Perceptions of Partnership: The Allure and Accessibility of the Brass Ring


Partnership in law firms is perceived as undesirable or unattainable by some of today's associates, according Perceptions of Partnership, released by The NALP Foundation for Research and Education in 1999. A notable percentage of associates have observed and assessed a workplace environment in which partnership is perceived as unattractive and the potential for achieving it is uncertain. The study tracked partnership trends over a seven-year period through analysis of NALP's National Directory of Legal Employers and posed questions about workplace characteristics such as the availability of mentoring, the structure of assignment systems, the assessment of commitment, and the application of advancement criteria were posed in a written survey. These data were augmented by anecdotal information compiled from associate focus groups. The study revealed that associate perceptions on important issues vary widely based upon seniority, gender, size of firm, and other factors. The possibility of attaining partnership is a stronger incentive for men to enter a private law firm than for women and a much stronger incentive for majority group members than for people of color. Women's perception of equality in opportunity differs noticeably from men's, regardless of firm size, with 42% of women attorneys reporting that males had some advantage in opportunities for advancement to partner. Nearly half (42.6%) of minorities in larger firms perceive that non-minorities have an advantage in gaining partnership, while only 18% of minorities from smaller firms perceive this inequity.

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