In the early years of your career, promotion tended to happen automatically based on whether you passed your exams or not. After qualification, this tends not to be the case - and never more so than being promoted to partner. You may have a highly profitably client portfolio and be highly regarded by everyone in your firm, but if your partnership doesn't have the space or inclination to admit a new partner, partnership for you at your firm isn't going to happen. In this article, I share with you the clues which you need to be looking for to understand what the partners will require from the future firm’s partners.
1. Partners getting near to retirement age
In most partnership agreements there is a clause for what age partners need to retire by. It’s not always set in stone, but not unusual for partnerships to force out their older members. (Most forward thinking practices realise that they need new blood into the partnership ever so often, and making partners retire at a certain age is one way of doing this.) Very often the retiring partner has a client portfolio which will need someone to take it over. That person could be you. Do you have a good connection with that partner? Do you have the right skills to take over his portfolio. Maybe more importantly, do you want to take over this partner’s client portfolio? It may not be in the best of health! (Our FREE guide to doing your due diligence on your firm may come in handy here, email required)
2. Technical areas or sectors becoming very important to the firm
Look at your firm’s business plans – where do they see the growth coming for the firm? Growth in a practice area is always an opportunity for aspiring partners to grow a portfolio and stake a claim at the partnership table. As well as looking at the firm’s business plans, do your homework and spend time talking with partners in the firm. Where do they see the growth coming from in their firm? What are the technical areas which are being more important to the firm?
3. Areas of the practice which are ‘light’ on partners
Sometimes a part of the firm becomes very successful – and there is too much work for the existing partners to handle. Consequently, this may be an opportunity for you to make partner in that area (with the right technical skills). The partners in the department will need to be able to have an extra pair of hands to handle the client relationships – which is an opportunity for you. Sometimes a non-partner becomes very successful at winning work and builds up a partner-sized client portfolio. As the partnership can't afford to lose someone of this calibre, they will often make this person up to partner.
4. Departments where senior professionals have exited the firm and left a gap
There is always a pecking order and hierarchy within a firm. However, this can sometimes get disrupted by prospective partners leaving the firm before they get there. Not only does this create opportunities for you to get your hands on more responsibility earlier, but there are less people ahead of you to make partner before you.
In summary, there are no hard and fast rules where the next partner will come from in the firm. Do your homework and look around you – there maybe an opportunity begging for you to take an advantage of. Make sure your personal business case for partnership (Download our FREE guide to writing your personal business case for partnership here, email required) shows how you are THE person to strengthen the partnership.