Making Partner — What are the Essential Skills?
Attorney associates — senior and otherwise — often find that there is no clear path to being made partner, particularly in today’s changing legal industry, where alternative career paths are increasingly being made available to those who do not make partner (or who simply do not wish to take on those responsibilities). Though there may not be “steps” that one can take to improve their chance of making partner, there are certain traits and skills that an attorney can cultivate to develop themselves into an attractive candidate for the position.
Consider the following.
Traits and Skills That Impact an Attorney’s Partner Candidacy
High-Quality Work Product
When forming oneself into an attractive candidate for partner, you must be able to deliver a consistent, high-quality work product. Associates must avoid cutting corners, and should be extra careful to ensure that their projects are edited and polished to the maximum possible extent. Partners, colleagues, and supervising attorneys will eventually develop a solid trust in your ability to deliver accurate, high-quality work in a timely manner.
Actively Seek Projects
Law firms look for partner-candidates from associates who demonstrate a consistent ability to fill up their schedules with work, even when assignments are “light.” By actively seeking out projects, these associates make it clear that they are dedicated to the firm and to building their career within the firm, as opposed to simply getting by with the minimum required.
Easy to Work With
Most associates who make excellent partners are easy to work with, and they understand how to manage their projects effectively (i.e., the tasks at-issue, their colleagues and clients). Being easy to work with means more than submitting to the needs and requests of others — for partner-candidates, it means taking the lead and proving that they’re capable of handling more responsibility than is expected of them. Associates who make work easier for their colleagues will shine in this regard. The simpler you can make a project, the more likely it is that you’ll be recognized as a trustworthy associate who can be relied on to execute a project to completion, no matter the difficulty.
Able to Engage Effectively With Clients
Client-engagement is critical in evaluating whether an associate will make for a capable partner who can manage existing clients and bring in new business. In many way, the biggest difference between a partner-prospect and an attorney who will have to seek an alternative career track is their ability to work effectively with clients and to bring in new business.
Associate attorneys will not necessarily have the opportunity to “bring in new business” before they have been made partner, but they can prove themselves by requesting more client-related responsibilities and making themselves into an invaluable point-of-contact at the firm. Positive feedback from clients — in conjunction with demonstrated engagement, and a willingness and confidence to engage with clients — can give you a leg up on the competition.
It can be difficult to develop the ability to be “client-oriented” enough as an attorney to make partner. Many see this more extroverted, client-centric orientation as an immutable personality trait that attorneys either have or don’t have. Committed attorneys can, however, develop a client-centric orientation that is sufficient to be partner at a reputable firm.
Prioritize Work Above Lifestyle
Generally speaking, attorneys who seek the partner position must invest the time and effort necessary to qualify. Even at “lifestyle” firms, in all likelihood you will be expected to prioritize work over a healthy work-life balance if you’re going to be seriously considered as a partner candidate. Though not all partners are overwhelmed with excessive schedules, it will certainly benefit your candidacy to show that you are capable of handling an overwhelming workload on a consistent basis.
Contact an Experienced Los Angeles Legal Recruiter at Garb Jaffe & Associates for Assistance
Are you an attorney looking to make the transition to a new firm, perhaps to jump start your career again after failing to make partner? We can help. Here at Garb Jaffe & Associates, our team of legal recruiters have extensive experience securing ideal placements in Biglaw firms throughout California for attorney-candidates interested in moving on to a workplace where their skills and contributions will be appreciated.
Associates looking to make partner have a challenging and uncertain road ahead. As such, we encourage associates to get in touch with one of our legal recruiters for guidance.
Contact our firm today for more information on how to proceed. Call (310) 207-0727 or submit a message online to request an appointment with a legal recruiter here at Garb Jaffe. We will evaluate your candidacy and help you determine “next steps” for identifying target firms and making bold moves to further your career.