You have made it this far. You are arguing motions and taking depositions and handling your own caseload. You may have even second-chaired a trial or two or more. The brass ring of partnership is within reach. So what do you need to do to receive your firm’s blessing and become a partner? Here are some thoughts.
Market on the firm’s behalf. The life blood of a firm is its clients. Without them, there are no files to work on. So it is your job to keep the firm’s current clients happy and to help the firm attract new ones. Firm marketing is not just the marketing department’s job or the senior partners’ - it is everybody’s job, particularly yours. One of the things a firm is looking for when deciding to make one of its associates a partner is whether he already has clients or has the potential of attracting them.
To show your firm you have the characteristics it is looking for, get involved in bar associations and business organizations and market your firm to the people you meet at the meetings, conferences and cocktail hours. If you see yourself only as someone who is at the firm to bill hours, that’s how the firm will perceive you. They will appreciate all the hours you bill, but they will never see you as one of them - as a potential rainmaker who deserves to be named and treated as a partner.
Seek out leadership positions in your organizations. As a junior associate, you should have become involved in local and regional bar associations. As a senior associate, it is time to reap the benefits of years of hard work and seek out leadership positions in these organizations. Try to get on their boards and rise in the ranks to become an officer, and ultimately the president of the organization. It is also time to go beyond a parochial perspective, and start getting involved in national organizations, whether it is the American Bar Association, or another national organization. Start laying the foundation in those national organizations to lead them within ten years.
Master your files. Now is the time to go beyond simply managing your files and start mastering them. Not only are you thinking of the big picture, not only are you thinking long term when it comes to your cases, but you are coming up with ways, clever, creative ways to win. You are developing and implementing strategies that get your clients the best results possible. To do this, study how the partners at your firms win the cases they shouldn’t and read everything you can about the success stories of other attorneys. These "war stories" bear precious nuggets that can show you how to elevate your game to the next level.
Act like a partner. If you want to leap from senior associate to partner, it is time to start acting like a partner. What does that mean, though? It means working to fulfill the firm’s goal. It means living the firm’s mission statement in everything you do. It means you start mentoring the younger attorneys at your firm just as you have been mentored over the last several years. It means thinking like a partner when it comes to firm resources, handling files, dealing with clients and working with the staff. The more you act like a partner the more you will be perceived as someone with partnership qualities. Of course acting like a partner does not mean you throw around your weight or take advantage of others at the firm. It means leading through serving others, it means tackling the tough issues and it means not shrinking from responsibility. Behave that way and your title will catch up with your attitude.
As a senior associate your main goal is to lay the final groundwork for becoming a partner. The brass ring is within reach. Strive to grab it.