Up or out

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"Partnership system" redirects here. It is not to be confused with partnership.

In a hierarchical organization, "up or out", also known as a tenure or partnership system,[1] is the requirement that each member of the organization must achieve a certain rank within a certain period of time. If they fail to do so, they must leave the organization.

Despite their widespread use in certain industries, a 1988 textbook by Michael Jensen noted that the effects of the system of productivity have not been studied in depth.[1]

Accounting firms[edit]

Up or out is practiced throughout the accounting industry in North America,[2] most notably at the Big Four accounting firms,[3][4] which also practice this policy in other countries.[5]

Consulting firms[edit]

According to Leslie Perlow[6] this system was used at Boston Consulting Group for the advancement through the ranks of Consultant, Project Leader, Principal, Partner, and Senior Partner.


"Up or out" is one component of the Cravath System for managing law firm staff. In this system, associate lawyers who fail to achieve partner status within ten years of hiring are required to leave.


In the US military, the 1980 Defense Officer Personnel Management Act mandates that officers passed over twice for promotion are required to be discharged from the military.[7] Manning control within the British Army plays a similar role.


Tenure track professors in the United States are usually subject to an up-or-out system. Newly hired professors, most often with the rank of assistant professor, must impress their department with their accomplishments to be awarded tenure, usually but not always combined with promotion to associate professor. Those not awarded tenure within a fixed time may be terminated. This first promotion may be required for tenure and further promotions are neither guaranteed nor necessary.

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