Keeping It Real: Why Won't NALP Distinguish Equity Partners?
Thanks in part to the efforts of groups like NAWJ, NAWL and MCCA, surveying and ranking organizations like Vault and AmLaw have learned to distinguish between equity and non-equity partners when collecting data from firms on stats like profits-per-partner and diversity. As you can imagine firms have an incentive to decrease the number of people they describe as partners when reporting profit-per-partner numbers and increase it to include more women or racial minorities when reporting diversity numbers. Firms care about the resulting rankings. We need to keep these firms honest to leverage the rankings as an additional force for increased diversity in firms.
MCCA has worked with Vault to make the following distinction:
Equity partner: An attorney, generally referred to as a partner, member or shareholder, who has the right to share in the profits of the firm.
Non-equity partner: A law firm employee who has been promoted from associate to a tier of partnership in which the lawyer does not share in the profits or capital of the firm; this position is often an intermediate step toward full equity partner.
NAWL and NAWJ have been using similar language while pushing other organizations like AmLaw and NALP to reconcile firms' partnership headcounts. AmLaw has adopted the equity v. non-equity distinction. But today comes word that NALP has refused to do so.
No doubt NALP is experiencing push-back from firms who've been enjoying a world where they get to have their cake and eat it too - reporting one number to AmLaw and a completely different number to NALP. But it's time to fix this, stop enabling firms' dissembling, and increase the accuracy and value of these rankings and surveys.