While alternative career pathways have begun to emerge, for most solicitors, partnership is a career goal.
Becoming a partner in a law firm signifies a significant achievement, one that requires years of dedicated service and a unique set of qualities. If you’re hoping to do so, there are certain skills and behaviours you’ll need to show beyond your legal expertise and experience to make sure you stand out as a future leader and ultimately a future partner.
As discussed in our recent webinar with Simon McCrum, Getting Ahead in 2024 and Beyond – Advice From a Former Managing Partner, here we break down the things you can do to help carve your path to partnership.
Meet (or exceed) your billing targets
If your goal is to become a partner one day, the first thing you should focus on is your ability to bill. Law firms are, after all, commercial enterprises that cannot survive without their lawyers generating income from their clients. Solid financial performance is essential – once you have demonstrated that you can bill consistently, you can then use this as a platform upon which to develop in other areas.
Be unquestionably reliable
At a partner level, reliability is non-negotiable. In the legal profession, where deadlines and the integrity of legal advice are vital, your ability to deliver consistent, high-quality work on time is crucial. No what matter stage you’re at in your legal career, if you say you’re going to do something, make sure you follow through. That way, your colleagues and team lead know they can rely on you under any circumstance.
Prove that you’re a leader
As a future partner, you want to be the person that colleagues naturally turn to for guidance. Take the lead on projects, mentor junior staff and make those around you look good to demonstrate your leadership skills.
Be aware of cash flow and financial housekeeping
Partnership candidates should have a grasp of their firm’s financials, particularly around billing and cash flow. As a future partner, it’s essential that you not only do your work and bill consistently but that those bills are paid by the client.
Cash flow can be a major issue for Managing Partners and Heads of Department; by keeping track of which of your clients have and haven’t paid and doing all you can to make sure they pay their bills on time, you’ll show you have an understanding of the commercial side of the business and make the lives of those above you much easier.
Show commercial awareness
Partners are expected to have a keen understanding of their clients’ business needs and to align their advice with commercial objectives. Spotting opportunities for cross-referrals and ways in which the wider firm can help a particular client will not only ensure that you provide a more holistic service but will have a commercial impact on the firm.
Acting with this kind of business acumen at an early stage will signal to your line manager and the partners that you’re ready for a role at a higher level.
Cultivate personal client relationships
At some firms, partners are often expected to have a “book of business”, which consists of clients who follow them to the firm. Work on building lasting relationships with your clients to demonstrate that you have the potential to bring revenue to the firm.
Seek feedback and act on it
Regularly seeking feedback from your peers, supervisors, and clients can help you understand your strengths and areas for improvement. Constructive criticism, when acted upon, can propel your development and career progression forward.
Go above and beyond
Being just another good solicitor will not set you apart. Volunteer for challenging cases, take on extra responsibilities or engage in firm-wide initiatives to show that you are willing to go the extra mile.
Are you ready to begin your journey to partner?
Becoming a future partner in a law firm requires more than just legal expertise. It’s about embodying the firm’s values, performing financially, consistently delivering high-calibre results, and displaying an entrepreneurial spirit.
By focusing on these core qualities, you can take significant steps towards clinching that all-important partnership position. Remember, becoming partner is not an end goal—it’s the beginning of a new chapter in your legal career. It’s a symbolic acknowledgement of your capabilities and an invitation to help shape the future of the firm.
If you’d like to learn more, check out our Accelerating Your Legal Career webinar series, featuring advice and insight from lawyers who have successfully climbed the legal career ladder. Or if you’d like to have a confidential chat about your career, why not speak to one of our specialist consultants. Call 03300 245 606 or get in touch via this website.