How to signal the desire for, and get on, the partner track

Home Life

7 Form a partnership approach at home

To what extent have you discussed your desire to make partner with your spouse/partner? To what extent is it a shared goal? The route to partnership is easier in many ways if both you and your partner/spouse/co-parent are committed to you achieving it and understand the likely impact on family life. If you and your partner have made a joint decision for you to work towards partnership, it paves the way for a smoother time ahead with less guilt about being out late and the inevitable pinch points when work is getting much more of you than home, for example.

Jenny Allan
"It is hard to balance with having a young family, but luckily most firms these days seem to be quite progressive in their approach to career development, including encouraging working mothers a lot more than historically may have been the case. One particular issue in private practice is finding time for business development activities, which are frequently above and beyond normal working hours, but are an integral part of building a business case for partnership which working parents may struggle to accommodate. Having a supportive partner helps!"

Jenny Allan, associate, CMS Cameron McKenna

"I think a couple of things it is good to do include being clear about what your responsibilities are at home but also placing limits on this. I need to know that it is okay to stay at work late sometimes. To do this my boyfriend and I have arranged very flexible childcare (we have family, but would have had a live-in nanny if this had not been an option). I am more realistic about what I am likely to be able to achieve at work right now, but my ambition is still a high priority and my career planning has simply become extended rather than halted.”

Kate Hart, solicitor, General Teaching Council for Scotland

8 Maintain work boundaries

A US study of nearly 50 dual-earning, middle class families who were successfully managing work and home found ten common themes, one of which was maintaining work boundaries (Haddock et al, 2001). These families were clear on the time they were setting aside for family and excluded work-related activities at that time - and when at work they were completely immersed in work to the exclusion of all else. There will always be more you can, want or perceive you need to do to make partner. However, without downtime you risk ill health, crumbling relationships and poorer professional performance. Many professionals report the quality of the time spent with their family - and everyone being clear on when this time will be, and sticking to it - being more important than the quantity.

"Be honest and open with the partners of your firm. When you are at work remain focused on your job. Use your breaks to check on your child not working time. Be positive. I am a single mum and my family live 50 miles away, however, the nursery my daughter is at and the support from my firm mean anything is possible. I do not feel that being a parent has affected my future career."

Nicole Conroy, trainee, Caird Vaughan


The following prompts are designed to help you consider whether partner track is right for you at this point and how to get on it.

  1. Fast forward to your retirement party. Who is there? What key achievements are you celebrating? What role are you retiring from? Consider how well this vision aligns with your current choices and priorities.
  2. Thinking about your aspirations, how good a fit is your current firm?
  3. What do partners know about you? What are their perceptions of you? How could you find out? 
  4. What are the partners looking for in future partners in your firm? Which one or two people would be a good starting point to find out?
  5. Are there small ways you could demonstrate greater commitment, without cost to your family?