Most firms set a limit on the number of new partners they admit to the partnership each year. As a result the ones who make it have the strongest personal and business cases for partnership. Consequently, most senior associates in law firms and directors in the Big 4, accountancy, and consultancy firms are in competition with their peers.  This post explores why it pays to collaborate with the very people you are competing against on the partnership track.

Your competitors will become your colleagues if you both get into the partnership

The partners in your firm want to work together for the common good. As a result they won’t admit anyone who causes conflict and tension within the partnership ranks. If you have a poor relationship with one of your senior associates, and they  are promoted to partner before you, this could be career limiting for you. The more relationships you can deepen and strengthen when you are on the partner track, so your personal case for partnership deepens and strengthens as well.

Your business case may benefit from collaborating

I work with several senior associates at city law firms, developing their business cases for partnership. I am in awe of their ability to bill 6+ hours of chargeable time a day and still have time to work on their business development. Whilst you may not have their level of chargeable time targets, you will still need to fit profile building around your other time commitments. Therefore, the more you can do to help each other win new clients, the more time you’ll free up to build a business case for partnership. For example, if you meet someone who could be a great introducer for a colleague on the partnership track, put them in touch. Or, perhaps you could organise and run a seminar together?  With luck, the favour will be reciprocated.

Your partnership is looking for people who are good at collaborating

A well-run partnership runs on collaboration. After all, isn’t that why partnerships are formed – professionals pooling their resources and knowledge to help each other build a strong firm? If you get a reputation for ‘winning at all costs’ or for leaving a trail of dead bodies behind, your partners may feel you are not the right material. No partner will willingly admit someone who may knife them in the back.

What goes around, comes around

Partnerships are leaky places. Stuff gets found out. Mistreat a junior member of your team, and a partner will definitely hear about it at some point. It’s the same if you start to compete aggressively rather than collaborate with your peers.  It will be added to your reputation. Many high-flying senior associates and directors who get put on their firm’s formal partner development programme will find themselves being forced to work alongside their peers. A key feature of these programmes is normally a joint project or an assessed group exercise. In these situations, too much competitiveness at the expense of someone else on the programme could be your downfall.

In summary

Remember that partnerships are normally built on the spirit and intention of collaboration. Therefore, the more you can collaborate to help your peers, the greater the chance that they will reciprocate and your business and personal cases strengthen in the process.  

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