How do I become a partner in a magic circle law firm – part 1

interviewOne of the most popular posts in this blog is focused on how to become a partner at a Big 4 firm. Therefore, in this 2-part blog post, I thought I would turn my attention to how to make partner in a magic circle law firm (i.e. A&O, Slaughter and May, Freshfields, Clifford Chance, Linklaters).

Making partner at a magic circle law firm (i.e. A&O, Slaughter and May, Freshfields, Clifford Chance, Linklaters) is becoming harder

With PEP coming under pressure in pretty much all law firms, not just the magic circle firms, many firms are solving this problem by reducing their overall number of partners. Previously you may have made junior partner without a client following. This is getting less and less likely, even in magic circle firms. (i.e. A&O, Slaughter & May, Freshfields, Linklaters, Clifford Chance) Although I personally have no idea how you are meant to bill 8 hours a day AND build up your own client portfolio.

It’s more than just your numbers

Of course, you are not going to pass go without having decent billing figures. This is the same whether you want to make partner at a magic circle, silver circle or small law firm. However, if you are going to make partner you will need to invest in building your ability to be a triple threat. I.e.

  • win work
  • lead and manage your team
  • be great with clients

Therefore, aim to find time each week to develop your network of introducers, as well as spend time building a team beneath you.

Make sure you can feed yourself

When you get to junior partner you will be expected to be able to ‘feed yourself’, i.e. win your own work. Within 12-18 months of making partner you will find that you will no longer be fed work from others. Therefore, if you want to make partner at a magic circle firm, and stay as a partner, you want to make sure that you can either win work from existing clients or be successful in pitches when you are a senior associate.

Do a secondment

This one may sound slightly strange if you want to make partner at a Magic Circle firm. However, to be the commercially focused, well-rounded player means you normally need to have some exposure outside of the law. Ideally this will come from a secondment in industry. This will give you a great understanding of your client’s business, but also a chance to build up the introducer network.

Work with a mentor

Far too often I hear lawyers, and particularly in Magic Circle firms, (i.e. A&O, Slaughter & May, Freshfields, Clifford Chance) under-utilising their relationship with their mentor. (That’s if they have a relationship at all) As I mentioned previously your technical ability and number of billable hours are not what is going to get you to partner. However, your relationship with your mentor could make all the difference to your career progression. Your mentor will be your advocate at the partnership table and help you get on the best assignments.

Your mentor can be your secret weapon to help you get your career firing on all four cylinders again. However, if you don’t spend time with them or build a relationship with them, your car’s engine is going to struggle to get started.

Learn to say no to the wrong kind of work

When I was talking with some female lawyers from the large city firms they told me that the ambitious male lawyers were very good at turning down the wrong kind of work or subtly making sure another associate got the work. Of course, you need to be fairly busy already to be able to do this – and also fairly confident. However, if you are going to make partner at a Magic Circle law firm take the time to identify the type of work you want to do to further your career. Of course there are always going to be times when you need to take one for the team…

This blog post is continued next week (part 2 here)

 

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