Readers who have been there: What’s your advice to other attorneys on how to deal with not making partner? Reader E recently asked:
I was wondering if you could do a post on not making partner. I’m a sixth year at a large firm, and while I’m not being pushed out the door, my understanding is that partnership is not in the cards, either. On the one hand, this is okay. I never really wanted to make partner, and I can’t say I’m passionate about my job. On the other, ouch! I’ve seen posts about this in the comments, and I thought it might be nice to round them up in one place.
Great idea, Reader E. We haven’t devoted a post to the situation of not making partner, so let’s talk about it today. Here’s one way to look at a situation like this: When this happens to you, you may feel like you’re hanging by a thread — without anyone out there ready to catch you — but really, it can be the beginning of a great new adventure (and in fact it’s part of the adventure … just not the one you had anticipated or hoped for). As one Corporette reader once wrote in response to a young attorney who was worried about her low hours, “The firm that didn’t like me just wasn’t a good personality fit for me. At the time it was really demoralizing, but being pushed out of that firm was the best thing for my career because I found my wheelhouse at the next place.”
We’ve searched our comment threads and have found a good number of discussions about not making partner, deciding whether you even want to be partner, feeling like you’re getting pushed out at your firm, and regretting related career decisions you’ve made (or currently making decisions that may affect your chances to make partner). Do you remember, or have you bookmarked, other helpful comment threads along these lines? If this has happened to you, what advice did you receive from friends and colleagues on how to deal with not making partner?
Here are some of the best reader discussions and advice:
- “I’ve just been told that I’m not making partner and that I need to find a new job by the middle of next year.” [threadjack]
- “It’s hard to see that peers made partner when I didn’t. They are getting to do the work I want and making millions and I’m … not. [threadjack]
- “I did all the things I was supposed to do and didn’t make partner and couldn’t get in anywhere else. All I can think about my prior life is that it was a waste of time that got me a dead-end job.” [threadjack]
- “How do you know when it is time to leave your biglaw firm for another firm? Is it OK to lateral as a 5th or 6th year?” [threadjack]
- “I didn’t make partner and got pushed out. Anyone know a recruiter that would work with me to find a smaller/boutique/growing firm?” [threadjack] (Here’s an answer from another reader.)
- “I have a good shot at making partner. Would it ruin my chances if I have another kid in my 8th year?” [threadjack]
- “Experience-wise, I qualify as Counsel at my new potential firm. But my title at the current firm is Senior Associate. Any hope that I can negotiate to come in as Counsel instead of SA?” [threadjack]
- “I’m a fourth-year litigator and my firm wants me to do a secondment at a client that is located in the suburbs. My gut instinct was, they’re trying to push me out.” [threadjack]
- “Can you think of any female lawyers at your firms who are grandmothers? Or who have kids in college? Or who have kids in high school?” [threadjack]
- “Seeing other people with dream homes upsets me and made me regret my decision to go in-house.” [threadjack]
- “I am a very junior corporate biglaw associate. What’s the longest they’ll let me stay here if I keep doing good work but never make my hours, or even really come close? While I like the work, I’d like to have more children and would then probably stay at home.” [threadjack]
- “I’m having a really hard time envisioning a job post-biglaw, but I want to get out in the next year. I feel like I’m just treading water, waiting to be pushed out so that I’m forced to make a decision. I really want to leave before it gets to that point, and I’ve heard that once you’re a 6th year you become less marketable.” [threadjack]
- “I’ve been told I will make partner next year. I’m not sure it’s what I want, and I’m not sure what to say when colleagues ask me if I want to make partner. Should I just suck it up and lie until I am less conflicted about what I want to do with my career?” [threadjack]
If you were passed over for partnership (or pushed out at an earlier stage because it was clear you wouldn’t make partner), how did you feel about it THEN, and how do you feel about it now? If you could go back and do it all over, what would you do the same vs. differently? If you could go back in time, what would you tell yourself?
Psst: These are some of our favorite books if you’re considering changing your career:
Pictured: Shutterstock / Photobac.