Eight years in and not a partner yet? Then you’re finished, claims our new columnist
Welcome to The Survivalist. This article is the first in a series designed to help you survive a legal career.
It unashamedly does, as they say, what it says on the tin. No beating around the bush, no sugar-coating. This is the truth that legal recruiters will never tell you, and your mates in other firms just won’t know.
The Survivalist is the career advice equivalent of buying a ranch in Montana, a rackful of Uzis and enough rations to last until it’s safe to come out of the bunker again.
OK, nuff said. On with the meat.
Your first and most important career asset is awareness.
Awareness is what will keep you alive in the War for Talent which is going on continuously, and increasingly noisily, outside the fox-hole of your current firm. Whether you know it or not, you are in this war and it’s time to get real.
Your first lesson in awareness? Look around your firm. Count how many non-partners there are with more than, oh, eight years’ experience.
Probably not many. In other words, non-partner senior lawyers are increasingly rare.
Where have they gone? Many will have ‘peeled off’ along the way. (Some firms have a tacit or even explicit ‘up or out’ policy, and many assistants will have seen the writing on the wall long before the paint begins to drip on the pavement.)
Some will have bolted in-house. Some will have gone off to have babies. A distressing number will be kicking their heels at home, or doing jobs they never thought they would, such as working in High Street firms or contracting for one of the emerging alternative providers.
Those still employed will probably have reached a salary plateau, and be earning not a lot more than those with half as much experience.
Whatever. Any hope of any further upward movement in their career is, effectively, as good as gone.
Leaving aside the endangered senior non-partners for a moment, you may be in a firm where partners, including equity partners, are getting the boot. Are you aware yet? Nobody is safe. You are expendable. Get used to it.
This should not worry you. This is your call to freedom. Because once you understand you are expendable, whatever your level, you can start to make yourself as indispensable as possible.
Doing so will free you from the shackles of dependency. You will be happier for it.
Contrary to what many lawyers have grown up believing, you should not want to be ‘fed’ because if you are then you will get a nasty shock when the feeding tube gets pulled.
If you allow yourself to get to eight years’ qualified without being firmly on the partner track, then you will need to have a very good alternative plan lined up, and probably a Plan C beyond that.
If you decide you don’t want to be a partner, don’t think there are going to be oodles of opportunities for you as your experience mounts up.
There won’t be. The ugly truth is that you will quickly become awkwardly expensive for law firms to maintain, with little more additional value than less experienced but more profitable colleagues.
Awareness of this truth is the first step. Doing something about it is the next. That’s for another article.
In the meantime, look after yourself. Stay sharp, stay frosty. Over and out. TS