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Transitioning from Associate to Partner

Joseph Cassioppi, Sarah Cline, Robert N. Sacks, and Ryan Walsh

Session One of the Six Part Career Transition Series

The subject of John Grisham novels and dreams of law students alike, the transition from associate to partner can be one of the most rewarding and eye-opening changes an attorney can navigate. Our panel of attorneys, who have successfully made the transition, describes their personal experiences, including how to prepare for this transition, tips and traps, life after making the change, and insights on considerations and strategies that only an insider can offer.

This panel discussion covers a wide array of topics and provided practical considerations and strategies to an associate interested in learning more about what it takes to become a partner, including:

  • General criteria to consider when transitioning from associate to partner.
  • Best practices for setting yourself up for success.
  • Assessing and determining whether partnership is the right next step for you.

Some specific highlights from the panel discussion included guidance for associates to understand better the:

  • Different frameworks that law firms may have for their partnership opportunities.
  • Expectations among equity and non-equity partners, and rainmakers and service partners.
  • Varying degrees of communication and transparency relating to their partnership criteria.
  • Importance of self-advocacy.

There truly is no single formula for success, and your law firm’s economics and size will be important factors that will impact your journey. While the panelists shares an array of various activities that can help you successfully transition from being an associate to a partner, they all agreed that associates should feel empowered to ask the right questions at the right time since doing so will show engagement and commitment to the firm. Other recommendations from the panelists included:

  • Developing a book of business (or showing a propensity for developing a book of business).
  • Doing excellent work.
  • Joining professional associations, writing, and participate in speaking engagements.
  • Seeking out mentors, while effectively self-advocating.
  • Taking the time to meaningfully engage with shareholders, while navigating law firm politics effectively.
  • Knowing your limits so that you never over promise and under deliver.

When considering whether being a shareholder is right for you, the panelists discusses whether it is ever an option to stay an associate forever and recommended taking into consideration that becoming a partner can provide various opportunities, including increased responsibilities, greater autonomy, and eventual economic benefits. Tune in for more insights as the panelists share their personal experiences in a frank and open discussion!

The Six-Part Career Transition Series is co-sponsored by The Career Development and Wellness Committee and the Leadership and Mentoring Committee.