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Meaning of Associate, Partner and other terms used in Law firms

Updated: Mar 27, 2023

Meaning of Partners, Associates & other terms used in Law firms

After getting into GNLU, I came across the term ‘associate’ and wondered what it meant. Finally in my 5th semester, during my internship at Mumbai, I got to know what Associate, Associate partners, managing partner, principal associate and finally, partner meant.

As a future lawyer, you’ll hear these terms for the rest of your lives. So let’s throw some light on their meaning!

Meaning of terms used in Law firms

  • Associate

Whenever a law graduate joins any law firm as a fresher, he would be known as associate. An associate with ‘0’ years of experience would be known as ‘A0’, similarly an associate with 3 years of experience, ‘A3’. Wondering what their salary might be? Here’s an article on this topic.

  • Meaning of Senior Associate & Principal associate

So when an associate gets 3 years of experience, he would be promoted to the position of Senior associate. So after ‘A3’, a lawyer would become ‘SA1’ & would get promoted to position of ‘Principal Associate’ after 3 years of experience. In some firms, PA is also known as ‘Managing Associate’.

The same cycle would continue and after 2-3 years of experience, he would get the coveted title of ‘Partner’.

  • Partnership in a law firm

Indian law firms have a partnership model, where instead of becoming the owner, a lawyer becomes ‘partner’. Now there are different types of partners as well, such as ‘Equity Partners’ who get a share of profits from firm’s business, ‘Salaried partners’ who get salaries fixed salaries instead of a share in profit.

Different practices in different firms

Most of the things mentioned above is true for firms in India, though some firms may have their own set of system.

For example, Trilegal, doesn’t have ‘Principal Associates’, rather they have ‘Counsels’.

In the same way, Lakshmikumaran & Sridharan makes an associate a senior associate within 2 years of joining. So I suggest taking the above information with a pinch of salt.


I hope this article was successful in knowing the science behind law firm designations. Is there any other topic you require us to write on? Do comment down below, we’d be happy to write more of such pieces! Stay tuned!

1 Comment

Dec 14, 2023

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