Five Tips to Help New Partners Succeed
January marks the traditional occasion for law firms to announce newly promoted Partners. Matt Addison, Managing Partner of our Reno office, published an article in Of Counsel titled “Five Tips to Help New Partners Succeed.” Matt’s article is provided below and on pages 3-4 in the January 2024 issue of Of Counsel. Steve Taylor, the Editor of Of Counsel, provided the following introduction.
Through years of hard work and commendable client service as a first-year, junior, and senior associate, you finally made it. You’ve been elevated to the partnership ranks. It’s an honor to have gained the trust of the other partners and worthy of celebration. While most new partners feel a sense of elation about the promotion, many are also overwhelmed as well. After all, the position comes with a whole host of new responsibilities and expectations. Consequently, you might welcome some helpful counsel. To start off the new year, I’ve happily given this space to Matt Addison, leader of the highly regarded Nevada law firm McDonald Carano. He offers thoughts about ways to best embrace the role of partner and a few do’s and don’t’s of practicing law at this next level. The following is his sage advice. – Steven T. Taylor
“Five Tips to Help New Partners Succeed,” Of Counsel: The Legal Practice and Management Report, January 2024
Making Partner signifies a noteworthy achievement in one’s professional journey and stands as a moment deserving of congratulations. Now, the focus shifts from retrospection on how you got here to looking at the future and the limitless possibilities that lie ahead. Having embarked on my journey with McDonald Carano in 1989 as a law clerk, I progressed to Associate in 1991 and Partner in 1998. Since 2018, I have held the responsibility of serving as the Managing Partner for our Reno office. Through this article, I am appreciative of the opportunity to offer insights aimed at assisting new Partners as they push forward and continue to succeed.
- Think and act like a business owner. It is important for new Partners to understand the practice of law and the business of law. Every attorney is involved in the practice of law, but Partners are also expected to help run the firm as a sustainable business for the benefit of clients, employees, local communities…and then for the benefit of their individual practices. New Partners should study answers to these questions. How do law firms operate from a financial management perspective? How do law firms use technology to create operational efficiencies and enhance client service? How do law firms provide work assignments and environments that are engaging, inspiring, and purposeful for employees? How do law firms design an organizational infrastructure that facilitates coordination and collaboration among multiple offices and/or practice groups? How do law firms create and maintain an internal culture and an external brand? How do law firms develop a Strategic Plan and implement it?
- Build your business network both inside and outside your firm. Strategically analyze your personal and professional contacts from a business development perspective. Research their companies, understand their industries, take the time to visit them at their work sites, and analyze their unique needs for legal services. Figure out if you have the expertise to help them. Learn what your law firm colleagues do in their areas of expertise so you can determine if colleagues can help your contacts. A long-term business relationship is built on positioning yourself as the go-to resource for legal assistance – even if that assistance does not come directly from you. After introducing colleagues to your contacts, you will be in a better position to ask colleagues to introduce you to their contacts. Develop and maintain the internal and external business relationships that will ensure your success. It will take time, patience, and planning.
- Advance your leadership and people-management skills. A new Partner has demonstrated excellence in the practice of law, but becoming Partner also means mastering the art and science of leadership and people management. Being a great lawyer, leader, and people manager requires different skills and mastering one does not guarantee mastering the others. These competencies can be honed over time, but the process needs to start on day one. The process is retrospective and introspective. New Partners can look back over their years-long journey to become a Partner and reflect on the experiences and observations to help them become successful Partners in their firms. How will you inspire others to do their individual best and work collaboratively for the greater good of the team? How will you create loyalty, commitment, and the willingness to do whatever it takes to help clients on a daily basis and in times of urgent need? What is your style of delegation, communication, setting expectations, obtaining input, and providing feedback? A new Partner needs to have optimal leadership skills and people management competencies in order to create and sustain high functioning teams.
- Get a mentor and be a mentor. Find a Partner – inside and/or outside your firm – who can help you understand new expectations, responsibilities, and challenges that come with being Partner. A mentor can explain metrics of success and share examples of milestones along the way. Ask your mentor to help plan where you want to be and need to be at the end of each year – and to discuss ideas on how to get there. A mentor can help you find balance by helping you manage the additional pressures that are real as well as prevent pressures you may unnecessarily impose on yourself. Becoming Partner was a long journey and can be a difficult transition. Every new Partner has made and will make mistakes; ask for help and guidance. As a new Partner you can also share your experience with other attorneys pursuing partnership inside and outside your firm. Valuable referral connections can be established when a Partner outside your firm serves as a mentor for you and when you serve as a mentor to attorneys who are on the Partner track at another law firm.
- Stay humble, stay true, stay focused. Changing your title to Partner does not mean changing who you are. When you add Partner to your business card do not also add ego. Stay focused on serving clients, developing and nurturing your team, and being a leader and role model who always strives to do the right thing. You were made Partner because of your great work for clients, collaboration with other lawyers in your firm, exemplary treatment of staff, leadership in the legal profession, and giving back to the community as a representative of your firm. None of that changes when you become Partner; it actually becomes more important and more prominent. Stay the course and remain the honorable human being you were when you were selected to be a Partner. Be the reason people in your law firm want to come to work every day – and want to be on your team.
About McDonald Carano
In 2024, McDonald Carano celebrates 75 years of serving Nevada’s legal, business, government, and civic communities. More than 60 lawyers and government relations professionals serve state, national, and international clients from our offices in Reno, Las Vegas, and Carson City. McDonald Carano provides legal services and government affairs and advocacy counsel to startups, corporations, trade associations, nonprofits, public entities, high-net-worth individuals, investors, and public-private partnerships throughout Nevada. We are proud to be your Nevada law firm since 1949.
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