a man watching the sun rise to symbolise preparing for partnership early

“How early should I start preparing for partnership?” is a question that I get asked by lawyers, accountants, and consultants very often. “I want to make partner in the next 12 months” is also something I hear, but more on that later. While it is possible to make it through the Partnership Admission Process within a year, it’s good practice to start planning 2-3 years in advance to build up a strong business and personal case behind you. Here’s why and what you need to focus on. *This blog is an excerpt from the 3rd edition of Poised for Partnership. This book will give you everything you need to give yourself the best chance of making it through to partner this time around.

The early bird gets the worm!

a bird with a worm in its mouth to represent starting early when preparing for partnershipIt’s never too early to start preparing for partnership. Why? Because the early bird gets the worm! It will take you years to master some of the skills and habits you need to become a partner at your firm, so the earlier you start, the stronger candidate you will be. When we get asked this question – “how early should I start preparing for partnership?” – by senior managers or associates, we tell them at least 2-3 for these two reasons.

1. It can often take years to build a cast-iron Business Case and Personal Case for partnership.

Large, profitable pieces of juicy client work don’t magically appear, neither do mindsets change overnight. Building a partner-sized client portfolio takes hard work, planning and focus. The quicker you put in a firm foundation to move your career forward, and start winning your own work, the easier it becomes to build your Business Case and Personal Case for partner.

2. Most of the top professional services firms will be agreeing a Business Case for a new partner 2-3 years before they are actually required.

Once cases have been agreed upon, the firm’s ‘Talent’ team will then work to ensure that by the time this partner is needed in situ, there is a good candidate with a strong Personal Case and Business Case ready to be made up. A Magic Circle firm in the UK used to formally start to prepare their future partners just before they were about to go through the Partnership Admissions Process.

After receiving feedback from their senior associates, they now do this work 2–3 years before they expect an individual to go through the Partnership Admissions Process. They know that if their potential new partners are prepared to put the time and effort in the 2–3 years before going through the Partnership Admissions Process, then the process becomes more of a formality.

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!

Are you actually ready for partnership?

a runner at the starting block to represent preparing for partnershipHow early you should start preparing for partnership is one thing, making sure that you are ready for partner is quite another! What we mean by this is, “how do you know you are ready for partner, and therefore have a very high chance of being successful this time around?” The last thing you want is to go through this gruelling process only to be told you are not ready, so this is something that you need to know. We both know that your firm will be evaluating your candidacy based on quantitative categories (your billable hours, collections, originations, amount of work won etc) and qualitative categories (skills, expertise, reputation etc). What is kept under cloak and dagger, however, is the real detail of what they are looking for. What exactly is it that you need to do to make partner? Based on our experiences of working with hundreds of lawyers, accountants and consultants from the very largest firms through to strong regional firms, we have identified that there are 12 key indicators that you can assess yourself against. Fail to hit the mark in one of these key areas and you will severely handicap your ability to make partner.

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

Prepare for partnership using the 12 key indicators

traffic lights to represent preparing for partnershipThe Partnership Readiness Assessment takes you through exactly what it takes to make partner (i.e. the 12 key indicators). Think of it as a traffic light checklist. You go through each indicator and measure your performance in each one. Only when you get a ‘green’ score can you move on to work on the next one. If you want to go for partner (and be successful first time), you need to score green in these areas:

  1. Mindset. Do you have the right mindset to transition from senior employee to partner, i.e. a business owner?
  2. Direction. Do you know what really makes you tick and what you stand for?
  3. Plan. Do you have a career plan guiding you to do the right things at the right time?
  4. Support team. Do you have the right support team in place to help you go all the way?
  5. Delegation. Do you have the right people to delegate to so you can free yourself up to focus on partner-type responsibilities?
  6. Go-To Expert. Are you widely known and seen as an expert in what you do? Does work come directly to you?
  7. Referral network. Have you built referral networks to supply you with enough of the right type of work?
  8. Business development habit. Do you routinely do a bit of business development each day?
  9. Personal Case. Do you match up against the criteria required for your partners in your firm?
  10. Member of the club. Do your partners and clients already think of you as a partner? Do they trust you to deliver and want to have you as their business partner?
  11. Business Case. Are you implementing a robust business plan to help you grow the profits of your firm?
  12. Partnership Admissions Process. Have you prepared for each element of the process? Can you pitch your business case succinctly?

When your firm evaluates your candidacy, they will look at all of these indicators over the past few years. It stands to reason then, that the sooner you work on these areas and perform well in each, the sooner you will progress to partner.

We created the Progress to Partner subscriber-only site to make this as easy as possible. There are guides, self-study courses, useful videos, workbooks waiting for you – everything you need to know about how to make partner all in one place! There’s even a course on “how to make the time for business development”.

It’s never too early to prepare for partnership

Most of the top professional services firms will be agreeing a Business Case for a new partner 2-3 years before they are actually required. This means that the strength of your candidacy will depend on all of the quantitative and qualitative measures that you build up during this time. As with most things in life, the sooner you start the process of building the right mindsets, habits, and skills that will make you a good partner, the sooner you can go for partner and a stronger candidate you will be.

We have a great course in our subscriber-only site Progress to Partner  called How to put together a development plan to achieve your career goals.  The course gives you the structure, clarity, and guidance to gain the skills, knowledge, mindset, and experience to take your career to the next stage or level – whatever you want that to be. Check it out here

Helpful resources:

Poised for partnership 3rd edition bookWant to make partner in the next 12 months, but haven’t yet started to create your Business Case and Personal Case? Don’t worry. It’s not impossible to make it successfully through the Partnership Admissions Process without 2–3 years of preparation behind you. Poised for Partnership will show you the shortcuts you can make and what to prioritise. Both of which will give you the best chance of making it through to partner this time around!   Most popular articles:

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