A DuPont legal representative explains further:
“If the requested rate for an equity partner is $400 and the rate for a nonequity partner is also $400, I can ask whether it should be the same, given that one shares in the profits of the firm and the other is salaried.”
That’s one way to address the rising cost of legal services. Cisco might say go to door #3. Marty Schwimmer rightly wonders whether equity and non-equity partnership has any relation to quality of legal services.
I think part of the problem is that many modern large firms use the term “partner” rather generically. Some dole out non-equity partnerships like potato chips at a cocktail party. They seem to want to have it both ways: let the external client world assume a non-equity partner is a true owner of the firm, while internally treating her like an associate on steroids. Most don’t disclose the distinction on the attorney bio entries of the firm website, for example.
If my firm did work for DuPont, I would hope client wouldn’t need to pop this question, since I’d want them to know all relevant information about the firm attorneys and staff on the engagement. For $400/hr, that’s the least they should expect.
And only in the lexicon of lawyers could we use a term such as “non-equity partner” in a debate. Rather oxymoronic in the extreme, sort of like “jumbo shrimp” (thanks to George Carlin).