According to the American Lawyer, the rate of partner defections is increasing at the top firms in the country. There are lots of theories on how to slow down departures but unlike other professionals, lawyers cannot be bound by non-competes. Money remains a large lure.
The CEO of Greenberg Traurig (one of the firms that has grown rapidly in the past 5 years) offers his own thoughts on how to keep partners happy. He believes that partners should not be allowed to become isolated. On the other hand, he does not advocate running a firm like a democracy. He believes that a closed compensation system avoids intrafirm competition. Other firms try the democratic approach. Here in Boston, for example, Goulston & Storrs adheres to a democratic model of decision making to maintain partner buy in. My guess is that different models are attractive to different kinds of people. There is no “one size fits all” for law firm management/partner retention.