In summer 2016 Heather Townsend revealed the 10 lessons that every potential partners needs to learn to an audience of 200 lawyers and accountants. In this short 2 minute video clip, Heather talks through the second lesson – thinking, feeling and acting like a partner

The road to partner is shrouded in mystery and conjecture.

This is the second lesson in a series of 10 lessons, where I’m going to be sharing what I’ve learnt from my clients on how to make partner.

This is something that so many people don’t get.  And it’s all about if you want to make partner you need to stop thinking that this is just another promotion.  This is not a promotion, this is about you proving to your partnership that you’ll act, think, and feel like a partner, and can be trusted to own a slice of the firm.

The people that treat this as just ‘I deserve to be made partner’ haven’t got it.  You need to think, feel, and act like a partner.

Let me give you an example of one of my clients when he was in an appraisal, and he said to me ‘Heather, how do I get my partners to take me seriously?  They never really have a conversation with me about making partner’.  So I asked him, ‘How are you talking about it in your appraisal?’  And he said ‘Well…’ and I read his appraisal form and to précis it says, ‘I’ve been good, I’ve spent a lot of time at this firm, I’ve worked hard.  I deserve to be a partner’.  That’s just an example of somebody who hasn’t got the mindset-shift right.

So I coached him on what to say.  Instead of saying that, he said ‘Can I run an opportunity past you?  I think if we go after this sector of the marketplace, we’ve got an opportunity to really grow our practice here.  And I’d like to focus my business development time on that, hopefully to then generate a business case for partner’.  And you know what, they listened to him.  In fact he did it even better than that, two weeks later they sat down with him to really work on his business case together with him.  He’d used the magic words that showed he was starting to think, and feel, like a partner.

So here are some of the other things that people do which really… how do I put it?  That actually demonstrate that they’re not thinking and feeling like a partner.

So a good fee earner will try and smash those targets, those billing targets.  Whereas somebody who is ready for partnership will hit their billing targets there and thereabout, but will make sure that they’re making time for business development, management and leadership, which brings me onto the next …

Somebody who is still acting as a senior fee earner will do their business development when their workload is light. But somebody who knows that they’re ready for partnership will be demonstrating that business development is part of their day job, regardless of their workload.

I see something else from somebody who’s not ready for partnership, a senior fee earner who will think ‘it’s the firm’s responsibility to develop me’.  No, if you’re ready for partnership you’ll realise that it’s ‘my responsibility to develop me, and drive my career’.

Lastly, and I see this lot, it’s about the senior fee earner.  It’s about me-me-me-me-me!  It’s about my clients, it’s about my targets, it’s about my time, it’s what I’m doing; and it’s a very almost self-centred type approach.  Whereas I know when somebody’s ready for partnership, because they’re thinking about the team as a whole, the wider practice, the firm.  It’s no longer so much about ‘me’ but about the other people around them, and trying to build a practice and create a legacy.

Probably the biggest mistake you’ll ever make is not making this change in mindset, so you think, feel, and act like a partner.  That is probably the biggest determinant of who’s going to make it to partner, and who isn’t.