The increasing competitiveness among firms has resulted in a much longer timeline to becoming partner, if you’re lucky enough to be named one at all. So it’s important for associates to know and regularly evaluate whether they are on the right track.

The partnership track is a tough and vigorous road to travel, so rather than just trying to traverse it only to find that all that hard work leads to a dead end, use this time to steer your career in the right direction.

Here are 12 signs that you won’t make partner at your law firm including what you can do to turn this around.

You’re not busy

You should be working yourself into the ground as an associate, so if you have the odd slow day or lull period, make sure to use it to seek more work. An associate that is doing well will be in high demand and partners will notice this, so if you don’t seem to be busy, this could be a sign that you won’t make partner at your law firm.

You’re not meeting deadlines

You might have heaps of work that need to get done, but if you’re not meeting those deadlines, you won’t be considered for partner. If you’re not meeting internal deadlines, you need to learn to say ‘no’ effectively so that you can stay on top of your workload and make your partners happy in the process.

You’re not emotionally mature

When you’re overwhelmed or faced with obstacles that completely throw off your work and plans, how do you cope with this? Do you moan and groan or get angry? Do you get overwhelmed and frustrated or are you able to adapt and keep the bigger picture in mind? Emotional maturity is a big indicator for partners where you are partner material or not so if you don’t have it, this may be a sign that you won’t be considered.

You’re not showing drive or ambition

A strong personal drive and ambition go a long way in assisting partners efficiently and effectively, plus it is essential for achieving both personal and business goals. If you’re not showing this, then you most likely won’t make partner at your law firm. Someone who is a contributing member of the team, who shows passion and who takes feedback on board and comes back working stronger will be a very strong candidate for partner.

You’re not demonstrating variety

Taking on a variety of tasks not only shows that you have a well-rounded skill set, but also demonstrates that you have had experience in the whole buffet of legal work. While tasks such as document reviews may require high-level thinking, they don’t allow you to show your preparatory skills or your full range of creativity and innovation. Put simply, if you’re not demonstrating variety, this may be a sign that you won’t be considered for partner.

Your relationship building skills are lacking

People buy from people and loyalty is a massive factor that influences business decisions, so partners will be looking at how well you build and maintain your relationships within your network. If you don’t have strong relationships with your clients, your team, your introducers and your wider network, this may be a sign that you won’t make partner at your law firm.

You’re not demonstrating your ability to win new business

If you’re not willing to get involved in business development, you will find it very hard to build a strong book of business for yourself. This is one of the biggest factors that drive the partner decision, so you need to be proving your ability to win new business for the firm as soon as possible in your career.

You’re not showing commitment to the firm’s long term vision

Are you actively committed to the firm? Are you showing your commitment by doing tasks and creating opportunities that will help achieve its long term vision? If not, you need to start; no partner is going to risk their future financial health on you unless you show them now that you have a personal investment in the future success of this firm.

You don’t think like a partner

A big sign that you won’t be considered for partner track is that you’re not demonstrating the ability to think like a partner. Smart associates demonstrate the ability to think ahead and act proactively, they actively try and make the partner’s lives easier as they understand what is happening in cases and they make efforts to move them along.

You don’t have any sponsors

If you don’t have any sponsors at your firm or any others, it will be very difficult to make partner. A sponsor is your chief advocate in a firm, they will talk highly of you to other partners and highlight the particular talents that make you deserve a seat at the table; if you don’t have any in the first few years as an associate, this could be a sign that you’re not being noticed as a partner candidate.

You are not trusted with clients

If partners assign high-profile meetings to other associates over you, this could be a sign that you are not considered partner material. It might be due to you not showcasing your talent or experience effectively or it might just be due to that one partner’s opinion of you, but whatever the reason, if you’re being constantly overlooked for work, this isn’t a positive sign that you are on track.

You’re not commercially astute

Commercial astuteness is a quality that partners will be looking out for in associates, so if you’re not showing that you can make decisions that impact both profitability now and in the future, this can be a sign that you won’t make partner at your law firm. Partners want to know that they can rely on you in the future to make good commercial decisions on behalf of the firm, so this is a very important skill to develop.

Give yourself the best chance at making partner

While you can’t predict whether you’ll be named partner, you do have the ability to steer your career in the right direction. If you make sure that you’re ticking these 12 boxes, you can be confident that you are doing all that you can to be considered for partner at your law firm.  

Read: What to do when you are told you won’t get on the partner track