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What Fifth-Year Associates at Big Firms Should be Doing to Make Partner

5 min. readbyVexxit StaffonSeptember 16, 2021
If your sights are set on that elusive pot of gold that is the title of partner, you’re not too late to make it yours. Discover 6 tips to move you along the partner track—and fast.

As a fifth-year lawyer at a big firm, you’ve likely been working hard to get on the radar of the firm’s partners in the hopes of making partner yourself. You’re also likely feeling the pressure of being in your fifth year, when associates typically join the partner ranks or they don’t.

Here, we’ll share the must-do tips to move you along the partner track—and fast.

1. Don't panic

Easier said than done perhaps, but it’s important to keep a calm and clear head as you navigate your next steps. Giving into that voice inside that’s screaming at you to panic won’t do you much good. Besides, in a profession that calls for you to keep cool under pressure, you’ll show your higher-ups that you’ve got this.

2. Look at the metrics

At a large firm, metrics matter. That’s not to say you won’t get noticed if you mentor a summer student or volunteer for a committee, but the competition to make partner at a large firm is greater than a boutique firm so you’ll want to look at the numbers, too. This article suggests a lawyer should make no less than 2,000 billable hours per year if they’re hoping to make partner. Make sure you’re selling your services to clients, producing enough billable hours and establishing yourself as an asset to your firm.

3. Be willing to learn

Sit down with your department head and review your career path. Discuss your accomplishments. Get their recommendations. Some law firms have criteria they grade potential partners on—know if that’s the case with your law firm and consider what you can do to check all the boxes.

4. Ask questions

Don’t just ask, “How am I doing?” Dig deeper. Ask why a decision was made on a case so you can understand the motivation and strategy behind it. Ask a partner how they made it to their current position. Ask questions that not only show your genuine interest in advancing with your firm, but that give you practical ways to do so.

5. Read between the lines

If the answers to your questions are vague or not much more than, “You’re doing everything right,” then you’re not getting the guidance you need to keep yourself moving along the partner track. You might want to seek out another support at your firm, though if you still aren’t getting anywhere with your questions you may need to take the non-answers as answers. It’s possible the next round of partners has already been determined and you’ll have to decide if you’re okay sticking it out in your current role or start looking at other firms.

6. Assess your partner's personality

Partners are in it for the long haul, so it makes sense that other partners want to welcome those in who are a good fit with their partner team. How well do you click with the partners you’ve interacted with? We’re by no means suggesting you pretend to be someone you’re not, but your compatibility with the partners at your firm could have an impact on your chances at making partner. You want to work at a firm that has a cohesive team and that values you for what you bring to the table, so this is another one of those moments to assess whether your current firm is going to be your last stop.

When you’re looking for clients to build up your billable hours or to expand your reach in the legal field, Vexxit is the right place to be. We connect professionals with potential clients who are looking for services just like the ones you’re offering and give you opportunities to share your stories and expertise with the Vexxit community. If you’re a fifth-year lawyer ready to make your next move, Vexxit can help you get there.

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