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18 Apr

How To Become a Law Firm Partner

by: Astor Professional Search

If you are an associate, you probably want to know how to become a law firm partner. Sharpening your skills, mastering law firm economics, and generating business can increase your chances of becoming a law firm partner. Having an inquisitive personality and proving your value to your law firm are other essential steps to becoming a partner.

Young businessman with his colleagues in the background.

Many firms have specific criteria or skill levels that attorney candidates and associates must attain to rise through the ranks. Familiarize yourself with the specific requirements at your firm. Cultivating meaningful mentor relationships and asking the right questions can help you understand these requirements. Mentors can also equip you with the required skills for the partnership process at your firm.

What Is a Law Firm Partner? 

A law firm partner is an attorney who occupies a senior rank at a law firm. A partner oversees a firm’s core activities to aid each department in running effectively and offering legal services to all clients.  

The partner is responsible for expanding the client base and generating new business opportunities for the firm. Depending on the partnership structure, a partner may share equity or ownership of a firm with another person or several people. 

Types of Law Firm Partnerships 

Law firm partnerships fall into two main categories: general partnership and limited liability partnership (LLP). In a general partnership, partners have equal responsibility for overseeing the law firm’s finances. They also share liability equally. The actions of one partner can directly impact another partner’s financial situation, track record, and personal assets. 

Partners in an LLP are liable for their legal actions. LLPs shield partners from personal liability for specific actions of other partners. 

How to Make Partner 

Sharpen Your Skills 

Focus on a specific practice area. Examine the niche areas partners in your law firm have focused on and identify the gap. 

Is there an untapped legal area in your law firm? Does that area have a high-growth potential? Blockchain and data analytics, for instance, are currently generating large workloads for innovative law firms. You can make yourself an authority in such an area. 

Obtaining additional credentials in your niche area can help you stand out as an authority. You can also strengthen your profile by getting articles published in renowned law journals and blogs, or participating in bar events and conferences as a keynote speaker.

Offer to handle new projects. Doing this will help you establish yourself as a leader. Don’t shy away from speaking up if you think your knowledge and skill could be valuable in an upcoming project in your law firm. 

Get in touch with the partner or associate handling that specific project, even if you have never worked with the person before. Start by introducing yourself and specifying your capabilities in the area. Explain how your involvement will add value to the project.

Understand Law Firm Economics 

Law school will equip you with the ability to think, research, write, and argue like a lawyer. It won’t expose you to the quantitative aspects of running a successful law firm, however. You will need to acquaint yourself with these elements while on the job. Once you start learning the various ways law firms generate revenue, you can determine how to contribute and expand your firm’s revenue streams. 

Establish the link between your productivity and your value as an associate. If you are directly contributing to your firm’s revenue generation, you are partner material. You also need to prove that you are taking steps to increase that value and create new business. 

Further, you can grow your value by bringing in new clients. Generating new business from existing clients is another effective way to grow your value. These steps will help you stand out as a valuable resource in building the right partner ecosystem for your law firm. 

Generate Business for Your Law Firm 

As an associate, you need to develop your business plan from the outset. Take a business approach towards your job as an associate. Set goals of earning money for your law firm. Develop a business plan that outlines how you will realize your goals, and share it with your law firm partners. 

Developing a business plan shows partners at your firm that you are approaching your job as an owner, not just an employee. It demonstrates that you recognize the value of creating a volume of business to deliver quality services to clients and grow profit margins. 

Exceed your clients’ expectations by providing unparalleled service. Allow your clients to ask questions and keep them involved throughout the process of addressing their legal needs. Find out if your existing clients have other legal needs and explain how your law firm can help meet those needs. Such clients are likely to generate new matters for your firm. 

Find ways to bring new clients to your law firm. You can do this by regularly participating in industry events. These events will allow you to sell your services to prospective clients and enlighten them on potential legal problems they might encounter. Clients are likely to work with you if they know that you understand the specific needs and challenges of their business. 

Building a profitable practice shows the partners at your law firm that you are a valuable business asset. Your lucrative practice will also come in handy, especially if you are considering making a lateral partner move after 60

Nurture and Grow an Inquisitive Personality 

You must ask questions to familiarize yourself with the partnership process at your law firm. Most law firms usually consider associates in their tenth year of practice for partnership. Department heads are responsible for identifying these associates at many large firms. These associates undergo a thorough vetting process and all partners vote for them at a special meeting. 

At many smaller law firms, the responsibility of nominating associates for partnership lies with all partners, not department heads. They, however, use the same vetting and voting process as large firms. 

Law firms must put a solid and transparent partnership process in place. That way, junior partners and associates will know that they are serious about succession. Poor succession planning is one of the common reasons partners switch law firms

Cultivate Meaningful Mentor Relationships 

Find a partner at your law firm who inspires confidence in you to mentor you. Your mentor should be someone with whom you share similar interests and aspirations. This person should help you navigate the hurdles of becoming a law firm partner. Look for a person whom you can work with comfortably. 

If you are a female associate, for instance, you should look for a female partner to serve as your mentor. She can walk you through the specific obstacles of moving up the ranks in a male-dominated profession. A female mentor may also recommend the best law firms for female equity partners

Handle responsibilities delegated to you by your mentor with the highest level of professionalism. Consistently deliver excellent results to increase your partnership odds. 

If you can’t find a mentor in your firm, feel free to look for a mentor elsewhere. Such a mentor might not help you become a partner but can guide you in building a successful practice. 

How Long Does It Take to Become a Law Firm Partner? 

It takes at least nine years of practice in a specific area to become a law firm partner. This is especially true in larger law firms, where many people compete for limited partnership slots. The partnership path is shorter in smaller law firms, as fewer associates compete. Approach your practice with a business mindset from the outset to shorten your partnership track.

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William Sugarman

William Sugarman is the president and founder of Astor Professional Search. He engages in the successful placement of attorneys with local, regional, and international law firms and corporations. Bill’s extensive legal and business development experience give Astor an edge over other legal recruiters nationwide. At the cornerstone of Bill’s strategic philosophy is providing the highest level of personalized attention to his clients and attorney candidates. This is also a key factor that separates Astor from other legal search firms, and it consistently delivers legal placements year after year.

Years of Experience: More than 20 years

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