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How to become a partner in a law firm

how to become a partner at a law firm

If you’re aspiring to become a partner in a law firm, you’re going to need to have a strong sense of what steps you need to take to become a partner. The process in North America usually ranges from 7-10+ years on average to making it as a partner.

Here’s a few things to consider when you’re on the path to partnership.

A law firm is a business: What is your value?

If you are a young associate that has just gotten into a law firm and you don’t know the importance of this first point, you’re behind the game already.

We can sit here and talk about expectations, if you’re likeable etc. all day, but if you can’t bring any monetary value to the firm, you will not make partner. Bottom line, a firm is a business. The most important thing is how much money is the firm/shareholders making. Having the ability to bring in new clients, to keep existing clients happy and paying, are essential for the firm. They won’t be interested in partnering with someone who doesn’t have ambitions in regards to growing the business. Show that you want to make a contribution to grow the business larger, be eager to work with colleagues on cases and lend your hand in any way you can. The more money you’re bringing in, the more the partners are making, and that is certain to catch their attention when it comes to bringing on new partners.


Build a strong business profile for yourself

Along with assisting your law firm in building their business, you should also be creating a profile for yourself.

In the post-digital age, having a strong online presence is a necessity. Having a professional profile on sites such as LinkedIn, Google reviews, even social media sites like Instagram, is giving you a digital footprint for any prospective clients to get a better understanding of what you bring to the table. Making sure you are on relevant lawyer directories, like Best Lawyers, being in your area’s law society directory, the more links to your profile the better.

Master your firm’s expectations

Having a strong foundational understanding of what your law firm’s expectations are is a key step on the path to becoming partner.

Every law firm has a different set of expectations. Some universal areas a law firm will be looking at are:


  • Are you responsible with your billing?
  • Can you bring in new clients successfully?
  • Are you sociable?
  • How strong is the commitment to the law firm?
  • Are you multifaceted in the areas of law?
  • Do you work well with other team players?
  • How is your note-taking?


If you’re already following this list to a key, you should be one step closer to making partner.

Set yourself apart from the pack

Becoming a partner at a law firm is no easy task for many reasons. Statistically speaking, only 30% of associates make partner at a big law firm, with the number being estimated around 50% for smaller law firms. The biggest take away from these numbers is a question you must ask yourself: How do I set myself apart from the pack?

Most associates are gunning to become a partner, and there are only so many positions to be filled. Doing extra tasks, always being available for calls/potential clients despite what time you get the call at (your job doesn’t end at 5) shows you have drive. You have to become dedicated to the goal of attaining partnership by putting in the hard work, taking on more responsibility, and becoming the go-to person for the partners at the law firm can also help grow rapport.

Find a mentor

Getting a mentor that is already established and a seasoned lawyer is something you should look for immediately.

When you’re working in a law firm, your first few years is essentially being mentored by the partners at the firm/senior lawyers who have been in the business for years. To take this one step further though, you should seek out a lawyer who is practicing in the same area as yourself and really try to keep it as structured as possible with the mentor. Schedule regular debriefs, go over the cases you’re working on currently along with any due dates. The purpose is to gain professional advice and mentorship by someone who has been through similar scenarios/cases in the past and can help you further your career. As the Canadian Lawyer Mag points out, “These types of mentors are capable of shedding light on goal setting for the future of someone’s career or exposing the protégé to their area of practice”.


In essence, a mentor is someone capable of furthering your career and is a necessity!

Develop a good rapport with your colleagues

Being able to work with others in a professional setting is something that is required and coveted in every work industry, not just in law. Taking this point two steps forward, being well liked and dependable to your colleagues is an easy way to get noticed by the partners at your law firm. In your first few years as an associate at a law firm, you really want to make yourself available to colleagues and assist in any way possible with the cases they are working on. This not only shows you are a dependable worker that gets along with everyone at the firm, these are great character references when the partners are making decisions on who to bring on as potential partners.

Being able to work across the different sectors in law shows that you are capable of working in various situations and can be depended on for any future work in those sectors. If you are a quiet lawyer who sticks to their own cases and are not very sociable, how is a partner supposed to take notice of you if your own colleagues know nothing about you? Being well liked and dependable across the firm is crucial to making the connections that will help you become a successful lawyer.

Path to partnership

While the making partner is no easy task (and is not guaranteed), we hope you have found some relevant information that can assist you on the journey to becoming a partner at a law firm.


Thanks for reading, make sure to check out more of our law How-To articles.

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