You may have top-notch credentials and a client following to die for, but if your firm (even the Big 4) doesn’t have the space or the inclination to admit a new partner, you would be better off seeking partnership in another firm. This article explores four of the main reasons why a new partner will be needed in your firm.
Before we look at the four reasons, let’s dispel one myth. Technical ability will not be enough on its own to get you to partnership. A great technician is likely to stop as a senior manager, salaried partner or director. To get to partner you need to bring something extra to the partnership table – something that they need. Very rarely you get the situation where a non-partner has become exceptional at winning work and has built up a client following that the firm can’t afford to lose. In this situation, a firm may break all it’s rules and admit someone to the partnership.
1. Partners getting near to retirement age
In most partnership agreements there is a clause for what age partners need to retire by. (This will definitely be the case of the big 4 or large firms) It’s not always set in stone, but not unusual for partnerships to force out their older members. Many partnerships have this clause to make sure that they don’t have very long-serving partners stopping promising junior talent making it through from the ranks.
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. You need to do more than just look 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 (regardless of their ability to delegate) 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.
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 make partner. 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.
Heather Townsend helps professionals become the Go-To-Expert. She is the author of the award winning and best-selling book on business networking, the ‘FT Guide To Business Networking’ and the co-author of ‘How to make partner and still have a life’. Over the last decade she has worked with over 300 partners; coached, trained and mentored over 1000 professionals at every level of the UK’s most ambitious professional practices.
Heather blogs regularly at How to make partner and still have a life