The partner track process will assess both your Personal Case and Business Case for partnership. The Big 4 and large law firms will typically assess formally both your Personal and Business Case. However, the smaller or mid-tier firms may only formally assess your Business Case. The Personal Case will be assessed informally.  It tends to be the Business Case for partnership that you hear people discussing. It’s the bit which gets the most focus. Actually, you need both a strong Business Case and Personal Case for partnership, regardless of the mechanism involved in assessing your Personal Case.  

What’s the difference between your Personal And Business Case for Partner? Some firms, normally the Big 4 and large law firms, will split the two of these up within the partnership admissions process. However, if you feel to realise that your Personal Case is as important as your Business Case when pitching your Business Case to your partnership panel, you will put yourself at a disadvantage to your peers also aiming to get to partner this time around.  In this blog post, we will first examine the difference between your Personal And Business Cases. Then we will explore the reasons why you neglect your Personal Case at your peril.

What is the difference between your Personal Case and Business Case for partnership?

Personal Case:

Your Personal Case may be assessed formally. Typically this is done by you demonstrating how you meet the criteria for being a partner in your firm. This can be done on paper or during a partner assessment centre. It involves logically showing how you meet the defined competencies and performance standards for partnership in your firm. But your personal case is so much wider than just a formal application to demonstrate that you are acting at a partner’s level. It is also about your partners wanting you as a member of their exclusive club.

As one EY partner put it, it’s about your partners trusting and believing that you will be the sort of business partner who will be standing side-by-side with them in the trenches when the going gets tough. Remember you are applying to be their business partner; making partner is not just another promotion.

This means that your Personal Case is about getting your partners to both emotionally and rationally want you to join the ranks of the partnership. You must demonstrate that you will fit in well, complement the existing partners and be around for the long haul. Regardless of the size of your firm, your Personal Case will be continually assessed informally. At a subconscious level, your partners will assess whether you act, think and feel like a partner in a firm. Have you made the mindset shift from being a senior fee earner to an owner of the firm? In fact, if your partners don’t want you as a partner in the firm it is unlikely that you will make it onto your firm’s Partner Track or be asked to go through the Partnership Admissions Process.

Need more help to get through the Partnership Admissions Process? Why not get a copy of our book Poised for Partnership? Making the transition from senior employee to partner in a professional services firm is the hardest career move you will ever make. The fully updated 3rd edition of Poised for Partnership is a clear roadmap (for the post COVID-19 world) that strengthens your case and makes reaching partnership inevitable if you’ve got ‘the right stuff’. And if you haven’t, it will show you how to get it. Chapter 12 of Poised for Partnership looks in detail at the Partnership Admissions Process.

Before you can get on the Partnership Admissions Process in your firm, your sponsoring partner, very often your practice group lead or office managing partner, will need to nominate you for partnership. If they don’t feel you are ‘partner material’ this nomination just wouldn’t happen. The importance of this decision is why, when we identified the 12 key indicators needed to make partner, we split the Personal Case indicator into 2. I.e. into the rational side of your Personal Case, i.e. are you operating at the level of a partner. Then the ‘member of the club’ indicator, i.e. do your partners emotionally want you as a partner. Do they trust you? Do they see you as ‘one of them’? Are you considered someone they would be proud to introduce to others outside the firm as their business partner? Ultimately, that is what you are when you are made up to partner, their business partner.

To assess yourself against the 12 key indicators, take our Partnership Readiness Assessment. It will show you precisely where you need to focus your efforts to improve your chances of making partner. It’s free, and comes with a detailed personalised report based on your answers to 80 questions. Take the free assessment here.

It is very common for large firms, e.g. the Big 4, to get someone from the partnership – often a forensic or due diligence specialist – to investigate both your Business and Personal Case. This means researching you with your key stakeholders and the people you work with.

Business Case:

Most clued-up firms will often identify a Business Case for a new partner years before they are needed. This will definitely be the case in the Big 4 accounting/consulting firms. The Business Case for a partner is the commercial reasoning why a new partner is needed in a part of the firm. This could be that a partner is retiring or part of the firm is growing rapidly and that it now needs another partner to handle all the growth in clients.

If no known Business Case exists, you may need to put together a compelling commercial proposition showing that if you are promoted to partner, you will grow part of the business to a sufficient size to warrant partnership.

If you need help with your Business Case download our FREE guide to creating a cast-iron Business Case for partnership. It’s heavily based on Chapter 11 of Poised for Partnership. The guide will take you through what to put in your Business Case.

Why neglect your Personal Case at your peril

Given that all the assessments, interviews and pitches that you will do for partnership are designed to help your partners decide whether you are the sort of person they want to share ownership of the firm with, it is foolhardy to neglect your Personal Case within your preparation for the admission process.

Yes, you are unlikely to get directly asked how you will fit in well around the partnership table. However, you need to consider how you present yourself during the process. All too often, potential partners only spend time thinking about their Business Case, i.e. how they will bring in the fees.

Neglect to do this thinking about your Personal Case for partnership, and you will probably fail to get through the Partnership Admissions Process, because it isn’t all about the fees you will bring in with partner on your business card.

Within our Progress to Partner membership site are some great resources to help you get noticed for the right reasons and seen as a future partner. For example, it contains:

  • Our Game Plan of curated resources to help you grow your profile and get noticed as ‘one to watch’
  • Short videos to give you the confidence to say no to urgent requests so you can get back in control of your day and priorities
  • Tips on how to overcome imposter syndrome
  • Videos on how to thrive, grow your profile but still be authentic to how you are

In summary

You need both a strong Business Case for partnership and Personal Case if you are to make it to partner. This means your partners need to believe that you will help increase the profits of the partnership AND want you as their business partner.

What’s in Progress To Partner which will help you with your final step up to partner?

Progress to Partner is our membership site that will give your the knowledge AND confidence to fly through this final step up to partner.

It’s like a Netflix for your career in the professions. Find what you need to watch or read at the time you need it. Within the site, you’ll find over 150+ courses, videos, checklists, templates and plans to help you progress your career to partner. Amongst the many curated resources (no more unnecessary scrolling or searching), you’ll find:

  1. On-demand courses on how to create and articulate your business case, including our most downloaded course “How to Build a Cast-Iron Business Case for Partner”
  2. A section on the Partnership Admissions process with guides and recordings to help you find your way through the process with your sanity intact.
  3. Recordings and checklists on how to ace your partner panel interview
  4. On-demand courses on how to win the right sort of clients
  5. Proven advice on how to still do the day job and find the time to get through the Partner Track process

Check it out!

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