Thoughts on Becoming a Partner

 Becoming a partner at Barran Liebman was a goal of mine since my initial interview when I was a third-year law student (11 years ago). When I became a partner three years ago, I was surprised by how much my daily work and priorities shifted. I anticipated some of those changes, but most were unexpected.

I have to select and pay for my own health insurance. I check the daily deposits and think about firm economics every day. And I spend my free time thinking about topics including what small changes the firm can make to operate more efficiently, and how I can adjust my own behavior to maximize my strengths and best contribute to the firm’s success and longevity. These are just a few examples of how I think and operate differently in just one area of the practice of law: economics.


The idea of a conference tailored for new and soon-to-be partners was introduced by the ABA Young Lawyers Division (YLD) in February 2011. Since then, its content, timing, and format have evolved. This year, the YLD will hold the event in Washington DC on April 17, 2015 (immediately following ABA Day on April 14-16). The YLD will collaborate with the ABA Center for Professional Development on this event going forward, and we are re-branding it as the New Partner Institute in recognition of that partnership.

The New Partner Institute will bring together national practitioners as faculty to discuss some of the key ethical, financial, and personal considerations associated with becoming partner. The sessions will offer practical advice combined with an overview of the applicable ethical framework. Registrants will learn how to handle the increased expectations in the area of business development and marketing, and the Rules of Professional Conduct that come into play for compliance with the standards of the states in which you practice and solicit business.

New partners also have to consider how to minimize their potential liability as a newly appointed representative of their firms. Our faculty will discuss liabilities in becoming a shareholder/partner, including malpractice and tax liabilities that could arise. Registrants will also gain valuable insight on understanding different law firm business models and how the economics of a law firm work, including how to increase profitability for yourself and the firm, analyze client quality and value, and control budgeting issues.

The New Partner Institute will bring together new and aspiring partners from around the country and provide them with an opportunity to get to know each other and national experts at a 50-person, well-thought-out, intensive one-day event. The registration fee includes breakfast, lunch, and a closing reception. The New Partner Institute begins with breakfast, introductory remarks, and speed networking. Program titles include “Ethical Considerations in Business Development & Marketing,” “The Pitfalls of Partnership,” and “Transitioning from Mentee to Supervisor: Partner Responsibilities Under the Rules of Professional Conduct.”

Each year, the centerpiece of the program is the keynote address. Last year, the keynote was delivered by past ABA president Robert Grey. Prior keynote speakers include Comcast General Counsel Arthur Block, who spoke on what he (and Comcast) seek from outside counsel. The keynote speaker is welcome to address any subject matter he or she chooses that will be timely and of interest to an audience of attorneys who have recently achieved partner status.


This year, we are excited to welcome Ted Olson (barring an unforeseen work conflict). Mr. Olson is a partner at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher in Washington DC. His professional experience is diverse and distinguished, having served as Solicitor General of the United States from 2001-04, and as assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel of the U.S. Department of Justice from 1981-84. Mr. Olson has argued more than 60 cases before the Supreme Court, including his successful advocacy for George W. Bush during the recount of the 2000 Presidential election in Bush v. Gore. Nine years later, he paired with David Boies (who represented Al Gore in Bush v. Gore) to represent the plaintiff in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, a lawsuit that challenged an amendment to the California constitutional banning same-sex marriage. In 2011, the ABA awarded Mr. Olson and Mr. Boies the ABA Medal—its highest award.

I attended the conference the year before I became a partner as well as the year after that.  I hope you will consider joining me in Washington DC on April 17, 2015 for the New Partner Institute. This will be my fourth time attending the event. I learn an incredible amount and meet amazing people each time. If you already planned to attend ABA Day, you can just extend your stay in Washington DC one day and attend the New Partner Institute. If you are a partner at a firm with new or soon-to-be partners, encourage them to attend this valuable program and build their national referral network. Please consider joining me or, at the least, sharing information about the New Partner Institute with people you know who might be interested. More information is available on the conference website.

About the Author

SchpakAndrew M. Schpak is a partner at Barran Liebman LLP in Portland, Ore., and is the chairman of the ABA’s Young Lawyers Division. He can be reached at 503.276.2156 or




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