The time it takes lawyers to attain partnership has increased from five years in the 1980s to 10 or more today, local lawyers said. One of the main reasons for the difference is the increased number of lawyers -- both young and old. More lawyers means more competition for leadership positions.
As a result, some law firms have restructured the way they promote lawyers, so that they only skim the best from the pool. That includes requiring more work of budding partners and even instituting a two-tier system with a junior level of partnership that does not yet share in the firm's profit.
The increase in the pool of lawyers has forced higher-ups to change the way they promote people. Many firms adopted the "grinders-minders-finders" concept to help sift partner-appropriate lawyers from the pot. Grinders are hard workers; minders have good client relationships; and finders are good at bringing in new clients. If a lawyer has all three qualities, he or she may be promoted to partner.
And the "grinder" part of the concept has become tougher over the years. Owners are demanding associates work harder and longer than before, Hochman said. With so many lawyers in the marketplace, owners figure they can demand more of their employees because it's not easy to find another job. They set higher standards for junior lawyers because there are many others ready to take their places.