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Making Law Firm Partner

Making partner is usually the goal when hired by a law firm. 

Yet, over the years, I have been amazed at the number of associates who just work, wish and hope that it will happen. “If I do good legal work, if I have enough billable hours, if I work hard and don't step on any toes I will make partner.” No, not necessarily, and more often than not, not likely. We live in a very competitive legal climate and that climate has become even more competitive with the current economic conditions and resulting decline in legal business. The smart associate will have a written plan to make partner and follow it religiously.

What is a law firm partnership plan?

A written plan that sets out the criteria for partnership, breaks achieving each criterion into specific steps, then schedules and executes each step for maximum timeliness and political impact on the partnership determination.

What do I need to do to make partner?

Give the firm specifically what it is looking for.

You need to know what to do. 

Some firms, especially mid-sized and large law firms, have a list of expected performance milestones and accomplishments for partnership candidates. Some firms share this criteria with the associates, others do not. With or without a list to follow, the wise associate needs to make a determination of what would give him or her the best chance for partnership, create a partnership plan and follow it faithfully.

Some factors that may influence the firm's partnership decision:

  • Billable hours
  • Marketing Efforts
  • Pro Bono commitment
  • Public/Community Service
  • Leadership activities within the law firm
  • Client feedback
  • Specifics criteria for individual practice areas. For example, in litigation:
    • Number of cases tried
    • Pleadings drafted
    • Depositions taken
    • Briefs written
  • Professional accomplishments:
    • Speeches given
    • Awards
    • Bar involvement
  • Firm Politics-very important! Ask yourself:
    • Who's rooting for you?
    • Who might give you a negative recommendation?
    • What's your competition like?
    • Who on the partnership committee do you not know?
    • What will your practice area leader say about you?

Here is a blog post with additional helpful information: 5 Tips for Making Law Firm Partner

Coaching for can help. We will help you determine what you need to accomplish before the firm makes its partnership decisions, help you schedule the actions necessary to achieve these goals and keep you on track with your partnership plan. When the partnership determination comes you will be confident that you have done your very best to maximize your chances to make partner.


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