How to achieve partnership is an issue facing many associates. But the bigger question is: can you improve your chances simply by changing the way that you communicate?
Talk and act like a partner
Being an associate is to be part of that mutually overworked and underappreciated gang. However, to be thought of as a partner you need to start acting like one. Begin by using the same language as those partners you respect and admire. Do not do impressions of them, but start to emulate their successful styles and approaches.
As often as possible ensure that you get to go along to all client meetings and interaction opportunities. The same goes for external events, conferences and other meetings. You may not want to bother with them, but being ‘seen’ often will establish you as the ‘essential connection’ to your firm.
Crucially, dress the part. When you know you look good, you exude confidence. When you are confident, people pick up on it and you become naturally more successful.
Become an expert and network
Trade journals such as The Lawyer provide you with a great potential platform. Ensure journalists know of your existence. Most journalists want intelligent comment and they usually need it fast. And signs that you are on publications’ speed-dial list will place you clearly and positively in partners’ sights.
The number of people who know you and understand how good you are at what you do equals the value of your brand. The more powerful your brand the more likely it is that you will be selected to board the ‘big money’ partnership train.
Turn a partner into a partner
Asking one of your firm’s partners for advice creates two opportunities. First, if the partner is halfway decent they will share with you their wisdom. Second, by maintaining a good relationship with your chosen partner you should have created a dynamic by which they feel ‘bought in’ to your own career success.
Leader of the pack
Senior members of your firm are always looking for leadership qualities and initiative. Find opportunities where you can form your own working teams to add extra value to deals or to present new ideas. Every time you create something that was not expected you will create an impression that could well be recognised in the future.
Stand up and stand out
Very often within the firm somebody will be behind the scenes bringing it all together. Sadly, this person has proven so valuable that they must remain at that desk – forever. To avoid this position it pays to be good at the organisational stuff yet excel when it comes to pushing your ideas, the firm, its values and unique selling points.
An invitation to address a meeting or speak at an event is worth its weight in gold. Just imagine being able to introduce yourself to 200 or even 2,000 new people simply by stepping onto a stage. However, it is probably worth investing in checking that you are getting it right. Dipping into your own pocket to fund half a day’s coaching just for a bit of fine-tuning is probably a good idea. In the meantime look at your material and see if there are facts and information worth writing down, stories worth telling, anecdotes and analogies to illustrate the points you are making and touches of humour to ensure that they know you are real.
And the final tip for increasing your chances of going from associate to partner is to be nice about it. Being utterly ruthless might work in some industries, but never for very long, and the fact is that if you do leave your colleagues behind, rather than any lingering resentment, you will need their support.
So get out there and get noticed.