Legal partner jobs are held for a higher level of experience than an attorney who has a few years' experience.
The first level in management of a legal department is as an associate. A legal associate often has the option of becoming a partner in later years, after success and competence is proven. Experience is a major qualifying piece of this hierarchy: attorneys who just passed the bar are not going to qualify as a partner.
After sufficient training and experience is cultivated, many attorneys are given the option to become a partner. In larger law firms, there can be a further designation of junior or senior partner. This generally happens between six and nine years in the law firm and is dependent on many factors, including how well the attorney fits into the culture of that law firm.
Partnership in a law firm means that the attorney is given a share of the legal business. He or she becomes a shareholder but can differ based on how the law firm is actually structured; if it's a LLC, LLP or general partnership, for example. Again, depending on the size and preferences of the law firm, a partnership often has two levels as well: equity and non-equity. Non-equity partners are generally given a structured salary and may have their voting rights limited in matters of the law firm. Equity partners have more rights in the law firm matters and are given an actual percentage of that firm's profits. Typically, non-equity partners have to wait a few years before they are given the option to become an equity partner; this option generally comes with the requirement to buy in before transitioning to the next tier.
At the top of the law firm levels is the managing partner. The managing partner is usually the founder of the firm or in his or her absence, the most senior position. The managing partner has the power to guide the direction of the firm.
It is very difficult to put a dollar figure on partner jobs
, because the salaries widely swing, depending on experience and the law firm size and location. However, if a partner is in a top law firm in one of the major legal markets (i.e., New York, Washington DC, Massachusetts, New Jersey and California), salaries can range between $125,000 and $160,000.