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Just Promoted? What to Watch for
Oct 9, 2014

Just Promoted? What to Watch for

You've done it before and you can do it now. See the positive possibilities.  Redirect the substantial energy of your frustration and turn it into positive, effective, unstoppable determination

Ralph Marston

I spoke recently at a Women Lawyers Association luncheon on the tips and traps for newly promoted partners.  Being promoted to partnership is  an exciting time —  to get to the place you have worked hard to be, and to be recognised for your skills.   This should be one of the most exciting times of your career but it also comes with some  great challenges for which you might not be prepared.  Forewarned is forearmed.  Here are some of the things you need to be on the look out for once you're promoted:

Sink or swim – Some firms have a mentoring program in place and a new partner induction — and others don't.  Do you have a support network to assist or a mentor in the partnership or outside it?  Sometimes you get promoted and then look around and say ‘now what’?  Who can you go to for help in navigating around all of this new information and new tasks and responsibilities?  Those who have gone before you may have no sympathy because they too had to sink or swim.

No you under you — by this I mean when you were a Senior Associate or Special Counsel and you are promoted, who is going to do the work you did?  The success of your practice and profitability depends on leverage. If you continue to do the same sort of work at partner rates with no one to whom to delegate you will struggle to maintain profitability.  You have additional responsibilities with admin, people and BDM – you need a 'you under you' to delegate work, and free up time to do more high level work, business development and people development.

Have you grown up with the firm? — Some other partners and potentially clients may see you still as the ‘young girl’ who started as a graduate or junior lawyer and in a group setting treat you as such. This is usually not intentional and part of an unconscious bias which will remain unconscious until it is pointed out or there is a crisis and you lose your temper!  It is important to set boundaries early on in  relation to how you are treated. You are a partner, not a junior lawyer.

Are you now supervising friends?

This is one of the hardest things to deal with. There will be some things you can’t talk about with your friend and there will be some things she will not want to share with you.  This is tricky ground but with all things, talking about the issue early and honestly solves most problems.

Some friends may be jealous of your achievement and if you were at the same level, may resent your promotion.  Watch out for this — many a friendship has foundered on someone else’s promotion.  Women's agenda wrote an article about this recently which you can read here.

Multiple responsibilities – You may find the transition to partnership brings with it a whole new set of responsibilities.  Admin, supervision, delegation, Business Development. Most of these things you have probably been dealing with before but it is taken to a whole new level and that brings with it stress. Notice when you have too much on your plate.   And by the way — just because you are a woman doesn't mean you get to be 'the partner in charge of everything from social club to precedents'.  Exercise your 'no' muscle frequently when you are asked to take on more and more administrative duties.

Find a way to practice that suits you.  It is important that you set the pace and set the way you intend to practice.  Start off as you mean to go and develop the culture you want.