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Pathway to Partnership: What You Need to Know

Dreaming of the day you’ll achieve partnership at your law firm? You’re not alone. Making partner is one of the primary goals of many associates. The competition is fierce and requires years of careful planning, persistence, and dedication. Here are some things you should know before pursuing a pathway to partnership:

What, exactly, is a Partner?

Being a partner isn’t just a weighty title for your business card. It means that you become an owner or shareholder of the firm and will be required to make a capital contribution. You carry the risk and responsibility for the firm’s success with managerial, voting, and decision making powers. You will no longer be salaried but will earn a percentage of whatever the firm brings in that year.

Types of Partnership

Partnerships can take on many forms. Some firms offer tiered partnerships with equity partners at the top; others offer partnership in title only.

  • Equity – Equity partners own a portion of the firm’s assets, as well as its liabilities. You become a part of firm leadership and help direct all operations.
  • Non-equity – With a nonequity partnership, you participate in profit sharing and gain the prestige of the partner label, but you don’t own a share of the firm. At some firms, this is a stepping stone to full partner status.

How to Get to Partner

  • Know the process – There is not one uniform way to achieve partner. Every firm will have its process which may or may not be formally communicated. Learn everything you can about your firm’s particular path to partnership.
  • Hit your numbers – Bill no fewer than 2,000 hours a year, establish expertise in your practice area and produce a strong book of accurate and challenging work.
  • Pick a partner, or two– These partners will generate most of your assignments, and the relationships will be paramount in your quest for partnership. Attorneys sometimes switch firms so if you work exclusively w just one partner and he or she leaves, you could be left without an ally.
  • Join panels and groups – While time-consuming and sometimes tedious, legal groups, associations, and professional panels are important. Your involvement on these panels brings recognition and prestige to your firm and builds your network.
  • Bring in business – A partner is expected to generate new business. If you begin doing this as an associate, you’ve already shown that you can pull your weight.
  • Be open to outside opportunities – Making a move to another firm may get you to that coveted position faster than toiling at one firm indefinitely. A skilled legal recruiter can help you identify outside opportunities. Even if you’re not looking to move, it’s a smart strategy to be in a recruiter’s database as a networking source.

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