The concern with this topic is the thought that if someone is not ‘partner material’ no matter how talented a lawyer they are, they won’t (or shouldn’t) make it as a partner.
If someone has the ability to develop into a talented lawyer, they should have the ability to develop personally and professionally to gain the skills needed to become a good partner.
A better conversation for partners to have would be, ‘you do not have the skills needed for partnership, but we will work with and invest in you to help develop them.’ Creating loyalty to the firm and giving back for the hard work they have put in over the years.
If a lawyer is not partnership material it is in their and your firm’s best interests to make them aware of this, rather than dragging things out. Bob is a great associate. He has a terrific work ethic. He really knows his stuff. Clients like to see him on the team. But he is not going to make partner. We have known it for a couple of years now. He is great doing the work, but he struggles when it comes to finding new clients or getting existing clients to send us work that was not already coming our way. Two years have passed and we haven’t told Bob that his career with us has stalled.