At the largest firms in big markets like New York, Chicago and San Francisco, we still see a pyramid structure in which associates outnumber partners (though barely). Recent search work for clients in Denver, Detroit and Minneapolis, however, reveal that on a broader scale, at firms of all sizes, the pyramid has turned upside down. Within the more specific sweet spot of associates with three to six years of experience, those considered the most profitable for firms and desirable to clients, there are often several partners for every one associate.
Even within the large market firms, a closer look reveals what amounts to a one-for-one ratio at best after subtracting attorneys with non-partner track titles such as staff attorney or senior attorney. As industry consultant Jerry Kowalski points out, non-equity junior partners have taken on the worker bee role formerly held by associates, especially in corporate transactional departments.