Making partner, is a dream shared by many young, ambitious solicitors. However, research revealed by Smith & Williamson’s, 2016, Professional Practices survey, found that in reality the career climb is becoming a nightmare. 63% of those in senior management positions report having little, to no support, in their new role. 36% of respondents felt the help from their firm was effective, while 44% were left to prepare for their new role, themselves. The remaining 20% reported their firm’s assistance was of limited effectiveness.
These statistics place a huge strain on newly appointed leadership figures. Law firm professional development director and lawyer Marian Lee, in her book Partnership: It’s Not Just Lawyering Anymore, acknowledges that promotion to a senior management role is not a decision to reward you for previous work but instead, a leap of faith based on what the firm thinks you can contribute in the future. This means, Lee continues, newly appointed partners in management positions “remain relatively vulnerable until they fulfil their perceived potential.”
The duties required of individuals in senior management roles, differ, somewhat significantly, to the responsibilities held by junior lawyers. Arguably, law firms should provide training for newly appointed leaders so they do not feel ill-prepared or lost, when they are expected to be the face of the firm. However, Smith & Williamson noted, “This year’s survey suggests a worrying lack of preparation and support for senior leadership roles within firms. Only a quarter of managing partners have a mentor or coach in their roles.” The survey forecasts “partner performance” to be one of the biggest challenges facing the legal profession, this year.
In light of these statistics firms should focus on what they can do to support newly appointed managing partners. Firms such as A&O and Ashurst provide short courses for newly appointed managing partners. Other successful initiatives involve bespoke training with a focus on particular areas to suit the firm and the individual. If firms are looking for a more thorough induction, one-to-one training with external coaches, allows individuals to work on key leadership skills, in a discrete environment, where any concerns or fears over an upcoming role can be voiced.