Judge read verdict on brown backgroundIt depends. (Not really helpful – I know!)

Every firm is different in it’s process for admitting new partners into the partnership. Some partnerships will have this formally written down, with a very structured approach for candidates for admission to the partnership. Other, often the small partnerships, will have a very informal process. However, each partnership will have a process for admitting new partners to the partnership.

A business case for partnership can be anything from an informal chat, to a one page business plan, to a war and peace length style form, backed up by multiple interviews and assessments.

You will need both a personal and a business case

When firms talk about a business case for partnership they are normally talking about both your personal and business case. Before the partnership can admit any new partner to the partnership they need to have a business case for doing so.  A business case will typically be built on one of the following premises:

  • a partner is retiring and the department needs a partner to replace them
  • a part of the firm is growing and needs another partner level person to help service this part of the business
  • you have personally built a profitable partner-sized client portfolio which your partnership can not afford to lose.
  • there is an opportunity to enter a new marketplace or offer a new service stream which you can build a profitable client portfolio, which will justify your admission into the partnership. You also need partner on your business card to build this new revenue stream for your firm.

Your personal case for partnership

Very often your personal case is lumped together with your business case. In fact when you submit your business case for partnership you will also be writing about your personal case for partnership. Your personal case for partnership is where you justify ‘why you?’. Typically this will be you showing that you meet the behavioural criteria for partnership and that you will bring a set of skills that the partnership needs going forward.

Any well-organised partnership will be identifying where there is a business case for a new partner many years in advance. They will then work with a selection of candidates to build a personal case for partnership. This then gives the partnership choices about who will be the best candidate for the new partner role.

I was recently talking with a director in a consulting firm who was on partnership track. In his role he was generating client work worth many millions of dollars for his firm. Part of his personal and business case for partnership needed to include why they should make him up to partner, when he was delivering some very tasty new clients wins with director on his business card.

Your business case has two parts

Regardless of what your firm requires from you for a business case, it will typically have two parts. 

The logical part which is written down, and the emotional part which isn’t written down. Yes, you did read that right, there is a part which isn’t written down! The logical part sets out how you meet the criteria for partnership. I.e. your track record and skills at developing new business, leading a team, contributing to managing the practice. It also shows how you being admitted to the partnership will help the partnership achieve it’s strategic objectives.

The emotional part of your business case is not written down. This is the part where your partners see you as a ‘good chap’, and trust that you will strengthen the partnership team, and be able to safely lead it into the future. If the emotional connection is not there, it doesn’t matter how good you are on paper, the Partners wouldn’t admit you to the partnership.

What does your firm require candidates for partnership to produce in a business case?