Sandy, a seven-year call, just had her annual review. The partners are thrilled with her performance and are starting to discuss partnership. But Sandy is wondering, is this something she wants?
For many associates partnership is no longer an attractive goal.
Many young lawyers look at partners’ lives and don’t see the appeal. The long hours, the burden of administrative tasks, and the high-stress levels don’t have much of a draw.
What if partnership offered more than this?
What if stepping into partnership meant greater agency over your career and a way to help create a better work environment for others?
There are many questions to help guide your reflection on the partnership question. If you only base your decision on how the previous generation approached partnership, you could be missing out on a valuable opportunity.
The starting point is getting to know yourself better. Here are some coaching questions to consider. I recommend taking a couple of weeks to pay close attention to how you feel during the workday.
- Notice what activities energize you?
- When do you get so focused you lose track of time?
- What strengths do you get satisfaction from putting into play at work?
- Who are the people you enjoy interacting with?
Conversely, also take note of what depletes your energy at work.
- What are the most draining activities and who are the most draining people?
Some of partnership’s main advantages are having greater impact, autonomy and greater control over your work. You will also have more chances to control the type and volume of files, hours, and clients you serve.
- As a partner, how might you increase the positive aspects of your work?
- How might you reduce the activities and people that deplete you?
When you become a full partner, you become a business owner and can help steer the future of your practice group or your firm. You have a chance to set strategy, help shift culture and make decisions. It’s time for you to step away from being an employee and into a leadership role.
How much impact can you have? This depends on the firm and your practice group. In a small or mid-sized firm, you may share a leadership role with a few partners, or there may be a leadership role to assume in a practice group.
One lawyer I know joined the partnership and immediately volunteered to re-design the firm’s mentorship program. As an associate, he had seen what was lacking, and partnership gave him a platform to create something better.
Finally, you are likely to earn more as a partner.
If you think partnership could be something you want to pursue, look at your firm.
- Is this the right place for you?
- Do you respect the partners?
- Do you have values in common with the partners?
- Is the firm open to new ideas and approaches?
- Are the partners interested in investing in the firm’s long-term success and its people?
Speak with a trusted external mentor and advisors as you consider these questions. If the answer is No to many of these questions, partnership in a different firm may be the better choice for you.
The bottom line?
Don’t discount the partnership track too quickly. Across Canada there are lawyers who transforming law firm culture one firm at a time. Visionary law firm founders and partners are leading the way. Care to join them?