In certain partnerships of individuals, particularly law firms and accountancy firms, equity partners are distinguished from salaried partners (or contract or income partners). The degree of control which each type of partner exerts over the partnership depends on the relevant partnership agreement.
An equity partner is a part-owner of the business, and is entitled to a proportion of the distributable profits of the partnership.
A salaried partner who is paid a salary but does not have any underlying ownership interest in the business and will not share in the distributions of the partnership (although it is quite common for salaried partners to receive a bonus based on the firm's profitability).
Although individuals in both categories are described as partners, equity partners and salaried partners have little in common other than joint and several liability. In many legal systems, salaried partners are not technically "partners" at all in the eyes of the law. However, if their firm holds them out as partners, they are nonetheless subject to joint and several liability.
In their most basic form, equity partners enjoy a fixed share of the partnership (usually, but not always an equal share with the other partners) and, upon distribution of profits, receive a portion of the partnership's profits proportionate to that share. In more sophisticated partnerships, different models exist for determining either ownership interest, profit distribution, or both. Two common alternate approaches to distribution of profit are "lockstep" and "source of origination" compensation (sometimes referred to, more graphically, as ...