Super Bowl Sunday is around the corner, and, unfortunately, once again the Miami Dolphins will be watching the game from home. In football, the “red zone” is what they call the last 20 yards before the end zone. The team has been painstakingly moving down the field yard by yard; making all the right moves and playing at their highest level to bring them achingly close to reaching their ultimate goal.
Things are different in the “red zone.” There is more intensity and urgency with the end zone in sight, and the disappointment of failing to make it there after working so hard and coming so close can be crushing.
If making partner is your goal for 2016, you are in the “red zone” of your professional journey. You’ve put in countless hours of hard work, given it 110% effort day after day, notched success after success, and have put yourself in a position to cross the goal line.
You don’t want to fumble the ball now.
To make that final push over the next few months, make sure you focus on these three things:
1. B.Y.O.B. (Build Your Own Business)
Woody Allen once said that “80% of success is just showing up.” As a newer associate, there is some truth to that. Meeting or exceeding your billable hours requirement, consistently doing high-quality work, and making a positive impression on the partners will all earn you solid reviews and perhaps a bump in your salary at the end of the year.
But as a senior associate, that is no longer good enough.
While you may have proven your ability to serve firm clients well, your chances of making partner can hinge on your ability to get those clients in the front door in the first place. Partners are co-owners of the firm and any owner’s primary objective is to bring in business so that the firm continues to grow.
You need to demonstrate your commitment to the firm – and your future partners – by showing that you will contribute to its growth and prosperity. You need to have a business development game plan, including a clear and structured process for client pitches and closing deals.
Many lawyers are uncomfortable with marketing and business development, concerned that they will come across as pushy or salesy. It doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, it can’t be that way if you want to build your own book of business that will not only help you make partner, but also give you more control over your career for years to come.
Essential elements to any business development plan include, among other things:
- Identifying your ideal clients and where to find them.
- Understanding where and how to market your expertise and that of the firm.
- Learning how to effectively and elegantly pitch your firm and promote yourself.
- Taking smart steps to transform social connections into business relationships.
2. Savvy and Subtle Self-Promotion
It is one of the bigger ironies of our profession. We are trained to be zealous advocates for our clients and spend the better part of our days working to effectively advance their goals and objectives. But many of us have a hard time applying those same advocacy skills on our own behalf.
It can be uncomfortable to try to toot your own horn. You may be understandably concerned that promoting yourself and your accomplishments to the partners may come across as tacky or obnoxious. Indeed, sending an e-mail to the partnership committee with the subject line of “50 Reasons Why I’m So Awesome” lacks the elegance required for effective self-promotion.
But that doesn’t mean that you can’t or shouldn’t make your achievements and attributes known to the partners. All of your hard work and success won’t help you make partner if you’re the only one who knows about them.
There are a number of different strategies to engage in savvy and subtle self-promotion from composing a powerful partnership promotion memorandum to arming yourself with conversational techniques that allow you to spread the word about your positive qualities in an indirect, but effective way.
One strategy is to shift your mindset about self-promotion and instead of thinking about it as “tooting your horn,” think of it as increasing your visibility. You can even start by creating a log of your wins big and small (projects, clients you won, your strengths, unique skills). Sometimes we forget all the impact and contributions we make, so rather than trying to remember them in a given moment, keep a running log. By seeing all you’ve done on paper, we bet that even you will be impressed!
3. Find Your Champion
Speaking of the people who matter, do you know who they are in your firm? Have you identified the key stakeholders who have the influence and sway to make or break your partnership application? More importantly, do you have at least one partner who will be your champion?
And because you won’t make it into the conference room where the partners are meeting to decide who will join their ranks, or be at the lunches or events where the partners may casually chat about you or other associates, you need to develop solid relationships with one or more partners who will be your voice behind those closed doors. You need someone on your side who will not just vote in your favor, but will also make the affirmative effort to convince their partners to do the same.