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10 traits to look for in your firm’s next partner

By Bianca Moreiras  bio

Think you’ve found the perfect candidate for your firm’s next partner? Before you make the offer, make sure the candidate has these 10 traits.

 1. Honesty

We would hope that all attorneys are honest; however, even stretching the truth when keeping timesheets is an act of dishonesty. Missing deadlines and making excuses perhaps is an oversight or an exaggeration, but it lowers the trust factor. Clients need to feel they are always in honest and trustworthy hands.

 2. Commitment

You’re looking for someone who is willing to accomplish any task without conditions. An attorney will spend about 25% (7 to 12 years) of their working life as an associate developing and crafting their skills, building trust, developing customer service habits, and creating confidence with the firm, partners, and clients. The remainder of their career should be seeking and obtaining a partner/ownership role within the firm.

 3. Enthusiasm

Every day in a law firm is an experience. Enjoying the environment, co-workers, clients, and the work performed is part of it. Having and bringing the best attitude each day to the office along with a smile and a kind word will help to achieve a robust and enthusiastic journey. The ideal partner will become the clients’ most dependable advisor and provide great ethical service.

 4. Respect

Treating others with dignity and respect is key to being a great leader. Off-colored remarks, bad behavior, and a condescending attitude will get noticed for all the wrong reasons. The ideal partner candidate treats the firm, clients, advocates, and adversaries with the greatest respect and dignity regardless of their behavior. They’ve learned how to control their emotions and walk away from a bad situation.

 5. Self-direction

The mark of a true leader is stepping up and seeking a mentor whose knowledge, fortitude, and experience will allow an associate’s career to flourish and move toward the partner track. It’s also the mark of a true leader to be mindful and respectful of the time the mentor is investing.

 6. Confidence

A potential partner must practice good sound judgement and exude the confidence that comes from investing time in perfecting the craft, conducting research, and being able to eloquently present information on point.

 7. Of good repute

Your ideal candidate says what he/she means and means what he/she says. This person understands what qualities must be fostered to build a reputation and protects that reputation at all cost.

 8. Hard-working

An important characteristic of a potential partner is exceeding working requirements. Consistently working hard is the key—not for a time, but throughout one’s career. Life and work balance is important, of course, and with the help of technology, working hard includes working “smart.”

 9. Engaged

The ideal partner candidate stays busy. This person remains challenged with goals and plans, keeps a full plate of work, and still helps others in the firm, including taking on administrative tasks, networking, marketing, and handling pro bono and volunteer opportunities.

 10. Always learning

A partner who has developed and mastered skills in a specific practice area can directly contribute to the firm’s growth, as can someone who has enrolled in management and business courses to strengthen leadership skills. The best partner is one who never stops learning and evolving. 

Note: This document is a useful tool and can be used as the foundation for associates to follow a partner track. Add additional traits that are unique to your firm. Knowing what is expected is the first step in achieving the goals to become a partner/owner of a firm. Knowledge is power.

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