Law School Discussion

What is the pecking order in a law firm?


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What is the pecking order in a law firm?
« on: April 12, 2004, 03:30:37 PM »
I've noticed on many law firm sites that there is a definite pecking order with names associated with each rung on the ladder. Among the titles I've seen are:

 - Associate
 - Of Counsel
 - Shareholder
 - Parnter

Does anyone know the correct "order" of these titles? What does "of cousel" mean?
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Re: What is the pecking order in a law firm?
« Reply #1 on: April 12, 2004, 03:45:23 PM »
Hey, here's the run down on the different titles:

associate - someone straight out of law school who has only been working at the firm for a short time
partner - someone who has been at one firm for at least six-eight years and is invited by the other partners to join the partnership. Associates earn a specfic salary regardless of how the firm does - partners get a percentage of the firm's overall profits.
Of Counsel - at my firm someone who is "of counsel", is someone who has been practicing law for a while and has to much experience to be an associate, but has not been with that firm long enough to be a partner.
Shareholder is a term that I haven't heard. I hope this is of some help.


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Re: What is the pecking order in a law firm?
« Reply #2 on: April 12, 2004, 05:09:26 PM »
Shareholder would imply that the firm is a corporation (not a proprietorship or partnership) -- it's a form of business entity.  The shareholder would own a % of the company.  Whereas a partnership has partners, a corporation has shareholders, LLC's have members...etc. 

This is just basic business, and in the world of law firms, could mean something completely different.  But, I doubt it.

Re: What is the pecking order in a law firm?
« Reply #3 on: April 12, 2004, 05:16:01 PM »
The previous post-er is correct on all counts, but I'd add a couple of things that will shed light on 'shareholder':

Depending on the firm, there are usually a few shades of Partner. Associates are usually elevated to Partner based on two things: 1) experience in practicing law and 2) development of a "book of business," i.e. going out and getting their own clients.

Whether you're named a Partner or an Equity Partner/Shareholder depends on the the age and size of the firm, your performance, etc. Both designations get a share of the profits, but equity/s.h. reinvest some of this money into the partnership annually. Their stake is akin to stock in a some point, they can cash out their share of the partnership.