Top tips on making partner during your legal career

Written by: Jodie Beck
Published on: 20 May 2019

Have you recently missed out on partnership or a promotion at your current legal firm and wondering why? In this blog, Sellick Partnership legal recruitment expert Jodie Beck discusses some of the common questions she gets asked, and offers her tips on maximising career progression within the legal sector.

Career progression remains one of the main motivations of legal professionals within the private sector, with the majority of candidates aspiring to become partner at some point in their career. These days, the majority of firms will have a clear path to partner, with set out career progression criteria that will help candidates achieve their goals. The majority of practices also promote themselves as having a meritocratic environment – an environment that gives employees the opportunity to progress based on performance, rather than length of service as is traditionally the case.

However, despite these opportunities, it can still be difficult to get promoted within the legal sector and many individuals miss out on promotion or partnership the first time around – particularly if there are several employees at the same level vying for the same position. So what can you do if you are one of a number of Senior Associates hoping for partnership in order to make yourself stand out?

Here are my top tips for making partner or getting a promotion over your peers;

Consistently hit your billing targets: in order to make partner you need to be consistently hitting your billing targets, however it is not just about numbers and there are other factors to consider when going for partnership or promotion.

Have your own referral network – throughout your legal career it is important to build as many bridges as possible both inside and outside of the firm and actively build relationships. These relationships will give you a great grounding, allow you to showcase how valuable you are to a firm, and will greatly enhance your chances of being promoted.

Make a name for yourself in the legal sector – reputation is everything within the legal sector so it is important to build a good one. This is something you will need to work on throughout your career. My advice would be to attend networking events, ensure you promote any success you or your team has and utilise social media platforms such as LinkedIn to promote your personal brand as far as possible. This will also help should you ever decide to move firms, giving you an advantage over other candidates in the market.

Make it clear to your peers and manager that you are ambitious – it sounds obvious, but sometimes individuals do not actively make partners in their current firm aware that they are looking to progress. Never be afraid to let them know.

Be accountable for your mistakes and rectify them – it is ok to make a mistake, but do not shy away from responsibility. Legal professionals need to be able to admit when they are wrong, and be able to rectify the situation in a timely manner. Making mistakes, owning them and sorting them out will only gain you respect from your peers.

Show that you have a following and can make the business more profitable – to be a successful partner you need to be able to develop business and bring work into the firm. It is therefore important to think about your client portfolio and ensure that you are not reliant on just one or two clients – your client base and work needs to be stable and profitable.

Put together a business case – put a case together that you are able to confidently talk about that includes details of your current practice, your marketing plan, how you plan to grow your client portfolio and what will dictate your success. This will let your peers know you are serious about becoming partner and also allow you to successfully highlight why you deserve the promotion.

Think about if becoming partner is really for you!

That all being said, I speak with many legal professionals about their career opportunities and often advise my candidates to think about whether they want to make partner in their current firm or if becoming partner is the right step for them at all. The role of partner is incredibly demanding, and many legal professionals may not want to make the step.

Firstly, think about whether partnership is right for you. Sometimes partnership can seem like the end goal, but consider whether it is what you want. Do you enjoy business development and networking? If so, partnership may be the right path. However if you would you rather concentrate on the more technical side of the role (focusing on legal research and written communication rather than client facing), then Partnership may not be right for you. Becoming partner does offer huge benefits, but it is not for everyone, so ensure it is what you want prior to applying.

Once you are sure that becoming partner is the right path for you it is important to consider whether you want to make partner in your current firm. This is particularly important for if you have missed out on promotion previously, or if you have questions around your future with your current firm. If that is the case, it might be worthwhile researching the market, seeking advice from a recruitment professional and looking at what opportunities there may be. The transition from Senior Associate to partner is a good time to make a move. This could give you a quicker route to partner, and could allow you more freedom to build out your client portfolio as you choose.

If you do not know where to start, my advice would be to speak to a recruiter who knows the market. Recruiters will always be happy to discuss the market and discuss potential legal job opportunities.

If you do think that it would be worth a conversation, feel free to get in touch with me directly by calling 0113 243 9775 for a confidential chat or email me on