The role of a partner in 2012 is certainly very different to what it was in the 80’s and 90’s (so I’ve been told as I’m far too young to remember!). Partnership is harder to attain than it used to be primarily because there are more lawyers and also due to financial constraints. Nonetheless, there still exists a portion of the solicitor population that gets made up to partner every year but is it still regarded as the best day of their professional career? You’d like to think so bearing in mind many of these talented individuals have suffered any number of set backs along the way and been a slave to their blackberry for as long as they care to remember.
So is it still worth the pain? The pressure to bill, attract new clients, win work, manage people and get the best out of them (i.e. 100% utilisation and happy about it), your quality of life, not seeing your family and in a lot of cases the stress of divorce. Of course there are solicitors who experience none of these through their career but you’ll find the majority have experienced 1 or more so why did they do it?
Money is a big motivation for most aspiring partners and probably remains the key focus. After all it’s the pinnacle of every solicitors career and you expect that you will earn more money than at any other time in your career. If the track to partnership is transparent this will also encourage people to aim for it. It’s the transparency of the process that is often regarded as one of the biggest reasons for either throwing your hat in the ring or not.
Commonly, if you have developed a profitable enough practice that meets or exceeds whatever target is set by your firm you expect to be rewarded for that with a partnership. A share of the profits seems only fair if you are adding a significant portion to the firm’s turnover. But what we hear a lot of the time is that despite targets having been met and promises made people still get overlooked.
So is the decision to make somebody a partner all about the profitability of their practice? I don’t think so. This certainly still has a huge bearing on the decision, but partners in 2012 have to be more than this. They don’t necessarily have to the best technical lawyer in the world but what they do need to possess is commercial acumen and bags of it. The ability to converse with clients in their language, gain their trust and be their advisor is one of biggest determining factors in whether a solicitor will win work or not and ultimately be viewed as partner material.
So are all law graduates taught this valuable commodity? It seems not and yet it appears to be an essential part of not only a partners job description but any solicitor no matter what level.