Who Makes Partner -- Intro to Law Firm Students Speak

Today was the first day of the one-week, one credit Introduction to Law Firm Practice, an intersession course that I have taught since 2008 at Washington University School of Law.

In the course, one of the first things students do is choose among four fictional candidates to decide who should be promoted to equity partnership at a sixty-lawyer firm (Exercise #1 in my book Introduction to Law Firm Practice). The students -- 2nd and 3rd year law students -- came up with a list of factors, and (roughly) ranked them by performance based on the collective vote. Here are the results from most important to least, with a few tweaks by me:

  • Working attorney receipts 
  • Originations
  • Billable hours
  • Expert in field
  • Diversity needs of firm
  • Community involvement (for business development)
  • Behavior/Liked by firm personnel
  • Departure risk if not promoted
  • Likelihood of staying (why promote people if they are still going to leave)
  • Originations trend
  • Importance of practice/practice group to firm
  • Public award/recognition in field 
  • Involvement in/service to firm 
  • Educational background (prestige) 
  • Started at firm (homegrown) 

Two others that seemed not to fit anywhere smoothly:

  • Sponsor/champion – depends upon power of champion
  • Marital/family status – could be positive or negative

My opinions are a bit different, but was curious what readers thought. Also, please be mindful that this is not an all-inclusive list, because the scenario does not bring up every possible issue.