Making partner is not an end in itself but the first step in what one hopes will be a rewarding role and a happy personal and professional experience.
Many firms now have quite sophisticated (or protracted at least) selection processes to admit new partners, and these processes often allow candidates to learn more about themselves and how they wish to operate. If used properly, selection procedures can also provide an agenda for your development and an indication of what you should focus on to make this change even more successful.
An immediate priority is to demonstrate and reassure your partners – now your peers – that they made the right decision in making you a partner. A key aspect of your job is to grow a sustainable business, which increases the size of the profit pie for the benefit of all the partners: in today’s increasingly competitive and performance-driven firms, partners who fail to increase the partnership’s profits year on year are unlikely to survive for long.
The one thing that you cannot afford to do on making partner is to continue working and behaving as though nothing has changed. You must stop acting and behaving as a senior associate or a director from the outset! What very few partners will tell you is that over the next six to 12 months the work that you were given by partners as a director or senior associate will dry up – the tap will be turned off, as you are now expected to be able to feed yourself and your team.
As a recently promoted partner it’s highly likely that you will be given management responsibility either in your department or firm wide; in fact, your personal business development plan probably stated where your management and leadership skills would be best applied in the firm! Even though your new management responsibilities will limit the amount of time you have for developing your people and practice, you must accept your new responsibilities as they will help to increase your profile in the partnership generally and almost definitely help you acquire new skills.
Partners’ responsibilities are wide-ranging and not always well defined or communicated. What do you need to do to survive and ensure a successful career?
Becoming a partner is a very significant achievement and as stated earlier – enjoy it and celebrate your success. It is probably a period of major and lasting changes in your relationship with your firm and former employer.
The areas discussed above are just some of the ways of doing things which are inherent in the partnership role and, some, if not all, of this will have occurred to you already. But it, when thinking about your new role it does not engender a sense of both anxiety and excitement then you may not have appreciated the full extent of what being a partner will mean for you. Some new partners may even be quite petrified because what seemed a natural career progression and what you always wanted is suddenly very daunting. All of these reactions are quite natural.
We have in this article focused on that which is expected of a partner; hopefully, you will also achieve significantly enhanced financial rewards as well as a real stake in something of which you can be proud. Over time, you will also see the very best of partnership and understand first-hand how people, when challenged and enthused, can work together to achieve terrific things.
You have done all the right things, been seen to be a person of potential and overcome many hurdles to get to where you are.
At the outset, it was stated that partnership is not an end in itself but, a beginning. This transition needs to be managed by those around you in the partnership, and by you. Having the confidence to recognise where you are strong and crucially where you are weaker is a very sound basis for a successful career; those things which you don’t know and perhaps never needed to know will now become paramount in how you approach the role and responsibilities of a partner.
Given the magnitude of the changes set out in this article, getting help is essential and this may mean support tailored to meet your specific needs. At the same time, it is important to recognise that knowing what is expected of you is the first step however, being able to deliver may take more time and help. As a new partner how are you going to manage the risk of not getting this right? How are you going to manage things so that your partner career is the enjoyable, rewarding and satisfying experience you felt sure it would be?
At EA we work with individuals and groups who are planning or currently in the process of great change. While not sector specific, we have a wealth of experience in supporting both individuals and firms operating in highly-driven, intellectually rich environments.
Being a new partner can, and should, be enjoyable, rewarding and satisfying. Ensure that you have the support that you need to ensure that it is the positive experience that you have worked so hard to achieve.