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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.

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  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.

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