Shouldn’t the best candidate for partnership always get to partner? While the obvious answer is yes, that isn’t always the reality. It is fairly common to hear about partners sitting around the table, openly acknowledging that a candidate has a very strong Business Case, will credibly lead their part of the firm, and is very likely to make the firm lots of money. But then, something is missing. Something doesn’t connect for the partners at the table, so they turn down the candidate for partnership. To cut a very long story short, making partner isn’t just about having the skillset, it’s about being likeable and showing the partners that you too are a member of the club. Yes, it is unfair, but this is yet another box that needs to be ticked. You need to show the members that they can trust you, that you won’t upset the natural order of the club, and that you can carry the business that they have grown over the past 20-25 years into the future. Here is how to grow your profile among the partners (to increase your chances of being admitted to the partnership).
*This blog is an excerpt from chapter 10 of the 3rd edition of Poised for Partnership. This chapter focuses on becoming a ‘Member of The Club’ and helps you to grow your profile with the right partners in your firm. Download the full chapter for free here.
How to create your internal PR campaign to support your recommendation for partner
When your partners sit around the partnership table and discuss either formally or informally who they would like to make up to partner, how many partners would be pitching you and ‘fighting your corner?’ Like a panel-based job interview, you will not be at the table when the final decisions are made on who should get to partner this time around. This is why you need to have built up a strong fan base within the partnership well before the formal Partnership Admissions Process starts. If you are an internal candidate for partnership, you will benefit from a ready-made fan base. As a minimum, you want to have built enough relationships with partners within your firm so that they know who you are and are ideally positive about you becoming a partner. You will need to have more than just your Mentor and Sponsoring Partner raving about you to the other partners. How many advocates you need at the partnership table is not a question that can be answered with any degree of certainty. However, it suffices to say that a good answer is “the more, the merrier.”
Need more help with how to grow your profile among the partners? Read: How to be seen as ‘partner ready’ by becoming a member of the club
Step 1: You need to get time with influential partners (even when most partners are working regularly from home)
Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it was perceived to be much easier to remain visible with influential partners. After all, you could always pop by their office or bump into them in the lift. When you (or they) are mostly working from home, your opportunities to get this top-of-mind visibility can reduce rapidly. While you may assume this, the reality is that the opportunities actually don’t reduce, they just appear in different forms. For example:
- How much are you contributing to your firm’s chat channels or internal social networks?
- How much are you getting involved in the virtual social events your firm is instigating?
- Are you picking up the phone to individuals as well as participating in group calls and meetings?
- Remember you can still ‘pop’ into a partners’ office by pinging them a message on your firm’s internal messaging system, e.g. Microsoft Teams, to see if they are available for a call.
Step 2: You need to build your fan base amongst the partnership in your firm
Build up your internal and external market value
Before you can even plan your assault to the partnership table, your client work needs to have done some of the talking for you. Your financials need to be strong and clients need to be saying good things about you; i.e. you need to be in demand both by partners in the firm and clients external to the firm.(This blog can help with this: 8 foolproof ways to attract corporate clients and win big contracts)
Take part in cross-firm initiatives and projects
There are always opportunities to get involved in cross-firm projects outside of your client work. Do choose carefully, and aim to be present on committees, steering groups, projects or assignments where you will get to increase your internal network and contact with key influential partners. Having a presence on cross-firm initiatives, projects, or committees should form a part of your personal Networking Strategy. It’s one of the best ways to get noticed if you’re wondering how to grow your profile among the partners. These projects and initiatives will still be happening whether or not your firm’s senior people work mostly from the office or their home.
Talk to partners outside of your department
You are going to need to create the time to get to know partners outside of your department. Do take this opportunity to ask them about what the practice needs in its new partners. Find out how they could see you fitting into the partnership and what skills they believe you would need to develop. Get their views on your Business Case and Personal Case. There is no stronger advocate than a partner who feels that they have had a say in your Business Case.
Avoid having a fixed date in mind when you want to make partner
One of the faux pas that many potential partners make is having a fixed idea of when they want to make partner. Equity partners get incredibly cheesed off hearing that so-and-so has to be a partner by next year. So if you’re wondering how to grow your profile among the partners, this is something to avoid! There may be better candidates ahead of you, or the economy is such that there aren’t any new partners being admitted for a few years. By all means have an ‘ideal timescale’ in your head or a provisional loose timescale that you are publicly working towards. Just don’t go around telling partners that you will be a partner by a certain point in time.
Go to firm socials
The firm’s socials may not be at the top of your list for things you want to do. As an aside, many firms are getting really good at hosting innovative and enjoyable social events virtually. For example, such as wine and gin tasting sessions or cooking lessons. These social events can give you great access to many of the firm’s partners who you would not normally bump into. Take the opportunity to talk to partners you don’t know at these events and also organise a one-to-one over a physical or virtual breakfast, coffee, lunch or a drink after work.
Take a strong interest in them and their part of the practice
Most people really appreciate being listened to – and partners are no different. In fact, most partners do tend to have an ego that needs a certain amount of stroking. Almost treat your partners as if they are your best client. After all, they are probably the biggest stakeholder in your career right now.
Choose an influential Mentor
Not all partners are created equal. A good clue to a highly influential partner in your firm is how the firm refers to them. For example, do most people know them by their initials or first name? This is a strong clue that this partner is high profile and very influential. In an ideal world, you want a Mentor with this level of influence and power. These are the people who can easily facilitate your path to partnership and ‘sell’ you to the other partners. Sometimes just the fact that this influential partner is championing your cause is enough to get a partner to vote for you.
Find referrals for them
There is nothing quite like bringing in high-quality referrals for other partners to generate a great fan base for you. Partners love work winners and in particular, work winners who bring in stuff for them personally.
Show your partners that you are ‘partner ready’
Getting to partner is more than just getting your numbers right and the business through the door. You need to make sure your partners trust you and want to have you as a member of the partnership. How you do that is by implementing these steps above, followed by two more steps that are covered in these blogs:
- 10 tips for how to think, act, and feel like a partner.
- How to be seen as ‘partner ready’ by becoming a member of the club
Don’t forget to download the full chapter of the 3rd edition of Poised for Partnership. This chapter will help you to become a ‘Member of the Club’ by getting the partners to like, trust, and respect you. Download the full chapter for free here.
Discover your Partnership Readiness Score
Are you ready for partnership?
Do you know what your weaknesses are?