Is It Getting Harder To Make Partner?

26 February 2020

Ever thought that making Partner seems more and more difficult each year? According to data collected by Lateral Link, you might just be right…

Over the past 20 years, law firm “leverage” – the ratio between equity partners and other lawyers – has increased every year except for two. This equates to just a mere 27% increase in the amount of partners, but a huge 77% increase in the number of ‘all other lawyers’.

For senior associates going for partner roles, firms have tended to focus towards the business potential of an individual, rather than their abilities inside the courtroom or around the negotiating table. In short, if the firm doesn’t think an associate can bring in work, they will regrettably be looked over.

To add to this, the bottom-heavy situation of associates-to-partners further impedes partnership prospects. Because competition is so fierce for a finite number of partnership slots, associates have to begin thinking about growing their own businesses, with future partnership in mind, the moment they start their careers.

There is no, one, correct way to become partner. If you ask a group of 10 partners how they made it, you may get 10 different responses. However, there is one important factor that should always be considered: choosing the right firm.

Each firm is different, and chasing prestige or pay on the way to partnership can lead to failure. Some firms have reputations for being promotion or lateral-heavy, and these are backed by the metrics. In particular, you can look at the ratio of partner promotions to partner laterals. Across the board, the data does show a right skew – with most firms preferring to bring partners in laterally, rather than promoting associates.

So, if associates aren’t being promoted, but people are still becoming partner, what does that mean for you? Simply put, the best way to make partner could be to move firm.

You can take a look at the data herefor yourself. The report by Lateral Link also covers the same ratios from counsel to partner, and other alternative routes.

Are you with a firm that is going to make you partner one day? Perhaps it’s time to check in on that. Route1 works with some of the UK’s leading firms, who offer great partnership programs. So get in touch with our Engagement team today to discuss your options.


We have big ambitions to permanently change the way people hire and get hired, both in the legal and other white collar sectors, using GDPR compliant, content-rich, value-added recruitment techniques. We place transparency, charity, and candidate control at the heart of our model.

Route1 was founded in the UK in 2015 and is headquartered in London. Our founders and investors include experienced lawyers, digital entrepreneurs, recruitment consultants and HR professionals.

Route1 is an award winning marketplace for legal talent. For any questions, please contact our Engagement Team or visit our Contact Us page for more information.

More Insights

Route1 Market Report – Q2 2020

Route1 Market Report – The Impact of COVID-19 on the Legal Recruitment Market

4 Challenges Facing Firms Currently

Coronavirus: Testing Tech Competence in Law

Our Partners