A quick post about alternative tracks at big law firms. In the current environment, law firms are offering associates what sounds like a great deal to some people. Sometimes referred to as “apprentice programs” — Less billable hours requirements, less money but still decent salary and much more per hour worked compared to standard law firm tracks, no pressure to make partner anytime (or at least anytime soon), more training in the form of exposure (as an observer) to depositions, court room action, deal closings, etc.
If you have an option early on in your law firm career to go off-track, my advice is to think long and hard about what you are giving up. The decision may make sense for some folks even after consideration of the comments below but many may realize it is premature to jump off track so early in one’s career. The option of moving to the non-partnership track will always be available later.
You may not have any desire to ever be partner at the firm or anywhere but this choice will affect your time at the firm in ways you may not have contemplated. Once you become “marked” as an alternative track person, it is possible that you will take yourself out of the running for the heavy lifting projects or the projects for the firm’s top clients or even projects that are not glamorous but provide a steady stream of billable hours. Those projects will likely go to the associates on the traditional track along with handsome raises and bonuses, notwithstanding the quality of your work and the hours you do work. Also, you may miss out on opportunities to work with mentors who are at the top of their game in the field because they may be spending their time mentoring the on-track associates.