What to Expect When You're Expecting to Make Partner
Not everyone comes to a big law firm wanting to be a partner. In fact, many associates decide to work at a law firm for the pay and the prestige – two things big law firms can offer. After a couple of years, burn-out tends to set in and associates begin looking for a new career. However, there are those associates who are interested in nothing more than to make partner. They’re on a path and won’t stop until they reach the top. What can these associates expect? The American Law Journal recently conducted a study about this topic, and the results may be surprising.

If you’re a woman, the deck may be stacked against you

While women are making some headway in the partner world, there is still a long way to go. “Women work just as hard as men, but are overlooked many times for partner,” said Delia Swan, president of Swan Legal Search. “It’s amazing that this is still happening in 2012, but that’s the sad reality. Certainly, there are many more women partners than there were 30 years ago, but the numbers (of men and women) aren’t yet equal.”

Dedicate a decade (at least) to your partner goal

A recent study found that about it takes an average of 10 years to become a partner at a big law firm. Of course, some attorneys make it in less time while others take longer. “In every firm, a lawyer needs to prove herself worthy of partnership,” said Swan. “There are so many different ways that the firm will be testing the attorney, but mostly it will rely upon hours billed, revenue generated for the firm and dedication to the job. Attorneys on the partner track quickly learn that making the firm top priority at all times will certainly help on the rise to the top.”

Get ready to make money – for the firm

Most firms are looking for someone who can be a money-maker. A partner’s salary is high, and the expense needs to be justified. The more money an associate can bring to the firm, the more money other partners are willing to give. Therefore, bringing cases can be huge help when an associate is looking for partnership. “In most cases, it’s not enough just to be a great lawyer,” Swan said. “The firms are looking for more than that. They want to know that an attorney can support his own salary and still provide for the firm. This is crucial.”

Be prepared for more of the same: crazy billable hours

If an associate achieves the partner goal, she should be prepared to bill like crazy. In many cases, being named as a partner is just the beginning to the hours and dedication expected. This is one mountain that, at the top, presents another mountain. An associate should be prepared to work just as hard as ever, if not harder. There’s no cruising when it comes to Big Law partners. The fun has only just begun.
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