Changing the word impossible to possible.

“We regret to inform you that you were unsuccessful in the partnership admissions vote…”

If you are reading this article because you have just been told you are not going to make partner this time around, I feel for you. Whether you expected it or not, it’s a blow to the ego and I’m guessing that you are probably feeling a bit raw now. While it might feel like the end of a long and painful journey, this isn’t the end! In this article, I explore how to pick yourself up and get back in the game after this knockback to your career.

*This blog is an excerpt from chapter 12 of the 3rd edition of Poised for Partnership. This chapter focuses on the Partnership Admissions Process including what’s involved, how to ace it, and what to do if you’re successful or unsuccessful in the vote.  Download the full chapter for free here.

‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’

a rock climber to represent being strong after an unsuccessful partnership admissions voteI know it’s a cliché, but it is really true that ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.’ It’s not easy to believe this when you’ve just been told you’re not making partner, but trust me. You will become stronger because of this (even if it feels like you have no energy or strength left, right at this moment). Having knockbacks is all part of the hurly-burly of being in the professions. The more resilient you can get to the ‘slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,’ the more successful you will become.

If it makes you feel any better, it’s not unusual for people not to make partner first time around. Your firm may not be able to make up every strong candidate for partnership at this time. Or, as many firms do – particularly the Big 4 – you may have been put on the process to ‘blood’ you, i.e. to help you prepare properly for the next time around. If you were not successful in the partnership admission vote for one of these reasons, now is not the time to throw in the towel!

4 must-dos following the partnership admissions vote

a man with a cape saying 'land of the dreamer'To pick yourself back up after being unsuccessful is hard. Especially, when you’ve been slogging away through this gruelling process for the past couple of years. BUT, it’s not over till the fat lady sings! If you want to increase your chances of successfully making partner next time around, here are 4 must-dos that you need to do ASAP after the partnership admissions vote.

1. Examine your feelings on getting turned down.

Are you devastated, ambivalent, or secretly relieved? If you need time to wallow, take it. You’ve invested a lot of time into this process and it’s okay to ‘grieve’ for a little while. If you feel something else, however, such as relief, find the reason behind that feeling and use that to decide the next step for your career.

2. Get feedback

The best thing you can do for yourself is to ask for formal and informal feedback from both your sponsoring partner and your mentor. What do they believe were the weaknesses in your personal and business cases? Are there certain areas you need to work on to be a stronger candidate? (Our free partnership readiness assessment can help with this!)

3. Book some time with your mentor

As well as getting feedback from your mentor, make sure to book time with them to reflect on how you’re feeling. They can really help you to re-centre yourself and to decide on the next steps you need to take. You never know, your mentor may not have made partner the first time around either!

4. Keep your head up high and behave with dignity

You definitely want to keep doors open for another attempt next year, so think about this in your interactions with the people at your firm. You don’t want to give off the wrong impression and blow any chance of getting accepted in the next partnership admissions vote, so focus on being a ‘gracious loser.’ Read: How to have more gravitas: 8 steps to build your executive presence

Stop and pause

a man relaxing next to the sea to represent reflecting on the partnership admissions voteIt can be tempting to immediately move into action mode and plan your next assault on partnership. But just stop for a moment! I suggest you consciously press pause. After all, your emotions have been on a roller coaster for the last few months and possibly the last few years.

The last thing you want to do is make an irreversible decision, which is driven by out-of-control emotions. Even if your natural state of affairs is to start planning or take action, it’s time to think. Reflect on the feedback you have received and your reactions to not getting through the vote. Get soundings from your support team on what they think you should do next. After all, you still have many options available to you, e.g:

  • Go for partnership next time around.
  • Look to make partnership in a different firm (see how to make partner in a different law firm).
  • Stay as a director, senior associate or senior manager and forget your partnership ambitions for the short and medium-term.
  • Go into industry.
  • Consider a career change.

When you have had this ‘time out’ and your head is in the right place again, only then can you reset your goals and start the planning process again.

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again

Getting a no at the partnership admissions vote is not the end of your career. What it does signify is that your business and personal case for partnership are not strong enough at the moment. Take time to consider if this no is a blessing – is partnership right for you? If you conclude that partnership is still your goal, then you need to put in the work to improve your business and personal case for partnership.

One of our most sought-after courses in our subscriber-only site Progress to Partner is called “How to Build a Cast-Iron Business Case for Partner”. We think it’s a must-have in your arsenal of tools and guidance to help with your career progression. There is also a section on the Partnership Admissions process with guides and recordings to help you find your way through the system. Check it out!

Don’t forget to download the full chapter of the 3rd edition of Poised for Partnership. This chapter will help you think, feel and act like a partner to strengthen your Personal Case for Partnership. Download the full chapter for free here.

Discover your Partnership Readiness Score

Are you ready for partnership?

Do you know what your weaknesses are?

Take our free Partnership Readiness Assessment to see how ready you are for partnership! Measure yourself against the 12 key indicators and identify where you need to work on to be a stronger candidate.

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