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Difference between Member, associate and Partner in a law firm

Los Angeles, CA |

In a law firm, what is the difference between Member, Associate and Partner?

Who is on salary and who is on profit sharing?

How this effect each case - meaning who gets the fees from a lawsuit?

Also, who gets to share the Law firm profit?

Thank you.

Attorney Answers 4


  1. Best answer

    I think it depends on the firm, since there are many structures - professional corporations, limited liability partnerships, sole proprietorships with employees, etc. In many cases but not all, partners are the same as members and they co-own the firm and split the profits as their salaries (and sometimes get a bigger share of "their" clients' cases than other partners do), and they pay their associates employee salaries. There are also "Of counsel" lawyers who are partner-level lawyers who are treated like associates with no ownership stake, and permanent associates.

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  2. This is not a question that can be readily answered. Law firms vary dramatically in each of the areas of questions that you posed. There are extremely large firms, botique firms and small firms. I view this as a research question that is probably inappropriate for AVVO.

    THESE COMMENTS ARE NOT LEGAL ADVICE. They are provided for informational purposes only. Actual legal advice can only be provided after consultation by an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction. The answer to question does not create an attorney-client relationship or otherwise require further consultation. Mr. Smith is licensed to practice law throughout the state of California with offices in Los Angeles County. He is authorized to handle IRS matters throughout the United States, and is also licensed to practice before the United States Tax Court. His phone number is 323-292-4116 or his email address is philsmithjr@worldclasslawyers.com.


  3. Phillip is right. At the end of the day, law firms are business entities so what they label everyone in the organization can have very different meanings. A Parter at one firm may be an equity owner of the firm while a Partner at another may just be a glorified associate that gets a higher pay and title change. In an LLC, a member typically is equity owner even though there are LLCs where a member may only have a profits interest in the company. A law firm at the end of the day is a business like any other. How a law firm chooses to split profits depends on the owners and economics involved like any other business.

    The aforementioned opinion does not constitute legal advice and is for informational purposes only. See an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction for competent legal advice.


  4. Members and Partners are generally owners of the law firm. Generally, the term members are used if the firm is a corporation, partners are used in a partnership or LLP. They generally receive a draw or salary, depending upon structure.

    Associates are generally employees of the law firm and are on salary.

    They all get fees from lawsuit which are used to pay overhead of firm, including salaries and draws. How much each gets is based on agreements of the members, partners and associates with the firm.

    The response given is not intended to create, nor does it create an ongoing duty to respond to questions. The response does not form an attorney-client relationship, nor is it intended to be anything other than the educated opinion of the author. It should not be relied upon as legal advice. The response given is based upon the limited facts provided by the person asking the question. To the extent additional or different facts exist, the response might possibly change. Attorney is licensed to practice law only in the State of California. Responses are based solely on California law unless stated otherwise.