You may be crushing it as a senior fee earner, but making partner is not about just being a strong performing senior associate, manager or director. Your partners want to see you demonstrate that you are already working at the level expected of a partner at your firm! To be considered for partnership when the time comes, you need to have been building a strong personal case alongside your everyday duties, so how do you do that? Here is how to think, feel, and act like a partner (which you need to be doing as soon as possible!).

*This blog is an excerpt from chapter 9 of the 3rd edition of Poised for Partnership. This chapter focuses on your Personal Case for Partnership and helps you to demonstrate that you’re already working at the level of Partner. Download the full chapter for free here.

10 ways to think, feel and act like a partner

As we said, if you want to make partner, you can’t just focus on being an excellent senior fee earner. With that being said, however, you also can’t focus solely on doing the role of a partner (thanks, chargeable time targets!). You need to balance the demands of the two.

To progress your career, you need the right mindset. A mindset that will allow you to scale it back a bit when it comes to your day job so that you can take on partner-level responsibilities. This is a difficult juggling act to do, but the more you can show you already think like a partner, the stronger your Personal Case will be.

Here are 10 things that you need to be doing to show that you can think, feel, and act like a partner:

a plant growing in a pot of money to represent what changes when you become partner1. Hit your billing and collection targets.

The first thing you need to do to strengthen your personal case for partnership is to make sure that you’re doing your day job well. This means you and your team need to be hitting all of your billing and collection targets.

2. Help others in your team develop.

One way to show that you’re thinking and acting like a partner is by helping others in your team develop. Stepping into a leadership role shows the partners that you’re thinking beyond yourself and your targets to the team and the business as a whole.

3. Demonstrate, by what you say and do, that you are committed to the firm’s strategy.

Many senior fee earners can talk about what their role and targets are and how they are performing. However, they don’t tend to link this to the firm’s strategy. This is such an easy mistake to rectify.

From now on, start thinking about how your role enables the firm to achieve its targets and start mentioning this in your interactions with people. If you go a step further and start doing things that will actively help move the firm closer to these targets, you’ll be sure to wow the partners.

a panda eating to represent having the hunger to act like a partner4. Show a hunger for more leadership and management responsibility.

Enthusiasm goes a long way, especially if it’s towards things that the partners care about, so don’t be afraid to show it. If you’re hungry for more leadership and management responsibilities, ask to take on more. Speak to your mentor and your sponsoring partner about what you’d love to take on and how you want to progress. They’ll be keen to help you get there.

5. Find ways to be more involved in the leadership and management of your part of the practice.

If you want to show that you can already think and act like a partner, get more involved in the leadership and management of your part of the practice. Show that you’re interested in management and be active in taking on responsibility. The stronger a candidate you will be if you do so.

6. Build up a reputation as the Go-to-Expert so the partners in your part of the practice start to regularly consult your opinion.

Do your partners in your part of the practice regularly consult your opinion? If they don’t, then you need to start building a reputation as the Go-to-Expert in your area. If partners are coming to your for expertise, think how strong of a case you can build for being made up to partner.

a dart board to represent knowing your progress against your targets if you want to act like a partner7. Always know your key achievements and progress against your plans and targets.

There’s nothing worse than having a partner ask you about your progress or targets and you stumble for an answer. This looks incredibly bad. To show that you’re thinking like a partner, you need to have these figures at your fingertips. You need to know where you’re going and how far along you are to getting there.

8. Talk about your business or practice rather than a collection of clients.

To show you can think and act like a partner, you need to shift your mindset to the firm as a whole rather than just you and your clients. You need to be talking about the business – including its goals and strategy – whenever you talk about the work that you do.

9. Actively work towards a business plan and be able to quickly and succinctly explain this to a partner.

One way to show partners that you’re thinking of the business as a whole (not just you and your collection of clients), is to work towards a business plan. If you’re talking to a partner and you can quickly and succinctly tell them how you will grow a profitable business within the overall business of the firm, you will become one of the strongest candidates for partnership.

a lion silhouette to represent having gravitas if you want to act like a partner10. Have more gravitas in everything you do.

Gravitas or ‘executive presence’ is something that partners require, especially in business development meetings or leading meetings with staff members. Your partners want to be proud when they introduce you as one of their partners. So, ultimately, the more gravitas you have, the more likely you’ll be considered as a future partner.

Read: How to have more gravitas: 7 steps to build your executive presence 

Your Personal Case is key to making partner

It doesn’t matter how much money you are making your firm or how strong a Business Case you have, no firm will risk its long-term future and stability by making up a partner with a weak Personal Case.

Your Personal Case is not just about the management and leadership responsibilities you take on. It is also about how you are viewed inside and outside of the firm (particularly, the amount of gravitas you have!). After all, having ‘partner’ on your business card conveys a certain level of respect and authority.

Partnership is an exclusive club, so to become a member of the club, you need to be showing partners that you already think and act like them. The sooner you start doing this (these 10 steps above), the more they will like, trust, and respect you, and the more likely you’ll be considered for partnership.

Don’t forget to download the full chapter of the 3rd edition of Poised for Partnership. This chapter will help you think, feel and act like a partner to strengthen your Personal Case for Partnership. Download the full chapter for free here.


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