John Borrowman, CPC
Borrowman Baker, LLC
If you want to make partner, it’s normal that you’d want to know how it’s done. But, if you’re thinking there’s a particular combination of benchmarks to hit or mileposts to touch, you’re missing the point.
Have you asked around in your practice about how to make partner and found that you can’t seem to get very clear or precise guidance? Has it occurred to you maybe that’s because there’s no such thing?
Yes, there are practices where there seems to be no rhyme or reason why some make partner and others don’t. If you work for one of them, maybe you have bigger problems than the fact that the path to partner appears fuzzy.
In the vast majority of firms, though, there are observable commonalities among those who have made it to the top. If you were to look, what would you see?
People who make partner have continued to grow, personally. They never reach a point where they think things are “good enough.” They are always hungry for self-improvement. They find —or create—new service lines to replace the ones that might have played out.
People who make partner contribute to revenue. That expectation is different in every practice and sometimes even within practices. And no matter the expectation, what you observe is genuine and consistent effort. Partners don’t take a foot off the gas pedal.
People who make partner are people who exhibit the highest levels of ethics and integrity. This is the most subjective of all criteria and, therefore, the hardest to describe and least appreciated. People who make partner are people you would trust not to screw up the relationship you have worked so hard to build with your clients. They are the people who always have your back and are ready to stand with you in making the tough calls partners are sometimes required to make. They are people who are ready to be your “partner” in the best sense of the word.
Most firms will let you know that you’ve demonstrated these qualities in sufficient strength that you’re being considered to become a partner. Just don’t expect them to hand you the playbook that gets you to that point.
By the way, if you work for a practice where none of the partners exhibit the characteristics we’ve discussed above, maybe it’s time to contact us and talk about a job change.