Joe Blackburn
Joe Blackburn
Associate: Private Practice

Articles From the Team

Are you a solicitor who's stuck on the 'partnership ladder'?

It’s been just over a year since I joined BCL Legal; looking after qualified solicitor positions across the commercial disciplines. It’s been a great year with (thankfully) many more highs than lows. BCL Legal has truly made it easy for me to transition into legal recruitment – I’d even go as far to say the move’s been seamless. If you’re interested in working for BCL Legal (before I get distracted by a topic I didn’t mean to write about), check out my colleague Amy’s blog: Why I chose to work in a new recruitment sector.

Market trends

Since joining BCL Legal, I’ve noticed a number of trends in the current candidate market. I speak to a large number of lawyers who, although interested in other opportunities and firms or dissatisfied with their current situation, decide not to pull the trigger on an application or offer because of promises from their superiors about being at a certain point on the ‘partnership ladder.’

Therefore, I’ve decided to write on this subject in an attempt to advise based on what I hear and see from lawyers at various PQE levels.

Internal credit

Firstly, I’d like to caveat the remainder of this blog by acknowledging the existence and importance of internal credit. There is very little substitute for time spent proving your ability to your firm and the law firm partners. However, there has to come a point where this internal credit leads to reward.

Empty promises

Many of our candidates feel their partners start to take their good work for granted. As a result, solicitors end up doing the same work they’ve been doing for years, for the same people and with the promise of the partnership carrot somewhere down the line.

We’re in a candidate market that’s increasingly competitive for all types of commercial lawyers, and managing lawyers will try anything to keep their staff.

Therefore, it’s important to have a real think about whether these promises are empty or not. We’re in a candidate market that’s increasingly competitive for all types of commercial lawyers, and managing lawyers will try anything to keep their staff. What’s important is to look past the verbal and analyse your importance in the eyes of your superiors.

Identifying your level of importance at the firm

There are many indicators to help you identify your level of importance when it comes to the firm’s long-term future. Including, the level of trust the current partners have towards you. Are you trusted with face-to-face contact with the team’s big clients? Are you trusted with the team’s high-profile, high-importance work? Are you trusted with the management and supervision of junior lawyers? If you can't - confidently - answer yes to any of these questions, you're probably further away from becoming partner than you previously thought.

It's important to know that whilst there's a lot to be said for stability and working your way up internally, we often see that a clean slate can be the best way to establish your partnership credentials.

Second to that, if the firm continually looks to bring in hires at the partnership level, it suggests they're not seeing what they want to see internally in order to safeguard the future of the firm.

Demonstrable objectives? Maybe it's time for a clean slate

It's important to reflect: do you know (exactly) what you have to do to progress to partner, and more importantly, how demonstrable are these objectives? Vague, qualitative objectives are hard to prove.

It's important to know that whilst there's a lot to be said for stability and working your way up internally, we often see that a clean slate can be the best way to establish your partnership credentials.

There are firms out there that have very clear paths to partnership; with achievable, demonstrable objectives. Achieving those from a standing start means there's no room for disagreement further down the line (when it comes to appraisals and promotion).

Here at BCL Legal NWPP we specialise in the placement of qualified solicitors in private practice roles across the North West. If you're interested in a chat about anything mentioned above, please get in contact.

Get in touch with Joe Blackburn on 0161 819 7476 or joeblackburn@bcllegal.com.

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