Becoming a partner is, for some solicitors, a lifetime ambition and a real marker for success in their careers. Currently, the Scottish legal profession has about 3300 partners in private practice, made up of the two streams of salaried partners and equity partners.
Being a partner typically requires a combination of experience working in the law, combined with a drive to take on more responsbilities that take you into a more business leadership role. Dependent on the type of firm you work for, you will have different responsibilities in addition to being an expert in your field. You will likely also manage a team and importantly, lead on bringing in commercial income from clients to sustain or grow the business.
People will feel ready to take the step up to partnership at different stages of their career.
Our Practice Management course for new partners is mandatory, covering various skills and areas of responsibility that you will assume in your new role.
If you want to become a partner, make sure you have the conversations you need with people in your workplace. Don't assume that people know what you're working towards, as everyone has different career ambitions.
Get other people you trust to help you with your career development plan such as another partner at your firm, a manager or the HR team. Lead the conversation and say what you are working towards and lay out your timeline and action plan of how to achieve it. However, ask for their input. Someone else can be a helpful sounding board and advise whether you might need additional skills and experience from their perspective, or perhaps they can share information on whether there is a specific partnership track at the firm.
While the Practice Management course is compulsory for all new partners, some firms may have additional mandatory training plans or specific processes for selecting new partners. Other workplaces will not have this type of structure in place, which is when it can be particularly important to think proactively about key skills and gaining additional experience.
Consider the skills you'll need to be a partner well in advance, as there are a lot of competencies you might need to build up in the years prior to reaching the next step. Just because you're a good lawyer, it doesn't mean you'll naturally be a good people manager or adept at developing your client base. These skills require time and attention. Successful partners are honest about their strengths and weaknesses and owning their personal and professional development.
"Going for partnership was something I had planned and been supported towards for quite a few years before it happened. The path to partnership was discussed in detail in terms of expectations once my supervisor and I agreed that it should formally progress. As a part time working mother, I initially wondered whether partnership was the right path, and the process can be quite arduous. However, the existing partners were very supportive throughout, and I knew I would regret it if I didn’t try – since then I haven’t looked back. Anyone thinking about partnership, but not clear what the route involves in their current firm, should think about making their aspirations clear or otherwise formally stating their interest – even if just by asking questions about it to find out what the process actually involves (if not public knowledge). Such a discussion can be had at a regular appraisal, or perhaps by scheduling an ad-hoc chat with an approachable supervisor."