You Won’t Become A Big Law Equity Partner: Lawyer Careers

You have finally admitted to yourself that becoming an equity partner in your current Big Law firm is not in the cards. You may have even concluded that you do not want to be an equity partner at a Big Law firm, or maybe at any law firm. You might have even decided you do not want to practice law in any setting. Your career path (and, possibly your life) seems bleak.

You are not alone. For years, the low probability of attaining a Big Law equity partnership has been well known. But, you would be the exception. For your entire life you had been an exceptionally bright top performing all-star willing to do whatever was necessary to make it to the top. What went wrong?

Nothing is wrong with you. Remember that. Repeat after me, “Nothing is wrong with me. I am still an exceptionally bright top performing all-star willing to do whatever is necessary to be successful.” Take a few deep breaths and relax a little.

After quickly reviewing the cause of you current predicament, I will offer a few suggestions on how to revitalize your career and life and be successful.

What Caused Your Career Plight?

A combination of personal and economic factors converged to squeeze the life out of your Big Law career.

Personal Factors

You may be one of the many people who went to law school by default. You never dreamed of being a lawyer while growing up, but going to law school seemed like the right decision. A passion for practicing law never grew, but your law school debt did. Big Law, at least for a few years, was the solution.

Maybe you wanted to be a David Boies, Joe Flom or Vernon Jordan. Big Law looked like the expressway to big cases, big deals or big social changes. Unfortunately, after going through the Big Law meat-grinder, that passion has been crushed.

You might still have a passion to be a Big Law equity partner, have exceptional legal skills and even a few clients. Today, that will not get you the brass ring. While you may become a non-equity partner or other Big Firm employee, you will not become a Big Law equity partner. Now, or ever.

Economic Factors

Big Law enjoyed a long run of unimagined economic prosperity for its lawyers that continued until the financial collapse of 2008. Since then, the continuing corporate push to reduce outside legal expenditures, the expansion of corporate law departments and the growing use of technology in the legal industry has forever altered the world of Big Law attorneys.

Today, Big Law equity partners are fighting to protect and expand their personal partnership distributions. One of the easiest ways to maximize equity partner distributions is to restrict, and even reduce, the number of new equity partners. What were once long-odds of making equity partner in Big Law have now become prohibitive. Unless you have a big book of business, you will never become a Big Law equity partner.

But all is not lost. Now is a great time to be a lawyer with a few years of experience if you will take personal responsibility for your career and do the work required to succeed and prosper.

How to Revitalize Your Career and Life

To successfully transition from being a Big Law associate to crafting a career path that exceeds your aspirations and dreams, you must take the following steps:

  • Recognize Your Current Life & Career

Begin by being brutally honest about your current life and career. Assess your health, relationships and finances. Exam your career from different perspectives.

It is critical to look at your strengths and recognize those that will be the foundation of your career going forward.

  • Reconsider Your Prior Life & Career

Remember your dreams and aspirations as a kid. Pinpoint the things you have done or do that turn you on and get you in the flow. List your passions.

The key here is to put aside any judgment or self-censorship and just brainstorm ideas, activities, issues, causes and people you have been or are passionate about.

  • Re-Vision Your Future Life & Career

This step is fun. Look into your crystal ball and see your ideal life and career at various points. Again, no judgment or self-censorship at this stage of the process. Only dreaming.

  • Re-Purpose Your Life & Career

This step is where you take the information from the prior steps and craft a plan of action to get you to your ideal life and career. The process includes deciding on specific, measurable, attainable goals, and developing useful habits, routines and systems to help you exceed the goals.

Building accountability into the process is crucial.

  • Rejuvenate Your Life & Career

In this step, you take actions that will help you in re-purposing your life and career. The focus is on fitness, nutrition, sleep, stress management, community involvement, recreation and plain old fun.

  • Review Your Life & Career Continually

The major pieces of the process are in place and are being implemented by specific intentional actions. This step is a review of what is working and what is not. You continually refine or revise your goals, habits, routines and systems to optimize your life and career.

Got it? Simple, but not easy.


I recently formed a career consulting practice to serve lawyers and other professionals after a successful career as a practicing attorney.

Prior to starting my new business I was a:

• Equity partner at two of the largest law firms in the country

• Rainmaker who developed an annual book of business of over $3.5 million

• Winner of the Turnaround Management Association Turnaround of the Year — Large Company 2011

• Lawyer in a small boutique firm

• In-house counsel for a publicly-traded investment firm, and

• Manager at a Fortune 500 company and at several small businesses

I Now Work With Lawyers and Other Professionals to Help Them Revitalize Their Careers And Achieve Success, Prosperity and Personal Fulfillment.

You can go to my website or LinkedIn profile to learn more about me.

The post “You Will Not Become A Big Law Partner” appeared first on Greg Yates Consulting.

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Originally published at on September 24, 2014.

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