Susan Smith Blakely

Making Partner is Just the Beginning

If you are in private practice, the goal very often is getting to the partnership table.  You work hard at your job, and you want this affirmation and the benefits that come with it, like higher salary, which can translate to a bigger house, a nicer car, better vacations, and preferred schools for your kids.

That is understandable.  Practicing law is no walk in the park much of the time, and you have your eye on the pay-off for all that hard work you have done as an associate.  You feel like you will see that pay-off once you are invited "to the show."

But, not so fast.  Yes, there is huge gratification in going through the partnership gate, but the truth is that the hard work continues and the responsibilities increase.  You need to be ready for those realities and understand how to handle them.

I have written a lot about these subjects, and a recent Law360 article reminded me of my own advice to young lawyers.  I know you need to hear it from someone else as well, so here it is.

In this article titled The 5 Worst Mistakes a New Partner Can Make, author Carmen Germaine gives you good advice on how to avoid slipping up and jeopardizing your future as a young partner.  She quotes a legal ethics lawyer in explaining what making partner really means:

“One of the tough things to realize is that for most lawyers, making partner isn’t crossing the finish line,” said Michael Downey, a legal ethics lawyer at Downey Law Group LLC. “It’s more like stages in the Tour de France where you’ve gone from the flat areas and now you’re headed into the hills.”

Germaine has five areas of concern to share with you and posits them all as mistakes that you need to avoid.  They are:

  • Expecting Your Workload to Stay the Same;
  • Becoming Dispensable;
  • Neglecting Yourself;
  • Ignoring Your Finances; and
  • Failing to Act Like an Owner.

All of these are important, and I hope you take the time to read the article.

Stay tuned to the next blog to hear some of my own take on how to avoid these pitfalls.

Susan Smith Blakely is the Founder of LegalPerspectives LLC and an award-winning, nationally-recognized author, speaker and consultant on issues related to young women lawyers, young women law students and young women interested in careers in the law.  She is author of Best Friends at the Bar:  What Women Need to Know about a Career in the Law (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers 2009), and Best Friends at the Bar:  The New Balance for Today's Woman Lawyer (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business 2012), which addresses the work-life struggle for women lawyers and includes twelve profiles of women who have successfully transitioned from one practice setting to another.  Her new book, Best Friends at the Bar:  Top-Down Leadership for Women Lawyers, will focus on the responsibilities of law firm leaders and will be released by Wolters Kluwer Law & Business in 2015.

 Ms. Blakely frequently speaks at colleges and universities, law schools, law firms and law organizations, and she has been featured in media including the LA Daily Journal, National Jurist, Washington Examiner Newspaper, Forbes Woman, DC Spotlight, Daily Muse and Huffington Post Business.  Ms. Blakely also is a frequent guest speaker and panelist at conferences on women's issues and the law profession, and she has been a featured speaker at the US Department of Justice, Civil Division.  She is the recipient of the Ms. JD 2015 "Sharing Her Passion Award" for her work on behalf of women in the law.

 Ms. Blakely graduated from the University of Wisconsin with distinction and from Georgetown University Law Center where she was a teaching fellow. She is a member of the CoachSource global network of leadership coaches and a career coach for the Indiana University Marshall Goldsmith Leadership Development and Executive Coaching Academy.   For more information, please visit 

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