I regularly speak to audiences of lawyers, accountants and consultants about the challenges of making partner. In my talks I often share the ten lessons that my clients have learnt along their journeys to make partner. In this blog post I am going to share the most important lesson out of all ten if you want to progress your career in the professions.

Surely all the ten lessons are important?

When I ran a ‘how to make partner’ event on behalf of the Pro-Recruitment group, all the partners on the panel confirmed that every single of the ten lessons were important – and they had learnt these on their way to partner. There was a question posed to the panel of partners and myself. That question was:

“What is the one thing that you must do to ensure you successfully get to partner?”

Two of the panel members said there was one lesson, which really stood out for them. This lesson wasn’t about hitting your numbers or having a cast-iron business plan. The key lesson – and the most important lesson to learn for any aspiring partner – is to change your mindset and act, think and feel like a partner, rather than a senior fee earner.

What do I mean by ‘thinking, feeling and acting like a partner’

This means you need to get:

  • Making partner is not just another promotion, it is where your partners trust you enough to give you a slice of the firm
  • That it is not the firm’s responsibility to drive your development or career, it is your responsibility
  • It’s no longer about ‘me, me, me’, it has to be about focusing on what is good for the team, department and firm rather than your particular agenda
  • Business development needs to be part of your day job rather than something that you do when the workload is light
  • You need to treat your practice like a business, not just a job to be done

When I mean get, you really do walk your walk and talk your talk. All too often you hear people in the professions talking a good game. But when it really comes down to it, they don’t follow their own advice. It’s often the little things that trip them up – and trip them up when they really matter. Such as:

  • Complaining that they are not getting enough work from the partners, when they need to be actively trying to bring in their own work
  • Having an attitude of “I deserve to make partner”, rather than realising this is where your partners will be offering you a chance to buy into the firm

What happens if you don’t think, feel and act like a partner?

What I’ve seen happen when senior fee earners don’t get their head around the mindset piece is their partners don’t actively engage with them to help progress their career to partner. This could be obvious like refusing to talk about helping you make partner, or the less-than-obvious such as giving others the decent opportunities to further their career.

In summary

The most important lesson of all the ten lessons is to think, feel and act like a partner; without doing this your partners will not engage or help you on your way to partnership.

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