Skip to content

How to become a partner in a law firm (without working 60-hour weeks)

| Written by Altlaw

Becoming a partner at a successful law firm is a milestone many lawyers hope to achieve. Traditionally, the path to partnership has been well-defined, requiring hard work, dedication and incremental steps.

Although this remains true for most journeys to partner, the rapidly changing legal landscape has opened up new doors that lead to partnership.

In this blog post, we explore how to become a partner in a law firm by following the traditional path and alternative ways to stand out from the crowd.


The traditional path to partnership

Firstly, let's look at a 'traditional' path of how to become a partner in a law firm. These are generic steps you'll likely have to follow in some capacity to reach that coveted partner status, although they may differ depending on the type of firm you’re at.

1. Law school and bar exam

Your journey into law will likely begin with earning your law degree and passing the bar exam. The law bar exam is a professional qualification exam for lawyers across the UK. After passing this exam, you'll be certified to practice as an advocate and perform licensed activities done by legal professionals.

The foundational knowledge you gain throughout earning your law degree and passing the exam is essential to building a successful law career.


2. Your first foot on the legal ladder

Whether as a paralegal, associate or junior lawyer, these formative years in a law career can be pivotal. You'll gain valuable experience and work on cases, building your reputation and know-how.

If you haven't decided already, this career period can help you choose which field of law to explore. Whether it's criminal, administrative or corporate law, your time working on cases will be pivotal in building your learning.

3. Billable hours and client development

Associates are often required to meet billable hour targets and demonstrate the ability to bring in clients. These targets will increase over time, teaching you to grow a portfolio, build your reputation and improve client relationship skills.

Once again, it's important to emphasise how critical these formative years are to build a solid foundation to launch the remainder of your career. We'll explore the ways you can be successful at the beginning of your journey later in this blog post.

4. Senior associate

After several years of building your experience working on a range of cases and applying yourself to different areas of life as a lawyer, you might be lucky enough to be promoted to a senior associate role.

This position brings increased responsibility and a closer relationship with the firm's partners, giving you an excellent chance to demonstrate your capabilities further.

5. Becoming an equity partner

With the ultimate goal of becoming an equity partner, a lucky few will reach this prestigious title off the back of years of hard work. Partners have a combination of legal expertise, a substantial book of business and a demonstrated commitment to a firm's success.


Why the traditional path matters

Although we'll explore other methods of how to become a partner in a law firm in the next section, it's vital to emphasise the importance of the traditional path to partnership.

The path is designed so lawyers develop essential skills over time, ensuring they're legally adept and aligned with the firm's values and culture by the time they reach partner status.

Target metrics like billable hours and client attraction encourage associates to become self-sufficient and contribute to the overall success of a firm.
However, the traditional path is a path well trodden. So, how can you stand out from the crowd?


Boosting your chances of becoming a partner

So, you want to know how to become a partner in a law firm. The bottom line is hard work, and you'll likely have to do all of the above to a high standard. But there are some ways you can boost your chances.

Leveraging technology

The legal industry is rapidly changing, primarily due to the implementation of technology and the rise of legal tech startups. Combining technology and law can create efficiencies, save money and empower a firm.

Tools like AI-powered document review systems, legal research software and project management platforms can help you or your colleagues handle caseloads more effectively. If used correctly, you’ll get your manual and repetitive work done in a fraction of the time.

Time is very much money in litigation, especially amidst growing client demands and expectations. If you're the driver of accessible, safe technology that makes a legitimate difference to your firm's operations, you'll no doubt make an early name for yourself.


Be proactive

Being proactive every day can be difficult, simply due to the workloads placed on paralegals, associates and senior associates. However, motivating yourself to be an active problem-solver and a forward-thinking lawyer will stand you in good stead for the future.

Identify inefficiencies within your firm's processes and propose innovative solutions that make a difference. Not only will you please those above, but you'll also demonstrate leadership and a commitment to the firm's success.


Build a personal, indispensable brand

As well as traditional networking, you can use social media and content creation to build a personal brand. Sharing valuable legal insights online, engaging with industry trends and positioning yourself as a thought leader can enhance your reputation within your firm and attract clients.

You can also attend industry events, join associations and participate in panel discussions or webinars. Building and showcasing your knowledge with peers will make you a go-to resource for clients and colleagues.


Using AI for efficiency

Efficiency is one of the key buzzwords for a successful firm. Artificial intelligence (AI) can be a game-changer in the legal field, as it can automate repetitive tasks like document review, contract analysis and research.

Embracing AI can significantly improve the efficiency of a firm, reduce human error and free up more time.

But it's essential to be safe when using AI. That's where something like managed services can help. Managed services allow you to leverage the full power of technology safely and effectively. Bringing managed services to light within your firm could play a major role in the efficiency of your projects.

We've also written a blog post on the benefits of AI in law, which explores why you should be interested in the tools available and specific tools you could use in your firm. To read the post, click here.


The best way to get started with technology

A managed service like Altlaw can help with various litigation needs, such as document review, eDiscovery and DSAR matters.

We utilise RelativityOne to handle multiple forms of unstructured data to accelerate casework and make an impactful difference at many of the UK's top law firms, well-known companies and government agencies.

However, knowing where to begin planning a project can be difficult. That's why we created our interactive webpage. Answer a few simple questions about your work, and you'll be provided with an estimated cost and access to the knowledge of our experts, which you can take away to your boss.

To get started, click below.