For many law students and attorneys, becoming a top law firm partner is the ultimate career milestone. What does it take to make partner? Certain things you can learn in law school, but the path to partnership is forged in the workplace. Nowadays, delivering very high-quality legal work and being a rainmaker may no longer be enough by themselves to get you promoted to partner. The partnership measure is a test of both business and personal acumen. Individuals looking to become a partner will need to be a real business asset to the firm as well as a mentor to junior staff.
You need to be well-prepared when the opportunity knocks. We share six essential tips to prepare yourself on work and personal requirements on the path to becoming a Partner:
On a Professional Level
- Be client-centric to make yourself into a business asset. The ability to perform good quality technical work is primary. In doing this, you should also spend time understanding your clients’ businesses and learning to hone the delivery of your legal advice accordingly. Also, associates need to keep in mind there are always business development opportunities. You can focus on institutional clients at the firm while attempting to generate more business from them, and beyond.
- Don’t just network but forge genuine relationships with clients. “Growing your network” seems to be a golden rule for any associate who is gunning for partnership. But networking is not just a matter of building a stack of business cards on your desk. Law firms want partners who can build substantial relationships with clients. Developing a genuine relationship creates trust and a strong bond that involves connections of honesty, commitment, loyalty, and being culturally sensitive, respectful, and wise. In other words, you are someone clients want to hire. Especially if you are at a large firm where the perceived potential to bring in business is an important consideration.
- Take on greater responsibility. Don’t avoid responsibility because you see something as unimportant. Firms want to see that you will commit to the execution of something from start to finish even if it does not benefit you directly. If a firm can’t trust you with the small details, why should they trust you with the huge complex deals? We see many superstar associates waste their careers by not growing beyond a certain level. You must push forward in your position so you can move to the next rung on the ladder by showing that you are a leader capable of handling responsibility and making strong recommendations and decisions.
- Be a team player and role model. Law firms will endow you with responsibility because they are confident in your integrity and skill, and there is no better way to honor that than by showing the firm you are a team player who will always “muck in”. The best way to build strong, supportive, and collaborative teams is to be a good role model for junior teammates.
On a Personal Level
- Seize opportunities to learn. To be a partner, you cannot just rely on existing legal knowledge, but embrace a willingness to continue to expand capabilities in other areas. With the rapid advancement in technologies and telecommunications, associates must also have the drive to learn new methods of communication, research and outreach to achieve targets and objectives.
- Dare to be bold. Lawyers are inherently conservative people. Risk aversion is at the core of client advice. But it is very easy to stagnate if you remain in your shell professionally. Engage with colleagues, supervisors, HR and (yes!) recruitment consultants frequently to monitor your career progression, measure yourself against contemporaries and ensure you are meeting the firm’s requirements. A path to partnership is not always possible directly from a traineeship, and often this will not be a reflection of the capability of the lawyer. There is a window to partnership and you should be aware of when this opens – and when it closes – so you can look at alternative firms which offer a more realistic chance of success.