How to get a promotion to partner

You’re ready to get promoted to senior associate but a senior partner announces that one of your colleagues has got the promotion instead of you again. How can you stop this from happening so that you get the next promotion to senior associate? How can you differentiate yourself from your colleagues and demonstrate your leadership capabilities so that you can advance in your career?

To help you with your career advancement prospects, here is everything you need to know about how to get promoted to senior associate in a law firm.

How to get promoted to senior associate in a law firm?

To carve out a career in the legal industry, lawyers first need to make that jump from junior to senior associate. The hardest part? Proving yourself so that you win that promotion To differentiate yourself from your fellow lawyers, there are two key areas that you need to focus on:

  1. Demonstrate that you can handle any of the work being done by employees below you and on your level of the pyramid.
  2. Display the nascent skills needed by the position you want to fill and beyond (e.g. senior associate to partner). 

This may seem simple, but there is more to it than this, namely a lot of time and effort on your part! Here is how to get promoted in a law firm. 

First: Do great work and get known for it

Getting that promotion does take time and experience, there’s no getting away from that, but it is the effort you make to go above and beyond your daily work that can accelerate this process. Working hard, delivering quality and getting known for it is your most powerful asset. Before you do anything else, make sure that you have a strong foundation (in terms of you doing great work) and that the most important people know that:

  • You are loyal – show your passion for the firm you work for. Exhibit a genuine interest in what the firm does and work hard to share in the success of the firm, just remember to not do anything that will endanger the welfare of the firm too!
  • You do great work – promotions are not given likely, so just doing your work and hitting your targets isn’t enough. Think about it from your partners’ point of view, what reason would they need to promote you? How can you perform better or prove your worth above and beyond the norm? Doing great work is the best start as your colleagues and clients will talk about you, but what can you do to wow the important people?
  • You’ve made progress – set yourself some goals and at the end of this time, compare your actual achievements with your goals to see how you’ve done. Share this information regularly with your partner, mentor, and counselling manager so that it keeps you accountable and they can see your capabilities and achievements. 
  • You know your why – confidence rubs off on the people around you, it’s infectious, so if you know your why and have a genuine desire to improve your professional life, people are naturally going to want to help you. Relishing this challenge and proving yourself looks good to your superiors so show them that you know exactly where you want to go and that you have the confidence to get there.
  • You want this promotion – how to get promoted in law? Ask for it. Communicate with your superiors early on that being promoted to senior associate is what you want and they will help you get there. Don’t rely purely on getting rewarded for the efforts you make, make yourself and your goal known and ask for their advice on how to improve so that you can make this a reality. It sounds weird, but if you don’t ask you don’t get

Our subscriber-only Progress to Partner membership site has a great Game Plan called “…if you need to raise your profile” to help you get noticed for partner-track. Check it out here.

Second: Show that you are ‘senior associate’ material

Annoyingly, the people who stand out to your boss the most are either the people who are making mistakes or the people who are doing great things that have never been done before. This can make it hard for you to make it to the forefront of their mind, even if you are showing great potential. If you are doing great work and you are hitting your targets, unfortunately, that’s not enough to win you that promotion.  To show your partners you are ready to win that promotion to senior associate, you need to be exhibiting the traits and skills of a senior associate, particularly:

  • Good project management skills – When you get that promotion to senior associate you will typically be leading on a matter for a partner. You often become their ‘2nd in command’ who they rely on heavily to get their client matters completed to time and budget.  This means you need to be great at managing a matter. This means keeping the client and partner updated on progress and resourcing up the matter with junior members of the team. You’ll need to keep it all within budget and delegate as much of the technical work as possible down to the more junior members of the team. 
  • Strong relationship skills – As a senior associate, you’ll be the person who works closely with the client. This means you need to be excellent at managing a client’s expectations, having difficult conversations with clients and building strong client relationships.
  • Ability to supervise junior members of the team – You’ll be supervising the work of more junior members of the team. This means you need to have great technical skills yourself, so you can pick up their errors! You’ll often need to take a coaching approach to help your more junior colleagues improve their technical ability. 
  • Interpersonal communication skills – even you have all the technical proficiency that’s needed, if you can’t communicate, you won’t be able to lead effectively. Senior associates need strong oral and written communication skills to run an effective team and build great client relationships. 
  • The ability to multitask – it’s essential that you’re adaptable and flexible as a senior associate. You’ll be in charge of generating new business, planning an engagement, and communicating the result to a client. Often, you’ll be doing these all at once for several clients.
  • A burgeoning knack for business development – senior associates are on the front lines of discovering new business. Often, they are the primary client contact so are in an ideal position to build relationships, listen to clients’ needs, and ascertain how those match up with the firm’s service offerings.  We have a great course in our subscriber-only site Progress to Partner  called How to Make the Time for Business Development. It takes about 2-hours to work through and create a daily business development habit that you can actually stick with!

Show your partners that you are ready for that promotion

Still asking yourself how to get promoted to senior associate in a law firm? Doing high quality work consistently and working long hours is not enough to win that promotion over your colleagues. You need to differentiate yourself if you want your partners to realise that it should be you that is moved up! 

To do this, you need to demonstrate that you already have the skills that they are looking for as well as the grit and determination to make it all the way  from senior associate to partner.  Stop the search! Everything you need to know (and everything you need to do) is all in one place at our Progress to Partner subscriber-only site. Guides, webinar recordings, workbooks and self-study courses that will make your career journey much clearer.

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