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A blog with tips and insights into the practice of law

The Search for the Holy Grail…. Partnership

I’ve been promised partnership but nothing has happened. When should I give up and move firms?

As a recruiter I have often sat across the table from a Candidate who is frustrated about their partnership track. Firms have certainly become more open with their staff in the last 5 years about whether one is or isn’t on partnership track and created some interesting and clever titles for those valued senior members of staff who either won’t or can’t make partner.  Some firms are certainly better at defining the actual time line and KPI’s involved to make partner and others not so.

If you are someone for whom Partnership has been “promised” within a particular timeframe and that timeframe has come and gone, there are a couple of questions you need to ask yourself.

Is the reason for the delay in the appointment outside the partners’ control?- For example, has there been an economic or work downturn, or an opportunistic lateral partner hire in the same area of practice. In which case keep your chin high, keep producing good work, and step up at every opportunity- your time will come.

Am I going to be on a more guaranteed partnership track if I move firms? Without a significant client following most firms won’t generally hire a Senior Associate or Special Counsel into a partnership role- which ultimately means getting “back in queue” and having to prove yourself at a new firm.

Do I really want to be a partner at this firm? If the answer is no- cut your losses and try elsewhere, if yes- what else can I do personally to make sure partnership comes at the next available opportunity? (usually 12 months away). For example do I need to increase my personal brand within the firm. Do I need to get involved in more external marketing activities etc.

Ultimately the appointment of partners is not a science, with firms’ taking into account strategic imperatives, market conditions, client mix and performance of the group in question amongst other factors to make a decision. It is rarely personal.