Law Firm Partner Compensation Spreads

NY Lawyer [free registration required] runs an interesting article about the spread between a law firm’s highest paid and lowest paid partners. It shows that Baker & McKenzie has a spread of 35:1 (with some foreign partners at B&M earning around $100k/yr) while Cleary Gottlieb has a spread of 3:1 (partially attributable to its lockstep partner compensation). The article argues that these spreads can reveal some insights into a firm’s culture, although it gives precious few examples of that. However, I teach my students that if you want to understand a firm’s culture, start by understanding the firm’s compensation procedures, and this article contributes some to that process.

At the same time, NY Lawyer runs another article dissecting the profits-per-partner metric and explaining why that number is manipulatable and hard to compare across firms.