Partner qualities - do you have them?

Interlink Recruitment23 April 2017

Partner qualities – do you have them?

What are the skills and credentials needed to become a trusted, respected Partner at a law firm today?  Is there something in your legal arsenal that will propel you to the top of the law firm ladder sooner than you hoped?  Or are you going to need a little more experience in key areas to develop specific skills?  Either way, it helps to know what those skills are and what Partners look for in upcoming talent.   

Traditional vs modern

But before we go any further, we cannot disregard the fact there is a gap, a conflict of interests if you like between many private practices and commercial law firms, especially those stemming from alternative business structures, for example. 
Traditionally, technical competence has always been the number one emphasis for law firms, crediting junior lawyers for their technical skills and this is often still the case in smaller, local private practices up and down the country.  Commercial firms require this too (a lawyer must have the fundamentals covered, and be able to deliver them well) but they also look for other skills, those that show an understanding of operating from the top, in the same way any other non-legal business would.  A balance between the technical and commercial elements of law is vital.   

Modern day Partner
The way the legal world is moving, especially in high street firms and larger corporate practices, Partners are looking for characters – junior lawyers and Associates with the ability to adapt to situations, to mould to new environments or a new role and thus able to support a team, a department or the whole firm.  
Ultimately, those heading up law firms are looking for the next generation leaders and those with essential traits that don’t always come naturally, like people management and communication skills.  And having an authentic, rounded character makes it easier to get along with people - a key discipline for successful leadership, as Thomas Roosevelt said, ““The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.”  

Personal awareness
There’s a lot of talk in the industry of commercial awareness and an apparent lack of lawyers coming through the system with it, especially via the more traditional route.  Before even thinking of the dreaded ‘CA’ which leaves shivers down every young lawyer’s spine, if you’re considering a successful career in law, with a view to making it as a Partner, you should take the time to look at yourself first.  What forms your DNA?  Are you a good communicator at every level, able to get the best out of people?  Do you deal with challenges positively, looking for solutions with the help of others?  Taking the time to self-assess can really help you spot where your strengths lie in business, what acumen you have and where you may need some extra practice.  

Leading a law firm business
Note our choice of words in the subheading – a business is exactly what a law firm is.  Once this is recognised, you can then consider the fundamentals and break down the commercial disciplines needed to make that business successful: finance, marketing, business development, governance and business operations, for example.  For those with genuine aspirations of becoming a Partner, it’s important to ask yourself the question, “What skills would I expect a leader to have?” before identifying the core competencies that will stand you out as one.  It could be that understanding the bottom line, revenue and other financial matters are something you need to get more involved with or you need to get out to some more networking events to build a portfolio of contacts and be confident handling business development matters.      
Developing these skills will not only put you in a better position for Partner, but they’ll make you a better all-round lawyer.

Act with humility
Yes, it’s been a long hard slog to get where you are as a lawyer and drive, determination and persistence have all played their part.  But remaining humble is very important, especially if you strive for leadership in the future.  Back in our Q&A with Steve Kuncewicz, Principal Lawyer, Business Advisory (IP & Media) at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in Manchester, he makes a great point, “I’ve always believed that nobody owes lawyers a living… I sit on the board of ProManchester, which is all about liaising, developing links and networks from a cross section of businesses across the financial and professional sector, where the lawyer is rarely if ever the most important person in the room.” 
Developing a character with true humility, showing the skills of a leader and the competence of a technical lawyer will see not only your industry peers respect and look up to you, but your clients too.  

For more advice on the skills needed to make a successful law firm Partner – read Louis’ blog post, ‘What makes a great Partner’.
Interlink Recruitment is dedicated to helping legal professionals get to the next stage of their career. If you are not able to fulfil your potential at your current firm, we can discuss other options available.
Maybe you feel you need to learn new skills in a new environment, or you’re ready to take the step to Partner level – either way, we can have a confidential chat. 
Register with us 
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