It can be hard to tell your partners that you want to go for partnership. You don’t want to come across as pushy or arrogant, or speak out of turn. In my interview with Jo Larbie, my co-author of ‘How to make partner and still have a life’, Jo talks us through how to do just that – and why it is important to talk about your desire to make partner in your firm. The need to actually tell your partners that you want to go for partnership was emphasised when I interviewed both Toni Hunter and Myfanwy. They both vociferously agreed with each other that if you want to make partner in your firm, the first step in the process is to tell a partner. We have three experts strongly recommending that you tell your partners that you want to go for partnership. So, why do so many professionals recoil from the thought of doing this? I’ve heard people say things like this:

  • that’s not the way it’s done in my firm
  • it’s too early to think about going for partner
  • I don’t want to come across as pushy or arrogant
  • I’m worried they wouldn’t take me seriously
  • I’m worried that they will tell me I’m not good enough
  • I don’t want my peers (or partners) to think I’m getting ideas above my station

If you read through this, most of it is probably in your head. However, you may find our partnership potential self-assessment tool (free download) handy to check whether you are probably seen to be partnership potential by your partners. If, after completing this tool, you find that you are probably not yet seen as partnership potential, my recommendation is to work on the gaps identified in the assessment for the next 3-6 months before having any conversation with your partner about wanting to become a partner. Now, how to have that conversation? It’s probably not advisable to announce in a pub, slightly tipsy (or very tipsy) that you want to become a partner. Neither is telling a room full of your peers that you want to be a partner, the best way to have the conversation. Don’t even think about getting someone else to talk to your partner about your partnership prospects – are you a man/woman or mouse? If you are going to be a successful partner, you must be prepared to have a courageous conversation. Here is how to have this conversation. Firstly, arrange to have a private conversation with the partner you work with most often or the partner/director/senior associate who has been allocated to you as a mentor. If you are asked for a reason for the meeting, say it’s about ‘how you are getting on in the firm (or something like that). In the meeting, after some chit-chat, ask the partner a couple of questions:

  • how do they think you are performing?
  • where could you be improving or strengthening your skill set ready for the future
  • what do you think about my potential for progressing my career in this firm?
  • what skills or capability would I need to gain if I wanted to make partner and this firm?

Questions such as these will underscore that you are keen and committed to progressing to partner – and will also naturally lead onto a natural conversation about whether you want to get to partner. If you are serious about getting to partner AND still having a life, you will find our career action plan (free download) an essential tool to enable you to do this. What’s your experience of having a conversation similar to this?  

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