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Five Signs Your Firm Will Pass You Over For Partner

Don’t get passed over on the road to partnership.

A partnership at a law firm can seem daunting. Several requisites must be met before one can even be considered, including your billable hours, proper mentorship and the ability to bring in new business. You want to make sure you’re properly qualified so your firm doesn’t pass you over for partner.

So you’re at your firm, working hard and learning a ton. The partnership may seem so close, however, you are competing with fellow colleagues and want to keep your eye on the prize. Don’t lose focus and slip up. To help you get your partnership, here are a five signs you want to steer clear from that will pass you over for partner.

Staying at the same firm you started at.
You may be thinking that staying at the firm you started at throughout all these years demonstrates loyalty. While that may be true, you started there as a young lawyer, most likely straight out of college. The unfortunate scenario here is that your firm will have a preconceived view of you as the kid that started at the firm and may have a very difficult time getting the image of you being the new guy out of their head. No matter how much time you have spent there, you may never rise in the ranks solely because people could never see the old you in the new position.

Back in the days of early law, the Cravath had a philosophy called ‘up or out,’ meaning if you never got promoted or made partner you were forced out of the firm. Modern day philosophy follows an ‘over and up’ model. This means that when you have gained enough experience and confidence in your career, you switch to a different law firm. This new law firm will not have a preconceived view of you as the kid straight out of college but the already successful and skilled lawyer.

I’m not ruling out that the firm you started out at will make you partner, however, “switching while you are hot will make you a much more valuable candidate in the eyes of unbiased partners.” Shari Davidson, President — On Balance Search Consultants

Being a good lawyer but not bringing in business
Being a good lawyer these days is not enough to become partner at your firm. For example, at an equity partnership, you own a small part of the firm when you become partner. The amount you make is part of a bigger pie that all the partners share. If everyone is bringing in a bunch of new business and you are not, then you are selfishly taking your share of your partners’ hard work and not contributing any profit of your own.

You want to give the other partners a reason, other than being good at law, to make you a partner. If you can really make it rain and bring in clients, then the partners won’t be able to resist offering you a partnership position. You also do not need to be a partner to bring it. Although bringing it in as an associate may be a bit more difficult, it will show drive, initiative, and ambition

Billable Hours

It’s not that complicated, it’s all about making it rain. Don’t’ just show up for work, listen, learn make it happen. Show me the money!

Working exclusively for one partner, or mentor
In this case, you should think of it as a, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket,” approach. When working for a partner and trying to meet your billable hours, it may seem easier to just pick one partner to work for. However, think of the scenario which may be ‘worst-case,’ but isn’t too far out there either. Imagine you’re well into your years at a firm and you’re confident the partner you’re working for will help you get chosen as a new partner, then suddenly, that partner leaves the firm. You are now left with nobody to vouch for you and a lot of hours that need to be filled with work.

Having a second partner you do work for can prevent this from happening. Try not to choose only one partner to develop a good relationship with because an unfortunate departure of you partner can significantly hurt your chances at succeeding in your path to partner. If, for some unfortunate reason, you are stuck in this situation, remember the ‘over and up’ philosophy we spoke about above. If you think getting a new mentor at your firm may not happen, you can always bring your expertise to another firm where you could possibly be viewed as a stronger candidate.

Not being involved in professional panels or professional groups
Get involved with professional panels and groups that align well with your person and professional goals.

This exposure deepens your stand in the community and adds value to your position at your firm.
The new relationship serve as an excellent resource for referrals and generate new clients.
Becoming partner may seem daunting but it is definitely not impossible. Ultimately, lending your expertise to these organizations strengthens your path to partner at the firm. Good luck in your journey.

Five Signs Your Firm Will Pass You Over For Partner

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About: On Balance Search Consultants

On Balance offers great insight and industry intelligence. Shari Davidson, president of On Balance Search Consultants, advises experienced attorneys at every stage of their career to take them to the next level. From making the lateral partner move to succession planning.

Shari takes a proactive approach to advising law firms on how to take a firm to the next level and helps rising talent make the transition to the right law firm. On Balance Search identifies opportunities that exist today, not down the road.

Contact us today. Call 516-731-3400 or visit our website at

Please note that the content of this blog does not constitute legal advice and is only intended for the educational purpose of the reader. Please consult your legal counsel for specifics regarding your specific circumstances and the laws in your states pertaining to social media and any legal restrictions regarding the law.


Ms. Davidson, a highly skilled human resources executive with over 20 years’ experience that specializes in finding top talent in the legal community. Shari has placed lateral partner attorneys, as well as group acquisitions & law firm mergers and has assisted several prominent clients in recruiting lateral associates, paralegals and internal professional administrative positions.