In October 2014, I ran a webinar with Tara Fennessy on how to shortcut your way to partner. It was particularly aimed at people who are 0-3 years out from making partner in a mid-tier, Big 4 or large law firm.

This is an extract from the webinar;

Tara you’re on record for saying that being on partnership track is more akin to a marathon than a sprint. Why is that?

TF:      Yes Heather that’s right. I meet up with my clients about 3 months after their admission to the partnership just for a celebratory lunch and always ask, what they know now that in hindsight they wish they knew earlier-on on their journey to partner. One of the most common comments is that it is more of a marathon than a sprint and they wish they’d been prepared for that. Just yesterday I was with one of my clients and he said ‘I wish I knew that I needed to pace myself, and not sprint for a few days/a week, then stand still and then sprint again’, so that’s really the reason why people say it’s more akin to a marathon than a sprint, you really need to pace yourself.

HT:      I think one of the saddest sessions I ran was with a insolvency partner from one of the big four in the UK, he was like ‘I think this April I might get put on partnership track, what do I need to do to make sure that I actually get through the admissions process and so in 9 months I’m a partner?’ I said ‘Well what have you been doing to work towards it?’ ‘Well, actually not a lot’. And I think that’s one of the toughest messages that you’ve got to give which is very much that there’s nothing harder than saying to someone ‘You’ve got a lot of work to do, you’ve got a massive sprint to catch up’.

So Tara, given that how do people who successfully make it through the partnership admissions process and that partnership track, those critical two years beforehand, what do people do to balance their workload so that they make it through the process?

TF:      Well what they need to do is three things and probably worth making a note of:

1. Prioritise – Make your career and your development your most important client. It’s so easy to put your regular client work first. You need to put yourself first in this timespan and say it is a marathon and not a sprint, so make time, schedule it in your diary. I remember working with David who was new to one of the big four last March, and he made it a priority to meet as many partners as he could in his first 6 months who we’d identified as stakeholders. For him and for other people who have been in firms a long time it’s worth working on critical questions and critical conversations whose answers and the impact of meeting those people can have on your promotion. It’s worth spending a bit of time on building those relationships with people, so connecting with clients, colleagues and stakeholders.

So the number one tip I would definitely say is prioritise their careers, and you can see the difference sitting in on panels who’s done the work and who hasn’t.

2. Plan – Plan you’re pipeline, plan your potential stakeholders, plan your personal development, you need to plan your team’s development as well as delivering your work. Importantly plan your time to recharge, it can actually go against you being the first one in and the last one out of the office, or being on client’s sites a lot and people not seeing you and not being able to balance your work. So you must prioritise, plan and thirdly…

3. Pace – I mentioned it briefly before but really do pace yourself. Take one step at a time of your plan and action it in the right order. It sounds obvious but actually putting one foot in front of the other at a steady pace is what gets you to the finishing line, that’s why it’s a marathon and not a sprint.

HT:      Absolutely, it is a marathon and not a sprint. It’s about chunking it down, it’s about taking those little steps.