend doing it. We spend weeks and weeks, and we have some of our best people doing comp, so the transaction costs of the process are high.” National managing partnering

“The biggest challenge of every partner compensation system is that there are only 100 cents in every dollar. And by the time you are done by paying out—there are more little birds in the nest with their beaks open than there are worms.” Adam Pekarsky

“If you brought a compensation specialist to look at our system, they’d be horrified.” National managing partner

“When you are in a partnership, you will face the very likely possibility that you will take out of the profit pie less than you put into it. The notion that somehow you can leave money on the table is very difficult for some lawyers to understand. But this is what partnerships require: you’re always going to face the possibility of earning less than you actually contributed. And if it is so important to you that your compensation must equal everything that you billed and collected at a minimum, then maybe a law firm partnership is not the best model for you. Maybe you should go out and run your own firm, where the likelihood of keeping closer to 100 cents on the dollar is greater.” Adam Pekarsky

“People are worth more across the street. And so you pay that lateral a big amount and you give them some guaranteed terms, and the loyal organically grown lifers say, ‘So that is what I have to do to get paid what I’m worth? I guess I have to leave.’ That leaves the managing partner and compensation committee in the precarious position of having to explain, ‘Yeah, we are going to pay this individual more, yeah, it is going to skew our grid, but it will be beneficial to the greater good, to the partnership.’ And that be difficult to sell to the partnership.” Adam Pekarsky

“Senior significant billers are increasingly looking at themselves as free agents.” Christopher Sweeney

“To be the highest paid law firm on the street you have to be, frankly, ruthless.” Norman Bacal, Heenan Blaikie

“Some firms have appeal processes around compensation, and some firms don’t. We don’t. I’ve heard of firms where you have an appeal process, but no appeal has been won in 20 years. Here, you have right to come into my office and vent and I’ll pass that to my committee.” Norman Bacal, Heenan Blaikie LLP

“Before we were partners, we knew—the students, the associates, the secretaries knew when it was comp setting time, because everyone’s door would be closed except to walk out of their office into someone else’s and slam the door. It was like a bad soap opera.” Partner, national law firm

“Any monkey can docket.” Compensation committee member to a dissatisfied partner

“There is no reason to have a 750-lawyer firm if you have 250 individual practices.” Bay Street partner

“The client base is considering what most of us guys do is commodity work, overbilled, overpriced, and they’re pushing back. That’s going to have implications on what parts of the law firm are really profitable—and how the pie is split.” Partner, national law firm

The process is deeply and incredibly cynical. I haven’t met a partner who walks around saying this is a great process. Pretty much everybody believes everybody is going through the motions to give the system an appearance of procedural fairness. We’re lawyers—we can’t do anything without the contrivance of procedural fairness. We can’t do anything that makes it look like the numbers are predetermined.” Partner, national law firm 

2 thoughts on “Partner compensation: the really salacious stuff

  1. Pingback: Partner compensation: the real score « Marzena Czarnecka, Writer

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