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When most young people enter the legal profession, and take up a training contract at a large private practice, I’m guessing that in the back of their minds is the thought that one day they may make partner. At this stage of their careers, the thought of rising to the top of the firm, working on challenging cases and deals for important clients, having the status of an equity partner and the large six or seven-figure salary to go with it, must be very appealing.
Few will probably realise that less than 5% of them will ever get to be partners: many will drop out of the profession disillusioned by the long-hours culture and the nature of the work, many will go in-house, and even more will have to drop down to smaller firms to realise their ambitions.
Those that stay the course will probably take about ten years to rise to the upper echelons of the firm’s senior associate cadre and be in a position where the firm is considering their suitability to be a partner. As a ‘log jam’ of such candidates has built up across BigLaw, senior associates have found that the length of time required to reach the rank of partner has been getting longer, and that they may even get ‘parked’ in a Legal Counsel or Legal Director role, most never destined to make partner.
By now, these individuals will have no illusions about the demands of a career in commercial law in a big firm. Billing in excess of 2,000 hours a year, working long days and nights and weekends, missing family events, cancelling holidays, and suffering from stress and perhaps even regular bouts of illness, the last ten years will have been no picnic for most. But even at this stage in their careers, I find myself coaching senior associates who are pushing for partnership and who still don’t seem aware of, or are prepared to make, the further sacrifices that partnership demands. So, what are these?
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Kevin Wheeler has been advising professional services firms on all
aspects of marketing and business development for nearly 30 years. As a
consultant he helps firms to manage and grow their key clients as well
as to win new ones. As a certified coach with WABC he works with
partners and those approaching partnership to improve their BD skills.
0330 161 1234