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5 Ways to Become a Partner by 40

By Edward Tan, JD on April 26, 2012 7:02 AM

You've just landed a fancy pants associate position in a big downtown law firm. Pay is great, hours suck. The only problem now is how to become a law partner?

That's where all the real money (and vacation time) is after all. But the competition is tough. Much like in law school, every associate at your firm is probably gunning for the same goal.

Fortunately, if you keep these tips in mind, you might just edge out the pack before you hit the Big 4-Oh.

1) Work, Work, Work Your Billable Hours

This is a no-brainer. The more billables you score, the more your senior partners will know (and adore) you.

2) Make (Almost) No Mistakes

No one is perfect. But as far as law firms are concerned, you'd better be damn near close. The easiest way to demonstrate this is by paying attention to details. This means double-checking all your writing for errors, keeping track of deadlines, and catching other people's mistakes. It's sneaky, but effective.

3) Find New Clients

There's probably no such thing as a senior partner who hates seeing more money come in. Bringing in a new (big) client is one of the quickest ways to get them to warm up to you. The earlier, the better. So don't forget to network at parties.

4) Get a Certification and Hone Your Craft

Making partner isn't all just CIA-level social engineering. You also need to be an amazing attorney. Getting certified as a specialist in your practice area is one way to show those senior partners you know your stuff. Understanding your area inside and out is even better.

5) Choose the Right Practice Area

You might be the world's authority in Aboriginal cattle law, but that's not going to mean much to a firm's bottom line. Read the legal press and figure out the growing practice areas. Specializing in them will make you a profitable and indispensible commodity to your firm.

Figuring out how to become a partner can be tricky, but follow these tips and you'll be well on your way.

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