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Over the last few years a few of my clients have been rejected at the final hurdle for partner. Often through no direct fault of their own. In this blog post I examine 3 reasons why your very strong business case for partnership was not enough to make partner this time around.

Firm politics

This was a scenario where there was an absolute slam dunk of a business case for partnership for a large well-known city law firm. It was well thought out and based on a partner retiring in the next 12 months. The candidate was winning work regularly, well regarded in the marketplace and already seen as a partner. The firm would have been mad to not make her formally up to partner.

However, firm politics got in the way. And, boy did they get in the way. The wider department the candidate was in was struggling. Market conditions were tough, and there was no guarantee that they would pick up. Even though my client’s business case was not reliant on market conditions picking up, they still rejected her. They rejected her for purely political reasons. I.e. they couldn’t be seen to be admitting a new partner in an area of the firm which was struggling to hit target.

Your takeaway: Remember it may not be you that’s the problem, it may be the others around you.

The firm wasn’t having a good year

When we put together my client’s business case we knew that there were a few weaknesses. Of course, we did our best to put a positive spin on his case. However, the firm globally was going through a tough time. Profits were down. As a result, the firm admitted far fewer new partners than in previous years.

My client was told that in a good year his business case would have probably been enough to get him through to partnership. But this time around there were stronger business cases out there which were prioritised.

Your takeaway: Remember that if the firm is having a lean time your business case for partnership will need to be exceptionally strong to be accepted.

Not a practice lead – yet!

This was a strange one. My client had an exceptionally strong business case for her Big 4 firm. I had a really good feeling about this one. Her business case was a good fit strategically and she was easily hitting partner numbers. The department and firm wanted to invest in this area and needed another partner in order to sustain the growth of the team.

It looked like a shoe in.

Unfortunately her business case was “deferred” as there was another partner in her team and she wasn’t a practice lead. Seriously!!! As a result, the partner has been moved sideways and she’s been given a year to prove herself as a practice lead before she will be made up to partner.

Your takeaway: Even with a good business case for partnership nothing is guaranteed in a partnership