Partner promotion season is nearly over. It’s been a record breaking year for a number of firms, with Addleshaw Goddard, Kennedys, and Herbert Smith Freehills among those promoting their largest ever cohorts.
For those fresh into partnership, several seasoned partners at top law firms including Linklaters, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan and Hogan Lovells share their advice, including: don’t behave like you’re in the Hunger Games, buy senior partners lots of coffees and think like a business owner…
Richard East, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan London head
“Although your focus will inevitably be on the cases you’re are presently working on, you need to focus on developing your clients and your business case. Whilst your success up to now has been built on hard work and excellence at what you do, your success as a partner will inevitably be based on what clients you can generate and what business you can develop. The highest paid partners in almost every firm are those partners who develop a successful businesses within the firms platform.
“This is not an overnight thing and takes careful thought and regular effort over time. It is also not rocket science – it is not about fancy pitches with fancy brochures – it is about developing relationships and then maintaining those relationships over time.”
Robert Shooter, Fieldfisher managing partner
“Be authentic: now that you’re a new partner you should still be you.
“Get a mentor/sponsor and be open and honest with them. New partners often put unrealistic pressures on themselves under the mistaken belief that their colleagues expect them to build a practice over-night. A mentor/sponsor will help you keep things in perspective – we know you’re new to the partnership and we know it takes time to settle in.
“Build your internal network. That means buying a lot of colleagues a lot of coffees, finding out what they do and letting them know what you do.
“Don’t be too hard on yourself. You will still make mistakes, you are still learning, no one expects you to be perfect.
“Be empowered. You’re a partner now! You can make positive changes for the better!”
Richard Goold, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati London corporate partner
“Newly promoted partners are already really good lawyers — so I would say thinking about your relationships is the most important thing. As long as you’re really clear on “who do I have strong relationships with, and who do I want strong relationships with”, you’re in a good position. Most partners won’t just sit on a small number — they’ll use the relationships they have to go out into the market, build more, and use them to win work.”
Tamara Box, Reed Smith EMEA managing partner
“Own your space. Your goal is to be so visible in your field of expertise that your name is the first one a client thinks of when considering issues in his/her business/industry.
“You earn this visibility by sharing your thoughts and advice in trade publications, online newsletters, blogs, podcasts, and even industry-specific events, where you can volunteer as a panellist or speaker. Do your homework, though! Make sure you research not only the topic and but also the audience so that what you say is interesting, informational, and perhaps even intriguing—enough to stimulate a conversation with someone about the matters you have addressed. Not every one of these conversations will develop into a paying client, but each one raises your visibility and increases your reputation as an expert.
“Be tomorrow’s news, not yesterday’s. If you know of a regulatory or political change in the works, for example, write or speak about the steps a client should take to prepare for any pitfalls or opportunities that may emerge as a result. Any news that may impact your market is a good subject for a talk or an article, and don’t be afraid to give away free advice in these communications. If clients believe that what you have to offer is valuable, they will be much more likely to want to avail themselves of your counsel for even more complex matters.
“These efforts take time—non-billable time, of course—so think of them as investments in yourself. Entrepreneurs know that without risk there is no reward, so they invest time, money, and intellect into building first a successful product, then a successful brand. You have spent years building yourself into a good product (you must be good; you just made partner!), but you must remember that there are hundreds of good products out there. You now have to become a brand-name product, recognised in the marketplace as the top choice. When you do that, you own your space.”
Phil Goodstone, EY U.K. head of law
“The two most important things to your success are the clients you act for and the team that helps you serve them. Make sure you look after them both. People often don’t remember exactly what you say, but they do remember how you made them feel.
“Becoming a partner is the start of a long learning journey, and it is key to focus on continued development. Learn from those with whom you work – whether they are more senior or more junior than you.”
Samantha Kakati, Mishcon de Reya dispute resolution partner
“Recognise that you are part of a partnership, and not a competitor in the Hunger Games. No one expects you to know everything straight away.
“Recognise that there will be a transition period — some things will change overnight, and some won’t. There will be lots of new responsibilities, but try not to get carried away with all the exciting opportunities. It’s important to protect your personal time as well.”
Nicole Kar, Linklaters antitrust and foreign investment global head
“Adjust how you measure success and take time to plan – what makes a successful counsel or managing associate won’t necessarily make a successful partner. Understand what the key metrics are and what the expectation are at each stage of a partners career and sit down with a coach or trusted mentor to help you plan where you want to be at the end of each year – strategies of how to get you there will pay huge dividends.”
“Think like a business owner now – you are! – it’s easy to lose sight of the important and longer term in discharging the urgent and immediate priorities. Don’t lose sight of the value in investing in client relationships beyond the work, developing and supporting your team and assisting in running the firm.”
“Remember that you are not alone, the benefit of being part of a partnership is that you’re surrounded by hundreds of peers, one of whom will have encountered whatever you likely come across before. Have the courage to ask if you need help or guidance.”
Adam Farlow, Baker McKenzie London capital markets partner
“Keep being a decent human being. Partnership comes with even more responsibility to do the right thing. Don’t develop an ego the day you make partner. You made partner not only because you’re effective at what you do for clients and because you’re seen as a good representative of the firm to clients and other outsiders, but also because you’re seen as a leader within the office and a leader of your own people – all the people that work in the firm. Treat your people right.”
Penny Angell, Hogan Lovells U.K. managing partner
“Understanding the difference between perfectionism and excellence. So many lawyers proudly badge themselves as a perfectionist, yet pursuit of absolute perfection can be incredibly negative, leading to constant high levels of stress or burnout. It can also cause teams to be demotivated if they feel they are being micro-managed or that their work is never good enough. Shifting your mindset to focus on achieving excellence can help focus instead on the positive achievements rather than what you failed to accomplish.”
Amanda Gray, Addleshaw Goddard financial services sector co-head
“Any lawyer who becomes a partner has got to where they’ve got to largely by being a really great and prolific adviser. Now what is required is to be a good business person, and thinking strategically about the firm as a business. I would also say, don’t assume that people like me have all the answers or all the ideas! None of us are ever the finished product, but as long as you have the confidence to engage with what you’re doing, it’s far more energising for all your colleagues.”
Louise Boswell, CMS London dispute resolution partner
“I became a partner in May 2020, so my first year was almost totally virtual. The first thing I’d advise is don’t be too hard on yourself. You’ll feel the pressure and the expectation, but don’t put more pressure on yourself than you need to.
I had young kids, and thought “how am I going to juggle this with full time work”, but talking to other people around me about how they had done it was very helpful. I would say definitely use your support network, and don’t be afraid to make the most of your connections. You will feel as if you’ve suddenly been plunged into a new world, and there are lots of things to get used to that you’ve never done before, but you don’t always need to know the answer. Chances are, other partners have also had to ask the same question that you have.”