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How to make partner: the route to the top

  • September 4, 2017

Being a Partner is not for everyone.  Not all Legal Professionals will want the stress and added workload brought on by making Partner. But for most – this will be the aim and the potential pinnacle of their career. But what is the route to the top? Here’s how to make Partner.

Be at the right firm

This one should be obvious. You have to keep in mind that working for an organisation and essentially becoming a major shareholder in it are two very different things. Trying to make Partner is a major commitment so you need to make sure your efforts won’t be wasted. Do you have complete faith in the firm’s ability to gain and retain clients? Will you get along with the other partners or will you clash heads? Most importantly, do you have the ability to sustain and develop the practice? These are all questions that need answering, ideally, before you find yourself as a Partner.

Nail the new business

Yes, a detailed knowledge of legal precedents is highly valuable, but in all honesty, a detailed understanding of Rylands vs Fletcher or Donoghue vs Stevenson is unlikely to get you there on its own. Even if it did, you wouldn’t last long unless you can bring in new business. This is a must and anyone unable to do so is unlikely to make Partner.

Get a mentor

Similar to the previous point, making partner is all about being ‘part of the club’ and a quick method of ensuring that you’re not left on the outside is to have an influential partner as your mentor. They’re likely – as long as you’re on the right tracks – to act as your advocate at the partnership table which can only help your case in the long run.

Play the long game

Someone once described planning for partnership as akin to playing a seven-year game of chess, and they’re not far off. You can have a good shot by moving pieces around randomly and hoping for the best, but in reality each decision you make should reflect your intentions. That means, like chess, it’s critical to build a long-term game plan that allows you to develop the skills and network necessary to make Partner.

Become a natural networker

You may now be asking what a natural networker actually is. It’s someone that’s not forcing it and is adept at creating relationships organically and isn’t just networking out of their desire to make partner. This isn’t sustainable and, more importantly, people will see through it. It’s difficult to trust someone you think is inauthentic and potentially out to get something from you and it’s much more preferable to form long term, authentic bonds with people. This certainly isn’t an easy skill to develop – and its one that almost everyone desires – but it’s definitely worth taking the time to focus on.

Sort your life out

In the past, achieving a work/life balance while trying to make partner was probably a distant dream, in many of the tougher firms that is unfortunately still the case. However, if you’re intent on reaching the top, you need to make sure you don’t join the ever-growing pile of associates who have burnt themselves out seeking Partnership. That means you have to be smart and plan ahead. Try and create barriers between work and home life so the latter is just seen as a place to relax and shake off stress at the end of the day and you’ll find that process becomes considerably easier. Nick Goseland, an attorney at US firm, Lateral Link, wrote a piece on exactly that subject where he argued that a long career in the legal sector is an ultra-marathon, not a sprint. He suggested that if each day at work feels unbearable, then take some steps at home and at work to change this before you burn out. We couldn’t agree more.

What are your top tips on how to make partner?

Take a look at some our other blogs to gain some more valuable career advice

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